Dr. Wilson: House! Why the hell did you let an unstable patient wander the hallways?!
Dr. House: His leash broke.
I’ve always found the transition between “treatment” and the “real world” fascinating. One minute you are a “real adult” — you can drive your car, eat what you want, walk the dog, go to work, go on a vacation, make bad choices, make good choices… but as soon as you walk through those treatment-center doors, all of these adult “privileges” are revoked. Your purse and coat is locked up — you can’t carry your keys, because what if you tried to leave during the day? You ask permission to use the bathroom. Some people have to count while in the bathroom. You can have one packet of salt with your meal. No caffeine. No, you can’t see your weight–stand backwards on the scale.
And this isn’t just with residential treatment… but with day treatment or even IOP! Which makes it even more bizarre, because you wake up an adult, spend your day as a five-year old, and go to bed again that night as an adult.
I understand that it has to work this way for a couple of reasons:
- There can be kleptomaniac patients.
- Maybe someone is sick enough that they would get pissed off during a group and try to run off.
- Treatment is about normalizing eating — which means not using 10 packets of salt on your meal.
- Having unlocked bathrooms can create unnecessary temptations to purge. You’re there to work through the uncomfortableness of whatever you bring up in therapy and the normalness of the meals… without being able to use symptoms.
- It’s easier to do okay when it’s not your choice, because then you don’t feel guilty. You didn’t give yourself permission to eat the meal — you HAD to eat it.
- Not stressing over even the little things gives you more room to concentrate on the therapy.
There are already so many regulations in place. You are already being rewarded for eating and for drawing pictures in art therapy and for talking about whatever important issue. Heck, I have gotten praise for sitting still! (“grey, you sat still much longer than usual today — that’s definitely an improvement and I think that you need to learn to celebrate your accomplishments). So, when patients still find some way to evade the rules or act ridiculously helpless it irks me to no end.
I can relate to this House quote and the frustration of being in treatment with impossible patients. I understand having a hard time. You’re not always compliant in treatment because by nature, eating disorders are manipulative. But… the staff already has you on a leash. You don’t have responsibilities and you’re already being monitored. If you’re going to bring an extra set of keys with you to day treatment so that you can escape mid-morning and avoid lunch, the staff isn’t going to chase you. They shouldn’t have to!
Both inside and outside of treatment, you ARE still an adult. You still have some responsibility in cooperating. It’s the treatment center’s job to keep you as safe as possible and to reduce ED triggers and temptations. Therapists and counselors are there to help you in this already rigidly-structured environment — they can’t babysit you.