This review is based on having seen this “professional” only one time. I encourage others to seek out many opinions and not base a decision solely on what you read here. I am not being paid to write this, nor am I writing it for a “doctor review” site, where reviews are screened before they appear and practitioners can pay money to have negative reviews taken down. This review is based on real-life experience as “patient” of this practitioner in person, in her office.
Reason for appointment
I scheduled my first appointment with Melissa Draves in June of 2013, after starting with a new PCP at Harvard Vanguard in Watertown. I was given a September 13th appointment with Ms. Draves. I accepted the appointment and also made an appointment with a “therapist” at that time, scheduled for July. I believe that originally, the appointment was after the 20th, but I was able to get that one moved up to the 18th. I wanted help.
These people were assigned to me by the people who answered the phone when I called. There wasn’t an intake person who would assess what I was dealing with and find the right people. I was told by the secretary to go to Harvard Vanguard’s website and make a quick decision. Harvard Vanguard did not allow me to screen their doctors in a phone interview. I was expected to base my decision on flashy, smiling photos of each, and an assurance that these were board certified professionals. I didn’t like being put on the spot. I couldn’t get an answer as to who specialized in eating disorders. I was told to wait for months and then come to the appointment. I wondered about that. I didn’t want to wait for months, only to find out I’d been assigned to duds.
In the words of one of my former shrinks, “When they don’t know about eating disorders, they really don’t know.” I know this is true from speaking to many ED patients.
However, I was determined to get away from the MGH riffraff. I went to Harvard Vanguard because they were accepting new patients and because it was close to home. They had an office right in Watertown and several others I could get to by bus and subway. I honestly believed that “finding the right one” was the answer. I laugh now, because after three decades of Western medicine failing me again and again, and even harming me, you’d think I’d have abandoned the idea years ago. However, the practitioners I had been seeing frequently told me that pills and therapy were the only option.
That’s like saying, “The Bible is the Word of God because it says so in the Bible.” I’m not saying that the Bible is or isn’t, but no one is going to convince me of it by using that kind of logic.
I often ask people, “Have you tried anything alternative?”
Some people respond by laughing at me and saying, “I am so sick that I need something powerful, and no way could alternative medicine work as well as therapy and pills. What a joke!”
I ask again, “Have you tried it?”
I might get a response such as, “I went to a chiropractor and had a bad experience.” So one bad experience with one modality of alternative care means they are all quacks, right? At the same time, they’ll argue that one bad experience with one shrink shouldn’t dictate our beliefs about all mental health care. I cannot believe “therapy and pills” was still being pushed on me after three decades, but many told me that “You need to find the right one.” And they called me delusional?
My first Harvard Vanguard appointments before seeing Draves
My first visit in June with my new PCP went well. I found her to be kind, and she seemed knowledgeable. She was happy to refer me to their “Behavioral Health” department, assuring me that they had excellent people and she had complete faith in them. “I really want you to get help for this,” she said, referring to my eating disorder.
I thought, “Wow, that means I’ll get wicked good care at Harvard Vanguard. I’m glad I made this decision.”
I’m going to fast forward here to September, because in August, my kidneys failed and I spent 11 nightmarish days in the hospital afterward. You can check out the following You-Tube to see for yourself a few of the events that occurred while I as inpatient:
After I got out, I had an appointment with my PCP and then another appointment with the recommended kidney doctor. Mount Auburn had taken me off the two anticonvulsants I’d been taking, telling me that these were no longer okay to take because of my kidneys. I was taken off 900 mgs a day of Neurontin and 300 mgs a day of Topamax, cold turkey.
I had read in numerous sources that going cold turkey off anticonvulsants was damned stupid. The only exception was if a person developed the “Lamictal rash,” which is deadly, or any other serious reaction. My kidney failure wasn’t the result of taking those pills, although they aren’t very good for your kidneys.
I learned later from reading my records that I’d been taking off one of those, Topamax, on recommendation of psychiatry, not the kidney doctor. I had already been through the pros and cons of Topamax with my MGH outpatient psychiatrist, who understood the seriousness of binge eating in my case. The Mount Auburn staff had interrupted me whenever I tried to explain that this was a serious problem for me. Not only did binge eating make me physically sick, but in 1984 and in 2012 I had nearly committed suicide because I couldn’t get it to stop and no one believed me. I was so terrified at Mount Auburn that I’d leave there and end up binge eating uncontrollably that I blurted out that binge eating causes suicide, though I didn’t have that intent at the time,which I made absolutely clear. The hospital riffraff knew I wasn’t suicidal but put suicide precautions on me to keep an eye on me, knowing I was a whistleblower. I verified this later.
