This is Crazy Talk: An advice column for honest, unapologetic conversations about mental health with advocate Sam Dylan Finch. While he’s not a certified therapist, he has a lifetime of experience living with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). He’s learned things the hard way so you (hopefully) don’t have to.
My doctor told me to talk to a psychiatrist, the psychiatrist told me to talk to a specialist, the specialist sent me back to my doctor, and now no one is returning my calls. I want to give up. Why isn’t anyone helping me?
Before I dive into any advice, can we pause and just celebrate you for a second?
You’ve accepted that you have an eating disorder, which is hard enough to do. And then you asked for help, which is a brave and important step!
I know you’re feeling discouraged — and that’s completely valid — but I want to make sure you take a moment to honor this amazing work you’re doing.
I wish I could say I’m surprised by what you’re dealing with, but to be honest, I’m not. When I was first diagnosed with an eating disorder, I had a similarly demoralizing experience.
Every time I tried to leave a message, I was met with a full voicemail inbox. Every time I tried to ask questions, I was transferred to a different office that wasn’t any more informed than the last.
The bureaucratic maze was so frustrating, and because I wasn’t eating, I was already pretty hangry, so… needless to say, it wasn’t a pleasant experience.
I know this isn’t easy to hear — and believe me, if I could fix this for you myself, I would — but I need you to dig deep, OK?
Eating disorders are one of the deadliest kinds of mental illnesses there are, and I mean that literally. I say this not to scare you, but to affirm that this is a serious situation. It’s absolutely crucial that you keep nagging your providers until you get the help you need.
But I’m not going to tell you “just keep trying” and then hang you out to dry, OK? Let’s talk through some steps you can take to make this as manageable as possible.
For starters, it’s so important to have a script prepared, which makes those phone calls a lot easier to deal with
I came up with an acronym for this — HUNGRY — to give you a little structure as you draft that script:
- H: History. You’ll want a quick overview that includes your history with disordered eating and what steps you’ve taken so far to get help.
- U: Urgency. Include a statement that emphasizes the seriousness of the situation. I often recommend that people “exaggerate,” because most of us tend to downplay our struggles to begin with. An exaggeration for you is probably a more accurate representation of what’s happening.
- N: Needs. What do you need from the person you’re speaking with? Come up with three immediate action items.
- G: Give credit. Acknowledge that the person you’re speaking with is a human being, presumably doing their best to help you. This can go a long way.
- R: Repeat. Circle back to the urgency and concern, to make sure it isn’t missed.
- Y: Yield. Close out by asking the person what steps are next, and then yield the floor. Give them space to absorb what you’ve said and come up with a game plan!