This is my post for may’s Blog Carnival of Mental Health, developed by Astrid and hosted by the madosphere, on the theme ‘patients and professionals.
mental health professionals and i don’t have a very good track record.
ages ago, i remember my mother trying to get me to go to therapy. i declined, because i was sure at the time i was fine. this was after the hell that was middle school, but before the mental and psychotic hell that was high school. as far as i remember, the only reason she brought it up was because a psychic told her to. i remember her saying that the person insisted that i wasn’t crazy, but i still needed the help. i think she was just trying to reassure my mother that the stereotypes surrounding mental illness aren’t true, and while yes, my trauma did significantly impact my development and perspective of the world, by no means was i like society’s depiction of the crazy person that paces back and forth talking to themself(ves) . that came later.
high school hit and things went to hell again. this time i became so drenched in my own darkness that i couldn’t see the reality outside of my own. this is what led to my hospitalization the year of my graduation.
that hospitalization is why i’m so skeptical of mental health professionals in regards to my own situation.
during my two week stay, i attempted to make it clear that i was hallucinating, i was delusional at the time, and yes even though because i’m crazy i knew this and could make people aware of such.
except that instead of listening to me, they went with their perspective of my health, diagnosed me with depression, fed me medication that i never needed and never worked, and forced me into social situations that made me incredibly uncomfortable. i was forced to participate in group therapy and group activities, despite my severe social anxiety, and any attempts to resist this would lead to me being written up. for those unfamiliar, being ‘written up’ is essentially like written warnings – you got only so many before your ‘privileges’ (see: group activities that i never wanted to be a part of in the first place, or use of colored pencils for drawing or writing) started to be revoked. being more afraid of confrontation than my peers at the time, i didn’t push any further. had i known the extent and reasoning behind my social anxiety, maybe i would have pushed harder.
needless to say, this was a problem. by instilling a hierarchy of power, and asserting that power in a way that worked on their perspective of the patient instead of accepting and working with input from that patient, they did not allow for the development of trust. any lack of trust, and thus any ‘acting out’ based on their perspective of the situation, resulted in the patient being punished for their ‘behavior’ instead of any acknowledgment for why they might be acting in the manner they are. not allowing for the development of trust means less communication between the patient and the mental health team (staff, nurses and psychologists/psychiatrists), and less willingness to work with each other. less communication means less progress, and can result in continuous spiraling or, like in my case, hiding every problem in order to be left the fuck alone, and eventually discharged on the idea of ‘improvement’ that was never actually there, just a farce i put up to be left the fuck alone.
now, because of that lack of development of trust in this first attempt, i have little to no trust of any mental health professional i come into contact with, meaning i’m less likely to seek help with coping with my illnesses. granted, i did eventually seek out help again, but it took an abusive relationship and psychotic breakdown to do it. that and DID – someone in our system seized control long enough to actually get us to push forward toward therapy and treatment, instead of ignoring it entirely. because we would have.
this story isn’t the first. far from it. there’s a lot of us with these horror stories, largely in part because of the stereotype that crazy people don’t know about their own mental distress and thus can’t be trusted to actually seek treatment, because obviously they’re not in touch with reality to know that they’re, well, not in touch with reality.
except for one small problem – uh, actually, frequently we do. the problem isn’t that we don’t know, though in some instances we may not. the problem is that when we do, people don’t listen to us. because in their eyes, we don’t actually know, the fact that we think we know must be a delusion. and thus they focus on their perspective of how we feel. WHAT THE FUCK?
see, treatment of one’s illnesses and disorders (be they mental or otherwise) is dependent on two factors – the professional treating the condition(s) and the patient being treated. the patient must articulate the symptoms and what they experience so the professional knows what to possibly treat, and what direction to look in when coming up with said treatment and diagnosis. the professional must listen to these described symptoms in order to come to a reasonable diagnosis that makes sense with the symptoms described. because, yanno, treatment won’t work if you’re treating a condition that’s not there.
no, just because we’re crazy doesn’t mean we’re making it up, or we’re wrong because we obviously perceive our symptoms differently than how the rest of the world does (hint: this concept doesn’t actually work, as how symptoms work is how we’re affected by them and thus perceive them). believing this creates that hierarchy, placing the ‘professionals’ above the patients instead of them working together on equal ground. and that hierarchy affects trust and how willing we are to work with those professionals in the first place. if we do not trust you, you cannot adequately treat us, and no, you can’t force treatment on the unwilling. that disconnect just makes things worse in the long run.
we might be the crazy patients, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know how we’re affected by our crazy. after all, that crazy is affecting us – we are the ones that live with it day in and day out, the hours of the days and the days of the years. we are the ones that see inside our heads, hear the thoughts racing through our minds, feel the emotions that roll up and down and inside and out. this isn’t something you can just put a hat on with shiny lights and see everything that we think and feel. you have to be able to trust us, that we’re the ones that know how mental illness affects our lives. but to know that, we have to trust you. and that doesn’t work out so well when the system and the people within work against us.
1. i know my wording here seems awkward. basically, i use the term themself as a singular gender neutral term to refer to other individuals, while reserving the term ‘themselves’ for those of DID or plural systems. typically folks use ‘themselves’ even in reference to one individual, but due to my experiences with the DID and plural communities, and being nonbinary with a self-preference of the singular they for pronouns, that usage always feels awkward for me, so i avoid it. i understand that this isn’t typical usage, hence the clarification.