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The origins of Human Concern

From Experience

carmen-netten-08062012-003My experience with eating disorders started when I was twelve years old. I struggled with anorexia and later on this transitioned into bulimia. My life was completely controlled by eating and not eating, losing weight and gaining weight. Every once in a while I would feel 'well', but most of the time I felt desperate, anxious and I suffered from very low self-esteem. I focused on food, because that was the only thing I could hold on to and control.

Surviving instead of living
I felt like my life was a constant struggle for survival. I wasn’t able to participate and enjoy things with others. I wasn’t able to be ‘normal’. I wasn’t happy with myself and pretty soon after I wasn’t happy with other people. I locked myself into isolation with my best friend and enemy: food.

I simply wasn’t able to conform to the ‘rules’ of life. I didn’t know how. I felt it was too complicated, too strange and I was too anxious. What was normal? What did I want? What did others think? So many choices to be made, so many steps to be taken and so many liabilities and expectations. It slowly got through to me that I needed help.

My search in healthcare
And so began my search in healthcare. I went from general practitioner to psychologist to psychiatrist. I tried mainstream medicine and alternative medicine. I went to group therapy and individual therapy. I tried focusing on the symptoms and I tried focusing on the underlying causes. I tried medication. I tried everything, but nothing really helped. Sometimes little things would help me in a little way during a certain period of time, but I never really got cured. I grew desperate and I lost my will to fight little by little and also my hope for my future. I lost my faith in healthcare and I almost gave up. I felt I wasn’t ever going to overcome this and so I should learn how to live with it.

Determined to recover
It was the same assertiveness that I had always had when protecting my eating disorder and myself that strengthened me to overcome this. After the umpteenth effort within healthcare, I decided to do it myself. With all the knowledge that I had gained here and there and the knowledge of my own eating disorder combined, little by little I managed to cure myself completely of my ‘chronic’ eating disorder in the next few years.

Determined to help others
Through personal empowerment I continued to concern myself intensively with this subject, but in a completely different way. I enrolled myself in the GGZ to receive an education. I did a lot of volunteer work for the Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa foundation; I mentored groups and started my own practice to help people with eating disorders. I was finally able to test and find out if my ideas could actually lead to curing both minor and severe eating disorders. I combined my professional knowledge with my own experiences, which would later be known as ‘ervaringsprofessie’. A Dutch term for a recovered therapist who uses experiential knowledge about their own eating disorder history or other life events in treatment. The therapist as a Ervaringsprofessional® was born.

The fundamentals: understanding, love, involvement, alertness and recognition
A bond of trust was immediately formed during the interview, because I was open and accessible and this in turn provided the client with ample room to open as well. I was immediately able to transfer the hope of a full recovery onto the client, because I was a living example. Their motivation, which in so many clients had diminished to almost nothing after numerous fruitless efforts in healthcare, started to rise again. The only thing I had to do was to apply my experience in my role as a healthcare provider by expressing my understanding, involvement, alertness and love. This was, and still is, the rock solid base on which the therapy stands. This has proven itself time and time again to be fertile ground upon which the relationship with the client and his or her recovery can grow.

Founding Human Concern
Meeting likeminded experienced professionals, resulted in the current state of the Human Concern Foundation – Center for Eating Disorders. Now, ten years later, scientific research shows that working with Ervaringsprofessionals® is of decisive importance. Clients have indicated that they feel understood, recognized and safe with a therapist who intimately knows the eating disorder. The necessary ‘click’ is there right away and this enables the client to open up (sooner) and get on the road to recovery. This is quite remarkable, because most of our clients have been battling their eating disorders for years and have gone through numerous of treatments elsewhere, just like I did. I am therefore very thankful for the road that I have been allowed to travel and the manner in which I’m able to help others through my personal knowledge and experience.

Carmen Netten
Human Concern Foundation – Center for Eating Disorders

Blog Carmen Netten: Eating Disorder as Identity Disorder and Treatment

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