Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Venturing out of my area of expertise and into eating disorders


As some of you know, my first overt, head-on confrontation with mental illness was not with my own bipolar disorder or inattention, but with the eating disorder of a high school classmate who anorexia nervosa. My friend, Erin, had been hospitalized at Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children, but her insurance company was refusing to pay for the more than 30 days of treatment recommended by her doctors there. She was a skeleton. She looked like she was going to die. Talking with her in her hospital bed was one of my earliest lessons in the fact that there are things more powerful than our own desire to live - Erin wanted to live, she knew she was dying, she knew why she was dying and, yet, she couldn't stop. Being the passive guy I am, I, of course, decide to coordinate some fundraisers for treatment, give some interviews to The Washington Post and paint that insurance company's transgressions on every figurative billboard I could find. Erin got here treatment. I was thinking of Erin today because the office manager at a practice where I worked convinced me to listen in to a teleconference course yesterday held by the Renfrew Center for Eating Disorders called "Transitions in Eating Disorder Recovery for the College Student." I don't treat eating disorders, per se, but many of the clients who come into my office have or are struggling with them, so it was nice to get some tips on identifying the signs of eating disorders and how to give those clients appropriate referrals. It fits with my philosophy of knowing a little about everything, but especially knowing what I don't know and how to get people to the right types of help.