Settle in, folks. This one is going to be a series.
There is a major problem with how people with eating disorders are treated. I recently read a story about a girl in the United States who died from her eating disorder while her mom was away learning to be a truck driver. It was the only job she could find that would give her necessary insurance to get her daughter treatment. It’s not an uncommon story.
In Canada, it doesn’t matter if you have insurance. There are too few resources here and, as a result, anyone without a whole lot of private funding gets put on waiting lists for 6 months – 2 years. It can take a lot less time than that to die of an eating disorder. And even if you get approved to be sent to an American treatment centre, your insurance can back out after on a technicality and leave you stuck with a bill for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Having found myself fired from my job because I “no longer met the requirements” for my job (ie. your bones are creepy, so you can’t work here any more), I had zero money and a big problem to tackle. I was too sick to work, and was on long waiting lists for treatment. I had to figure out a lot of things really quickly. This is what worked/didn’t work for me. You may disagree with what I’m saying, but I invite you to take the parts you like and throw the rest away.
- Decide how badly you want recovery. You’re going to have to do many things you don’t want to do. You’re going to have to get really honest with people you don’t want knowing anything about yourself. You’re going to have to humble yourself time and time again. If shame is a big trigger for you (I know it is for me), get used to it.
- Find any and all (legal) sources of money. Get on unemployment. See if you qualify for disability. This is the tricky one: come clean with family members about what you’re going through, and find out if they’re able/willing to help you cover costs.
- Try to find a therapist who operates on a sliding scale. They charge according to financial need. (If you’re in Toronto, drop me a line. I know a couple of good ones and can point you in their direction.) If you already have a therapist, you’re going to have to decide how important it is for you to stay with him/her, or if you can look for someone who charges less.
- Get ready to make sacrifices. Food, housing, and therapy. Those are the things you need. The rest is optional. Seriously. Get ready to dig into the back of your cupboard to use the ends of all the shampoo bottles, etc. you have stashed away. I started this in May and made it til Christmas before I had to start using Vaseline instead of moisturizer. (Do not recommend. Break-out city.)
- Google. It will be your best friend. Search out drugstore, grocery store, etc flyers so you know what weeks you can buy the necessities on sale. Find free festivals, movie screenings, etc. in your city so you have at least some “entertainment” options. Enter contests. You can win some fun stuff.
- Sell off anything you don’t need and won’t miss. Save the cash. You’ll need it.
- Learn to knit. It’s a great way to pass all the time you’ll have not working, not going on expensive outings, not shopping, and not engaging in eating disordered behaviors. Also, it’s an inexpensive way to do Christmas/Birthdays/etc. I learned to knit in October, and had 5 scarves ready for gifts by Christmas.
- Give of yourself. You may not have money, but that doesn’t mean you have nothing to offer. Help people out without expecting anything in return, and karma can surprise you. Not only will you feel better for having contributed something, but I have done “good deeds” that led to jobs 10 years later, and have volunteered for things that have turned into paying jobs. Don’t do more than you are able, but know that you don’t always have to be paid “now”. Karma’s got your back.
These are the basics to start you off. Upcoming in the series: Food, Clothes, and Yoga on a budget. Anything I’ve missed?