So if you saw the YouTube above, you know that I did, indeed, start binge eating again. My Harvard Vanguard PCP told me she would put me back on it, but she wanted me to get approval of the kidney doctor. The kidney doctor approved (he later denied this) but said he wanted to get approval of psychiatry. I was so desperate to get the binge eating to stop that I told myself, “I’m going back on, to save my life!” I had some left over from my MGH shrink, thankfully. I went online and read that people with kidney problems could indeed take this drug at a reduced dose.
That’s where I was at on September 13. I am not at that point now and I don’t take any drugs except Synthroid (Levothyroxine).
I went to see Melissa Draves on September 13, 2013. In case you are wondering, Harvard Vanguard has rather sweet and polite secretaries, their offices are attractive and kept up well, complete with a water bubbler, shiny clean bathrooms, and the time you spend in the waiting room is pleasant and brief.
Don’t be fooled.
My appointment with Melissa Draves
Ms. Draves introduced herself and asked me what my problem was. I told her I had anorexia and I had just come out of the hospital. I told her that while inpatient, my apartment had been illegally searched. I told her I was aware of my rights (at the word “rights” she raised her eyebrows) and that I had no clue who had done this search. I had with me the two empty pill bottles that had been uncovered in the search as well as an empty can of dog food. I told her that whoever did the search had informed the hospital that these were my “meds,” and the hospital immediately tried to give them to me. These bottles were two and three years out of date. I tried to show her what was written on one bottle, 600 mgs of Lamictal per day. They had located these bottles among a large collection of empty bottles that had the labels torn off of them that I was saving because they are handy, useful items for other purposes. Reusing and recycling are good ideas, right?
I was immediately told I was psychotic. She offered me antipsychotic medication. I told her I had come because I had an eating disorder. She gave me that rude “up and down” look we skinny folk know all too well. Checking out to see if I was skinny. I told her I did not vomit.
She said, “You’re lying. You don’t binge eat. It’s not possible to have anorexia and be a binge eater.”
I’d heard that before, but to hear this from the mouth of a shrink was rather shocking to me. I realized then that my former shrink was right. “When they don’t know about eating disorders, they really don’t know.”
Draves insisted over and over that I was being dishonest, and said, “You were probably never prescribed it in the first place and are just trying to get me to write you a script.”
Meanwhile, I’d mentioned “patient abuse,” which raised more eyebrows. I told her I’d taken legal action against Mount Auburn. I probably used that buzzword, “rights,” a few times more.
She asked me if I felt like hurting other people. I replied “no.” She asked me if I owned a gun. Again, I said “no.” She asked me four more times if I owned guns and how many did I have?
I told her I came to her for an eating disorder, not homicidal thoughts. I told her these were ridiculous questions considering this was suburban Boston, not Colorado or Kentucky.
Draves said, “You are angry, and this is a clear indication that you are psychotic. If you refuse to take antipsychotics you have no further use for me. If you change your mind, you may come back. If not, I don’t want to see you in here again.”
I never wanted to see her again for sure! I was extremely happy to leave that office.
My complaint to the supervisor
At any rate, after I got home, I called Harvard Vanguard and complained. I spoke with the person overseeing Behavioral Health. Her name was Nikki. I also told her about the three, yes THREE, incompetent “therapists” I’d seen at Harvard Vanguard before my kidney failure. That is to say, they had all failed me after I’d come to them begging for help. What if I had died?
Nikki was rather kind and told me, “Julie, you shouldn’t be seeing any of these people. I agree, Melissa Draves’ questions were completely inappropriate. Her attitude reflected ignorance of eating disorders.”
She went on, “We don’t have anyone in any of our behavioral health departments near you who are knowledgeable in that field.” She told me she’d go outside the plan to find someone. That never happened. Actually, I didn’t care. I’d had so many negative experiences with shrinkage that I was determined NEVER to see a shrink again.
That was September 2013, and now, it’s April 2015. Are you wondering how I fared?
Me today. No shrinks.
Today, I am happy. I do not suffer from an eating disorder, although the memory of three decades of suffering and having my voice go unheard is a part of my story, too. I feel so much better!
A few days ago, I looked in the mirror and was thrilled with how I looked. Coming from someone who used to berate herself nonstop for being “fat,” that is amazing. Can you guess how I got to this point?
I ditched everything I ever learned in “therapy.” I ditched all the myths that were force-fed to us in “eating disorders care.” I rejected the “illness model” psychiatry loves to force on people. I rejected their DSM. I relocated to remove myself from oppression and bigotry and of course, to escape my medical records. I started my life over. I am free to experiment with food, free to make mistakes, free to be human, and free to write and say what I want without fear. I have never regretted that decision.
Let my people go.
Julie Greene (my real name)