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Patient to Person

Posted Jun 15 2009 12:00am

I think I may have mistaken concern for care, confused professional curiosity with personal interest. I think I may have become accustomed to being looked after, grown used to the attention.

There’s nothing like a chronic eating disorder to rally up a medical army. It does a great job of ensuring that you’re well looked after, takes you right back to a parent child scenario – and it’s not hard to guess which seat you’re occupying.

It feels like a safer place to be. It feels like you’re special.

For a while. But then, like a child throwing a tantrum, you find yourself cranking up the volume. It’s not always a conscious thing – you’ve just got to work that little bit harder to get the same response.

And you get used to asking other people, to checking everything out rather than learning your own lessons. It’s hard to build up any self confidence when you don’t build up the proof – and when you’re not on the same level: being the patient feels safer, it’s just a little disempowering. And not very real.

It’s easy to mistake concern for care, to forget that the people who are looking after you are doing a job – and going home at the end of the day.

It’s easy to confuse professional curiosity with personal interest, to assume that the probing and attention is about you – and not about the illness.

We all get used to being looked after – but sometimes it’s nicer to look after.

Attention can make you feel special – but it all depends on what it’s for.

Does it sound like I’m being cold? Like I don’t recognise the above and beyond that many of the people I’ve been helped by have gone to. Like I don’t appreciate the intensity of an eating disorder – and the intensity of the relief when someone else takes charge.

I do.

But I’ve also learnt – the hard way – that when you’ve been a patient for a long time, you can become accustomed to cotton wool and soft lighting and white kid gloves; and that, whilst these things are nice, being able to stand on your own two feet is slightly nicer.

Even if the transition from patient to person can feel a little hard.

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