one girl's thoughts on life, mental illness, eating disorder recovery, and hope.

An open letter to the nurse at my GP January 15, 2013

Dear nurse with the curly red hair,

I apologize for addressing the letter this way, but I have never asked your name. I intend to do that at my next appointment as it is common politeness to know the names of those around you. Therefore, until I learn your name, I will refer to you as the curly red-headed nurse as you are the only red-head in the office.

First off, I would like to thank you for being you. You are the first nurse I have ever had that understands EDs. When I was embarrassed to tell my Doctor I had been diagnosed with an ED by the Lindner Center of HOPE and my therapist, you told me that you understand what I am going through, and that I should feel safe to address my medical concerns with you as a nurse. When I told you that the doctor refused to believe that I was sick—diagnosing me with an adjustment disorder believing that I was “going through a phase in my life that I couldn’t handle”– because I lied to him about my behaviors, you encouraged me to be honest with him so that I can get the medical tests necessary for living a healthy life. When I started tearing up in the office, you comforted me by telling me that there is nothing you haven’t heard as a nurse and that you’re proud of me for seeking the help that I need. Then, just like the last day of summer before school starting, you were gone. That appointment, in 2012, my doctor finally listened to me. I was honest about my behaviors, but those same behaviors also made me feel ashamed. It was so easy to talk to you about my concerns, but the doctor, in his crocs and khakis, scared me half-to-death. I felt like he was judging me with every behavior revealed. At the end of my appointment, he changed my diagnosis from adjustment disorder to ED. I even had the nerve to have him write in my chart not to allow the nurses to tell me my weight; which was quite an impulsive decision, but one that I was ultimately proud of. I was so appreciative that you listened to me, gave me the confidence to speak to Dr. Khaki Crocs about my ED, and spoke to me with genuine care.

When I came back last November for chest pains, you lead me down the hall of pictures to the SCALE. I tried to stop and look at each picture of Dr. Khaki Crocs climbing this mountain or SCUBA diving to this coral reef or his son smiling in his Air Force uniform next to some shiny aircraft…anything to keep the scale from coming. You knew what I was doing; they must have taught you the art of patient stalling in nursing school. When we got to the scale you asked me if I wanted to get on forwards or backwards. That little bully voice in my said told me to get on forwards so I could watch you slide the little black weights across the slick numbers. You told me that forwards was fine, but that I had to close my eyes. You, again, knew exactly what I was going to do. When I peeked through my heavily mascara-ed eyes, I saw you covering the numbers with my chart. As mad I was that I couldn’t see the numbers, I was thankful that you had not let me see them…it would only allow ED to continue in my life.

When Dr. Khaki Crocs decided that I needed an EKG right then, I panicked. I had no idea what an EKG entailed. However, when he told me that you would be performing the EKG, I was instantly reassured. I knew that you would explain the process to me and understand my concerns. As you placed each electrode on my chest and ankle (PS…I still don’t understand why it had to go on my ankle, but whatever) I kept thinking how naked I was in front of a complete stranger. I don’t like seeing my own body, let alone letting someone else see. When I am nervous I stop breathing and get really quite; something you picked up on straight away. While connecting the electrodes and working on the machine, you talked to me. You asked me how therapy was going. You asked if I liked to read, and, when I said yes, you talked to me about “Life without Ed”. Having read that book, I talked to you about how fond I am of the authors Jenni Scheafer and Thom Rutledge. You spoke about how much that book has defined your life, and of your dream of hearing them speak in Cincinnati. Then I told you about my blog, and how ecstatic I was when Thom actually read and commented on it! Before I knew it, the once awkward test had become totally relaxed. When the test was over, and I learned my heart was beating normally, I was thankful that you had been there to calm me.

I had to go back right before my 25 birthday this January for a routine office visit. I hoped you would be working, because sometimes you’re not there when I go. I positioned myself in the waiting room so that I could see what nurses came to the door to retrieve patients. When I saw your red head pop out of the door I was relieved. When you came to get me, I knew the scale was next. I wasn’t scared this time, though, and didn’t stop to analyze each picture of Dr. Khaki Crocs cross country skiing or diving in the Bahamas or riding a bike up a mountain path . I went straight to the scale. When you noticed I got on facing forwards, you made me laugh when you said, with fake exasperation, “Look at the ceiling.” I wasn’t even tempted to peek that time because I already knew you had put the chart over the numbers. Then you took me back to the exam room. As I heaved myself onto the table (as the table is very tall and I am very short), something creaked. I, in an effort to lessen the embarrassment by making a joke, decided to say that I broke the office. That was when you pointed out that I wasn’t being gentle with myself. I had never thought of it that way before. I had always made jokes at my own expense to protect by self from threats from others I thought to be imminent, but I was really just tearing down my self-worth. I appreciate you for planting that thought in my head, because I do need to be kinder to myself. You then asked me how therapy was going. When I told you I hadn’t purged in two days you shared in my joy of not engaging in behaviors…genuine joy, not “I’m the nurse and I am paid to be here” joy. As I ran into you on my way out of the office, you quietly said, “Take care of yourself” as I walked back to the waiting room. Thank you.

It is not often that you get a nurse with compassion, empathy or understanding. I got all three when you pulled my chart. I also got the bonus of your understanding of EDs. But, most of all, I would like to thank you for kindheartedness. You always know what to say and how to make me think. I appreciate all that you are.




10 Responses to “An open letter to the nurse at my GP”

  1. melluann Says:

    This is truly inspiring. As someone who works in health care, you should make sure she sees a copy of this note. It is truly the response of the Pts that allow us to keep being extraordinary. What a great post! And congrats on the 2 days!!!!!

    • rheasofhope Says:

      I was thinking of sending it into the office in letter form, but I ran across the problem of not knowing how to address it (it’s hard to send mail to people when you don’t know their names). But I think I am just going to give it to her next time I go in. Thanks for the kind words and for serving in a profession that, I feel, isn’t thanked enough.

  2. justmeb Says:

    Your story is beautiful and honest. I so needed to read about your appreciation for that nurse. I am an RN and love my patients but have had some struggles with empathy lately. Congratulations on the 2 days! I have also dealt with ED and can understand what a challenge that can be. Keep writing!

  3. Thank God for people who understand rather than condemn eh! Hope you are still getting on ok x

  4. Kayla Says:

    This is beautiful!I’m so thankful that there are people in this world who are truly caring souls. I’m even more happy that you have one for a nurse 🙂 Especially when the doctor is being no help!! I’m glad you’re doing better and I hope it continues. Love you

    • rheasofhope Says:

      Thanks Kayla. I absolutely love this nurse; which you know is weird for me to say because I hate going to doctors/nurses/etc. Recovery is a hard process, but definitely worth it. Thanks Love!

  5. So important not to forget patient care…during an EKG, it can be rather stressful. To have someone there reassuring you and serving as a calming presence is huge. great story.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s