The ‘Choice’ Card

Something I find incredibly frustrating is when I am speaking to mental health professionals and am told “it is your choice.”

I’ll give an example of this. I saw my dietitian earlier in the week and we were discussing my intake as it hasn’t been substantial lately. He suggested I take a snack out with me and eat out the house and I said “I can’t do that” to which he said “Well you can but you’re choosing not to” and it made me so angry. It isn’t as simple as telling me that it is a choice when I haven’t eaten outside my home or around other people that aren’t my immediate family in years. I am also struggling with food and my ‘safe’ foods aren’t suitable for taking ‘on the go’. It is far more complex than telling me it’s my choice, there are many rules, fears and anxiety along with the rigidness that goes hand in hand with my illness. Would it not be better to listen to me and understand why I feel I cannot do X than to simply tell me it’s a choice.

This hasn’t just happened to me in regards to my eating disorder, I have been told it’s my choice when I have spoken about plans to end my life or the affect depression was having on me. Just because someone has the physical capacity to do something, it doesn’t mean that they can do it. Mental illness isn’t a choice and is valid and I often find that being told aspects of my illnesses are choice makes me feel pathetic and guilty.

To call parts of mental illness is a choice is to simplify them and this is not helpful for the patient in my experience. I feel it would be better if we talked about the barriers and the reasons why I feel I cannot do a certain thing and then discussed the solutions rather than to simply end the conversation with the ‘choice’ card.


5 thoughts on “The ‘Choice’ Card

  1. Some therapists are really bad. When you say something like “I can’t” they should explore your reason for saying that, not argue with you. I had a very similar experience with the therapist I am going to. I think she is judgemental and jumps to conclusions and I finally stood up to her about this past Tuesday. In order to so that, I had to plan out what I wanted to say to her.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I hate this too, im constantly being told I have to take responsibility for my actions and I have the ability to make right or wrong decisions. Yes I do and having the mental capacity to make decisions is all well and good but is easier said than done. If having a “choice” was that easy surely we wouldn’t choose to make some of the decisions or choose to have a mental illness :-/

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  3. Whilst I totally understand your point of view, I have to say that for me this has been a helpful thing. In the end we do have a choice between putting the food in our mouth and not. That doesn’t mean to say there isn’t a hundred million things going on inside our heads nor does it take into account the fact it seems the worst thing you can do to yourself. Ultimately however it IS a choice. A big turning point for me in my recovery was when I stopped saying ‘I can’t do this’ and started saying ‘I won’t do this’. Suddenly it made it seem ridiculous and it also took the power away from anorexia. I think anorexia thrives when we start saying can’t because it’s won the battle before its even begun. When you sit and say to yourself ‘I won’t eat this’ it makes you (or at least me!) realise that I have more fight than that! X

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This post is so powerful and I applaud you for calling attention to the often misunderstood portion of mental health disorders. No one chooses to suffer from those types of disorders and people fail to realize that although we haven’t lost all control, it’s still extremely difficult to regain full control, because of the psychological component involved in our struggles.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. We get enough invalidation about what we go through in the world. We do not pay a therapist to leave the office, feeling the same way we feel when we interact with our most annoying and hurtful family members. It should be a sanctuary, a safe place to communicate our feelings without any judgement from anyone.

    If you have issues eating food outside of your own home, then the therapist should acknowledge that you do. When we have severe anxiety or phobias about a certain situation, then they are there. We cannot just turn them off.

    This is not about you eating food, it is about your severe anxiety of eating food in front of other people or outside of your safe zone. There are other issues involved about the outside the house part, that are beyond the “just eat something !” advice.

    The therapist should be working on finding the root cause of your fear about eating outside of the house. Who knows what kind of trauma from your past could have caused that level of anxiety about eating in front of others or eating in unfamiliar surroundings. Worrying about what foods are safe to keep all day out of the fridge etc. There are issues here that he/she is being paid good money to help you with.

    You were clear with saying “I can’t do that” . It means that your brain will not tolerate that level of triggering at this time, and there are severe triggers to you about eating outside the house. What are these people being paid so high for and I am struggling to buy food on 11.50 an hour. It frustrates me.

    You have to protect your brain from triggers that are too overwhelming to tolerate. Maybe you have to re-word it for the therapist to bring it down to his/her communication level.
    Say “I have severe anxiety attacks when I eat outside of the house, in front of other people, in unfamiliar surrounding, or whatever it is.”
    Then say that “I am triggered by things that involve eating food and transporting food outside of the house. It feels very unsafe to me. I would vomit up the food if I ate it.”
    Tell them “What is the point of retraumatizing myself by forcing myself to do things that I have phobias of? I am trying to get well and be able to eat. Being traumatized is counterproductive to developing a healthy eating schedule.”
    Tell them”Maybe sometime we could work of my severe anxiety issues . It might even be post traumatic stress disorder from things that happened in my past that caused these reactions from my brain.”
    but “Until you are able to work on those issues with me and make it so that I can do that, please do not force me into traumatic stress by telling me I HAVE to take food with me and eat outside of my home.” It is counterproductive to the therapy.

    Liked by 1 person

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