I introduce myself and face dozens of worried faces looking at me from different corners of the room. I am looking for a girl, I will call her Tina, but she is lost in the crowd of people. Because we don't have a specialized department for patients suffering from eating disorders, Tina has been placed in a room with people of all ages suffering from different ailments.
I find Tina. She is afraid and nervous, but she is also hopeful. We begin talking, she opens up and speaks to me about her illness; somehow the story is always the same. And at the end of the story they almost always ask me the same question: "How can you help me?"
That is where I stop. It is the same place I always stop feeling helpless and ashamed. Because I know that I can't really help her. I can try, but I am terribly limited. Here at "Hope" we have the willpower and passion, but not the money or the resources to help. The government doesn't care. And in the meantime, these young women and men are starving and slowly dying.
We both end up sitting there, in that terribly crowded room, ashamed and humbled. Both powerless.
As a young psychologist from Croatia, interested in eating disorders, I am faced daily with my absolute inability to help the great number of people suffering from eating disorders in Croatia.
I work as a psychologist in an elementary school. After I graduated from university I wanted to work in a clinic for eating disorders; but there are no such clinics in Croatia. After work, I volunteer with "Hope" - an association that helps persons with eating disorders. "Hope" is a nonprofit, non-governmental association started in Zagreb in 2002. Hrvoje Rendulic, the administrator of "Hope," has single-handedly saved many lives.
With over 150 members/patients and their families to cater to, we do not have office space, telephone lines, literature about the issue or the means to change our precarious situation.
Every day I see these people suffer. I reassure them that they are not responsible for the disease and that they did nothing to deserve it, and then I have to inform them that they may not find any real treatment in Croatia. It is heartbreaking and disillusioning.
Through my essay, I wish to send a message to the world. While this may be interpreted as a pathetic call for help or whining, it is much more. All I want is for someone to pay attention.
I want people to stop looking at victims of eating disorders as stupid, silly girls who only want to lose weight and be pretty. Try to help the loved ones you think might be suffering from this problem and guide them to seek help.
To learn more about "Hope" and the state of eating disorders in Croatia, please visit www.hope.hr