Advocacy » Anecdotes from the Frontlines of Speech-language Therapy » Star's amazing Journey_Part 2

Star's amazing Journey_Part 2

Can you also tell us whether the treatment has been successful and, if so, what kind of a difference it has made to you?
After working with Mershen for about 8-9 months, I am a totally different person (in a good way).

Mershen had a very different approach with me, one that is rare in Western medicine and with a lot of hard work, patience, perseverance and curiosity I started to make progress.

Mershen let me lead the pace and the direction. He was clear with me from the start that working with me how he did with other patients wasn’t going to work for me. He wasn’t there to tell me what to do, to force me to do anything I didn’t want or to ‘fix’ me. He was there to guide me towards my goals and help come up with creative and fun ways of getting there. And that we definitely did!

Mershen never tried to change who I was or tell me I was wrong. In his work with me, he embraced who I am, all those different interconnected parts that contribute towards my relationship with food and eating.

He acknowledged the trauma I had experienced with food, the professional advice, my early childhood, my physical medical condition, my fears, my experiences and the Autism/neurodiverse side - which means I often get stuck in black and white thinking or rigid ideas as well as the sensory challenges I have with food.

We started at the beginning with the big picture, and from there, we were able to work together and start taking down some of the barriers that prevented me from eating and making progress. Mershen treated me as a person rather than ‘the problem’ or ‘the condition’.

It takes great skill and a whole lot of patience to work with someone like me - a
complex case of physical and psychological issues. But by doing so, I was able to break through the long period of staying static and start to heal and make progress.

The first thing we did was set goals. The big goal was - To be able to eat enough to maintain a healthy weight and not require enteral feeding. My other goals were:

  • To enjoy eating, experience pleasure from the foods I eat.
  • To improve my swallowing.
  • Be more confident about eating in front of other people.
  • Expand my diet in terms of variety in foods and textures.
  • Join in with family meals and improve the social side of food.
  • To eat a larger quantity of food.
  • To decrease the time it takes to eat.

 I brought in my safe foods to my first sessions with Mershen and would practise correct technique for swallowing and stripping the spoon. It took a lot of practice to break my old ways of eating and use the correct muscles. This was connected to increasing volume and decreasing time.

He assessed how I was eating, and we discovered why it was taking me so long. At home, I practised eating the way Mershen taught me and grew more confident with having more food in my mouth at once and swallowing with confidence.

We explored different flavours, textures and culinary techniques that I might enjoy. Mershen got me to start a recipe book and record my experiments and creations in there. There was no obligation to actually eat the food I had made. Just being exposed to handling different foods, the new smells, the new textures, the curiosity about how it would taste helped to start building a positive relationship with food and eventually broke through my requirement of foods always being the same.

I tried new blended soup flavours, new smoothie flavours and eventually Mershen challenged me to add in some texture. After accomplishing this, I was feeling much more hopeful and confident. I fully trusted Mershen and I knew that whatever we discussed and decided was going to help even if it was hard.

We made goals around social eating and joining in family meals. I was set the task of making raindrop cakes, which is basically a round jelly made of water and agar agar, and I shared this with my family. Sitting around the table eating the same thing as my family was very special and quite exciting, as I had not done this in a long time.

As I gained confidence with eating with my family and increasing variety, eating gave me more pleasure. I started to feel more safe and relaxed around food and eating in general. It felt like a part of me rather than something I constantly had to fight.

Read the last part of Star's amazing journey