Since my ultimate goal is to create a peer-run respite (or drop-in center) for people with eating disorders, I am asking what I need first. Money? People? or an idea.
Clearly the money isn’t going to show up instantly. People, too, are hard to come by these days, unless you have money to pay them. But ideas are free, aren’t they?
Are there any peer-run facilities or anything peer-run for eating disorders? Are there any, anywhere in the world? I don’t see any nor know of any. If I can get this off the ground I believe it will be the first.
So, with that in mind, here are my ideas that I would like to share with you.
First of all, the concept of a safe space. Why are the “safe spaces” that exist far more restrictive than outside the “safe space”? Why should “safe space” mean less freedom, more oppression, more imposing of ideas on participants, far less privacy, and even locked? To restrict a person and take away their rights does not sound safe! By all means, use of force is not safe, nor curative. It is harmful.
That means that this concept of “safe space” means more freedom. Fewer restrictions. More freedom of speech and expression.
Why? Because people seeking respite are doing so because their current environment is intolerable. In their current environment they are curtailed in how they can express themselves. They may be bullied as well.
In a safe space, a person should be allowed to self-express freely. This means not placing ridiculous limits on Freedom of Speech. This means having access to information. This means that any information can be freely accessed. This means freedom from censorship, but it doesn’t mean breaking the law.
Libraries are wonderful places where people can access information. Librarians uphold Freedom of Speech and Access to Information. This means a library will not restrict what you read, what websites you access while there, or what you take home. No wonder that the local public library is a favorite hangout for children worldwide, wherever libraries are to be found.
At a Safe Place, we would not stop a person from reading a magazine. We wouldn’t stop a person from looking up recipes. We would not stop a person from reading about the benefits of certain foods.
If you really want to look at skinny models, we would allow this. Of course! Let’s talk about what attracts you to these photos, too.
Isn’t it about time you got to talk about what’s bugging you? I am amazed that so many people’s general experience is that they go through years or even decades in the Mental Health System and then, one day, might mention, “Today I finally got to talk about what happened.” Whatever that was. After years of restrictions, or being brushed aside, finally you get to say that one thing that’s been on your mind. Isn’t this insane?
Instead, we’d encourage people to talk about whatever bugs them, no matter how ugly, embarrassing, or shameful you might think it is. A safe space means it’s safe to talk about it. A safe space means you aren’t shamed for being “negative.” For godsakes, wasn’t it all this shaming that silenced us in the first place?
I do not understand why people aren’t allowed to express all their negative emotions. In the Mental Health System, as soon as you do, some idiot therapist will tell you, “Let’s keep this positive, eh?” Wow, what a harmful way to shut a person down!
Other ways they silence us in traditional facilities is to tell patients, “If you feel that way, maybe you need to do coping skills. How about a frozen orange?” Listen, a person who is expressing something deeply upsetting does not need to hold onto a frozen orange, take a pill, or go into a Quiet Room. The person does not need to be “corrected.” The person needs to express themselves! But “staff” routinely silence patients this way. The minute you bring up something that is vital to you, they put you off. At worst, they tell you they need to end the conversation, and walk away.
Another thing: Tears, tantrums, and rants are routinely “medicated,” slammed down, demeaned, or otherwise silenced. This is not what any of us needs.
I learned something about these things after having spent years in the System. Tears should never be silenced or medicated. When I see “staff” medicating tears, then I know it’s not the patient who is uncomfortable with their own tears, but the staff themselves. Taking a pill for tears will relieve the staff, but silence the patient. Then, after giving out the pill, staff will ensure they don’t have to see your tears because with the pill, they’ll tell the patient, “Go to your room and lie down to make the pill work better.”
I got news for you. This is only a way to get rid of the patient, yet one more way to refuse to listen. It’s not true that lying down will do anything to metabolize pills better. At best, if you really want a pill to “kick in” faster, put it under your tongue, or take it on an empty stomach (unless it has to be taken with food).
Tantrums and rants are also silenced. However, such self-expression is exactly what the patient needs. Rants are a way to retell a story. If you need to retell it 1,000 times, then certainly ranting must play a vital role in resolving the story. Almost always, when I hear a person ranting I know that they have been severely traumatized.
After I was abused in a hospital, I ranted all the time. I retold and retold myself what happened. I put this into emails, too. I tried to tell my friends and then, very quickly they either denied it was possible or they told me I was psychotic. Sadly, they were wrong. Or they demanded that I “get over it.” Or “forgive.”
