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.