The General Practice of appreciation
"If you could just put on some weight, your lovely personality would shine through!"
With my fake “I’m OK’ smile duly plastered on my exhausted face, I grabbed the prescription and got the Hell out of there.
That GP meant well. She was doing her best while my usual GP was away, and she wanted to end on a positive note. Given that I'd turned into a tears-and-snot-covered blancmange at the mere prospect of getting on her scales (they were the WRONG scales so couldn't be trusted) I'd not exactly given her much to work with.
She was just doing her best in circumstances that are becoming ever more impossible.
It's Eating Disorders Awareness Week right now, so there's a lot of media focus on GPs as the first port of call for people seeking or needing treatment for an Eating Disorder. And, because a juicy horror story will always win over the quiet efficiency of best practice and empathetic professionalism, it's already turning into baying for more, more, MORE from GPs.
Yes, I bet most GPs would welcome more training about eating disorders. And yes, some GPs could really use some more training in eating disorders (‘lovely personality’, my skinny arse). But they're doing their best.
Against great odds.
Here's where I get lucky: I have a gold-standard GP who gives her all to a difficult patient.
And I am difficult.
For a start, I don't have a lovely personality.
I'm quick-witted and funny. A bit sharp. I get disruptive when I'm bored. I'm allergic to stupidity and I roll my eyes far too much for subtlety. (I once rolled my eyes so hard I nearly popped a contact lens.) I'm kind to animals and teenagers. I'm 47 and I can't remember what life was like without anorexia.
But lovely, I am not.
The tiny violins can stay tucked away in their cases, though. Please. I don't want your pity, you can shove your sympathy and I will fucking punch anyone who starts that head-tilting ‘You okay, hun?’ bollocks.
And I don't want you piling in on that GP, either. In fact, the opposite: I want us all to appreciate what GPs do to support people with eating disorders.
My GP is the consistent point in everything I do, to be as well as possible. She weighs me weekly on the same ‘trusted’ set of scales, humping them from room to room, depending on where our appointment is. She's firm about the physical monitoring, the blood tests and the ECGs when I want to say, ‘Everything is okay’ and go ‘La la laaaaaa!!’ with my fingers in my ears.
She asks about other appointments I have and calls up the professionals if she's got questions or wants to pass on her opinion.
SHE TAKES AS LONG AS SHE FUCKING WANTS TO.
As long as I need. She does this for everyone.
She probably gets in trouble for it and I know she ends up working horrendously long days.
But what I love most is that she sees me as a whole person, and she thinks really carefully about her language. She's never said any of those awful, hurtful or triggering things from that very very loooong list of absolute Eating Disorders Vocabulary howlers. She's truly on my side, and helps me to make the best of my life.
So In Eating Disorders Awareness Week I'd like you to be aware. Be bloody aware of what GPs do right now, every day. Please.
When there are no specialist eating disorders services in an area, and the community mental health teams are stretched so far they'll snap with a sneeze – our GPs are there. When someone doesn't meet the criteria for secondary services – our GPs step in with regular contact.
When someone is trying, trying, TRYING to start a conversation about food issues, but instead beats all the way around the prickly bush and back several times, citing any number of distracting aches and pains – our GPs spot the signs and ask the right questions.
For many people - too many people - our GPs are the only accessible professional source of support. And, yes, it should be different.
BUT IT'S NOT.
So, by all means, take your selfies with your silly socks on. 'Raise awareness', whatever the heck that means for you.
But don't take out your frustrations with the system on our hardworking GPs. Appreciate what we've got, while we've still got it.
If you want more information about Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and more information about where to go for help and support, go to the b-eat website, HERE.