These traumas take a long time to get over. I remember retelling the story in my head for years afterward. In fact, I couldn’t stop myself. Thankfully, I didn’t medicate this retelling, nor silence it in any way. I realized that I would have to withhold what I felt inside if I wanted to keep my friends. I had to decide. Where would I draw the line?
Did I really want to keep those friends who constantly demeaned me, who told me the trauma hadn’t happened, who told me “they were only doing their job”? (If that’s their job then what the hell happened to ethics and common sense?). Did I really need to keep my positive-touting friends, who refused to acknowledge the harm? Who demeaned me for my own real feelings that they were uncomfortable with? I decided not.
It may be a lonely road, but not for long. Peer support means you will find other people who have been through the same thing. Peer support means not demeaning a person for self-expression, even rants and tantrums.
Sure enough, staying with friends who were supportive did me wonders! I no longer rant in my head all day long. I no longer ruminate over what happened. I no longer retell the story over and over. However, it all needed to run its course. Trying to stop it or silencing it might have made me appear docile, but inside, that story would still be raging. It would surely come out in other ways. While silenced underground, the story would eat away at me, coming out in other behaviors, other health conditions that come from stress, and undoubtedly screwing up my eating.
As for diet books, diet gurus, and any discussion of dieting….Why is this silenced? We need more! Why not talk about the eating challenges we are facing and take a good look at what is working for others? Why can’t we look at a diet guru’s website and find the good parts of it, and the parts that indicate that the guru overcharges for products that do not work, or uses deceptive marketing to suck people in? Why not thoroughly examine fad diets? They wouldn’t have become fads unless there was some redeeming factor about them, but at the same time, some ideas in these diets are either harmful or completely false.
If a person is obsessing over weight, it makes no sense to me to silence this, either. If you are bothered over a certain number of pounds you think you are overweight, and thinking about it constantly, then doing so must be serving a purpose. Most facilities immediately slam down such talk. So whatever is bugging you about your body never gets mentioned. Instead, you are left to sit with it. And there, in silence, it festers and grows even larger.
What amazes me is that as soon as a person is allowed to speak of how they feel, growth begins. A friend of mine was worried constantly over her “fat thighs.” But when she was allowed to talk it out, she found that the obsession weakened. Eventually, it fell apart completely and dissipated.
Often, we find we’re actually bothered by something else entirely. But we must discover this ourselves.
A Safe Space isn’t locked. There are no “security guards.” How can “safety” mean locked doors and complete lack of privacy?
A Safe Space means let’s quit the insane dichotomy between the all-knowing “staff” vs the incompetent “patients.”
The overall principle here will be You are the Expert on Your Own Experience. You have within yourself the wisdom and knowledge needed to change your life for the better. Only you can determine how to do this.
Mental health professionals love to tell us we are ignorant, that we don’t know ourselves, that they know better. This insidious brainwashing has left us constantly turning to “experts” and assuming they’re the only ones that can help. I hear this a lot. It’s not true. Yet even as I say these words, some of you are thinking, “But Julie, you’re not a doctor!” Please, someone, tell me why having “MD” after my name will give me authority, experience, wisdom, and knowledge at all? That MD gives you money, power, prestige, and turns you into a fake instant expert, but other than that, it doesn’t mean the god-like status that most assume.
YOU are the expert. You are the one who knows yourself best. And within each person there is all the self-healing potential you need. What people need most is to be FREE to tap into it, instead of that part of themselves being demeaned and silenced.
The respite would accept people only on self-referral. This means we wouldn’t need nor want a therapist referral. If you want to come, say so. If you don’t, all the doctor notes in the world will not force you into our facility.
Coming to the Safe Space means self-directed work. It means you plan out what you want to do with freedom. It means if you want to explore an idea that you think might work for you, you may. It means thinking about goals, plans for action, and the having support to follow through.
Think of this as a Study Plan. Imagine planning your own college degree instead of following “requirements” like you are on an assembly line. The most liberal colleges work this way. Amazing things happen. Innovation, discovery, learning, productivity, uniqueness, creativity, all these are encouraged.
Likewise, you won’t be following a “care plan.” The “care plan” idea means “treatment” is done to you. It means you are recipient and receptacle. Who wants something “done to” them? I hear rape language here, don’t you? Instead, the patient (who won’t be called that) does all the action. You will be encouraged, supported, and cheered on.