contributed by M. Hibbs
Marlene Hibbs is managing something important and groundbreaking called Days of Action.
Petite, fit, and full of positive energy, Marlene has been described by many as inspirational and strong as she actively tackles the medical system, politics, and stigma surrounding mental health and eating disorders.
The past few months have been busy as her campaign has been picking up speed.
However, according to Marlene, this has been decades in the making. She courageously tells us her story.
“I remember being a little girl and wanting to be a lawyer or a philanthropist. I always felt a deep sense of right or wrong and a sense of justice. I first learned lessons through many brutally painful experiences, both uniquely by my own hand-made consequences and through entrenched systemic violence, social formalities/normalities and simply the cruelty from ugly parts of human nature which we all have.
Over the years, I came to understand that, in order to help people, I would first have to learn how to fully love and accept myself. I had been given an eating disorder, fueled by decades of emotional abuse, genetic proclivity for the disease, abusive lovers, and utmost betrayal of my rights as an individual by our highest courts in our country.”
Marlene has been living with anorexia and bulimia since she was about 12 years of age, around the same time she remembers having her first suicidal thoughts, binging on food, and trying to cope with severe pain.
In late May of this year, the combination of stress and her disease, posed a serious threat to Marlene’s health. One day she started involuntarily dry heaving and vomiting.
“It was completely foreign and scary, and knowing what I know through my own research around my disease, I wondered if maybe I had lost sense of a true connection with my body and the disease had gone too far. In short, I feared organ failure. Anorexia can result in organ failure or electrolyte imbalance.”
While her physical body was falling apart, Marlene’s mind was too. She felt her reality was slipping and was having suicidal thoughts.
“I had been at this level of suicide before, where my mind was thinking of ways to do it painlessly and quickly. I can tell you the fastest ways to die are also the riskiest and the most painful.
This is a disease that is always looking for ways to override the sense of purpose, identity, and life. Anorexia is a long slow suicide, but I don’t just live with anorexia, I also live with bulimia. I don’t intentionally vomit, my body just does it on its own sometimes now, and when I am not taking my ADHD medication I will binge eat or binge drink because my brain is fighting for dopamine at all costs.”
A business owner at Embodiment Personal Training, Marlene then got her classes and clients covered for training and checked herself in at RIH (*Royal Inland Hospital). She had not been hospitalized for six years. She told hospital staff about her eating disorder (ED) and that she was feeling out of control and was having dry heaving spells.
She didn’t tell them she was feeling suicidal. She was too ashamed of her thoughts.
“How dare you, Marlene, think about killing yourself. How fucking selfish you are, you may as well do it. You would be so bad for doing it. You don’t have the guts. You are such a loser you can’t even kill yourself….”
She waited three hours before seeing a doctor. She had her blood work taken and her pee checked. Then she met a doctor .
“I will never forget our interaction to this day. The doctor looked at me and I could see his brain rewiring everything he thought he already knew about me, while simultaneously trying to hide the fact that I could tell he was judging me and that I knew he was trying to hide it.
He instructed me to lie down so he could poke my belly, looking for my problem, looking for my answers. However, it wasn’t him listening to me, it was him attempting to implant his bias very subtly by asking me leading questions: Are you sure it isn’t the flu, its going around you know? You have no fever or any symptoms, maybe it’s a stress flu?
I could feel two parts of myself in the conversation: the meek me who wanted to submit and impress authority figures, and my true self that was screaming, ‘Marlene! You know that doesn’t feel right… tell him you are suicidal, tell him the truth…”
Marlene told the doctor about her ED and her mental health problems, but still didn’t muster up the gumption to disclose her suicidal thoughts. He took her to a corner to look at her blood results, claiming Marlene was perfectly healthy, she just needed to relax. He prescribed Xanax.
He had not addressed her issue of dry heaving.
She was suddenly angry. She said angry words to the doctor and proceeded to leave, but was intervened by a young care aid. The aid grabbed her arm and sat her down, reassuring her a psych nurse was on the way.
The nurse offered her some programs and sent her on her way.
“I said no. I am not leaving. I am here because I am very sick I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t. You need to help me and believe me. I felt like I was negotiating terms for a car payment or something. 45 minutes later she came back and said, ‘we cant really help you. You can see the same doctor who saw you in ER again?’
I’m suicidal. I am afraid I will hurt myself, are you not going to help me?”
Marlene then waited under supervision for hours for a psych doctor. RIH does not have one on staff full time. When he did arrive, he really listened to her and apologized for the lack of services, and commended her for coming in for help.
“He could only offer me 1 South (*psych ward) or some non-addictive, anti-anxiety medication. I thought carefully, and if I hadn’t had my boyfriend’s home to go to that night, I would have accepted the offer.
I learned then too that the doctor who prescribed Xanax was way out of line; the psych doctor said it would have been a one-way street to addiction for me, and that’s because he understands my disease. EDs often are coupled with substance abuse. Medical doctors only receive about 6.5 hours training on average for EDs.
I think EDs are the stigma within all stigmas. We so often modify our physical bodies to appear more then we are, and that in itself is a false dichotomy. We live this way in our lives too, many of us modify reality to numb the pain of the reality we aren’t enough and the debt is spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional in nature.”
contribute by M. Hibbs
Days of Action is Marlene’s call to action for increased supports for those with mental health and EDs.
It starts on December 4th with the call for all people affected by these health issues and the broken systems around them to collect at City Hall to advocate to our leaders as a group.
“I will start the call for action in Kamloops on December 4th and from that I want to fill city hall so that people are spilling into the streets; I want that image to echo through our entire province into every municipality, so that one person in each municipality do as I did, and request the same request as I have done. From that, we can all move together. If we do it together we can all win.”
The next phase takes place on February first to seventh, 2019.
“My hope is that everyone who has ANY form of ED or knows someone who does have one, not only attend this event, but also go and start the conversation with their health care practitioner around the issue.”
The last phase is scheduled for September 29, 2019.
“I am calling for a province-wide demonstration for mental health in general. That we all step out and just stop what we are doing and walk into the streets on September 29th and we stand united together saying we want more.
I truly believe and feel it in my heart this is the next logical step in our province and country. We have been begging for years for better health care, we need to put our different stories aside and unite under the pain of being the same.
I want health care in all its forms to be number one priority in government. Our own human bodies act this way and it should be our fiscal houses that do too. Look what happens when even one organ is sick, the whole body reacts. We are sacrificing function for a system when we should be upholding our functions to build the best systems possible. It is inversion.
I want emotional and mental literacy to be taught in every grade to every child all the way through school. If children understand their own bodies better we can heal society;
if we heal childhood trauma in ourselves and prevent it from spreading further through education, we can begin to heal the world.
I want to see diet industries regulated. I want money and research prioritized for understanding EDs more because we really don’t get them one bit.”
To join the conversation, leave comments on this site.
To join the movement, click here @daysofaction
In my darkest hours my brightest lights have come through. I have angels all around me. -Marlene Hibbs