Tuesday, August 20, 2013

You Don't Know What's Good for You

One of my friends posted this article on Facebook today and I immediately took note. I've walked in similar shoes.

There is a pervasive theme in America that most people on disability or who come into a clinic presenting with pain are faking for drugs. While there certainly are people who do this, most of us do not. Yet to walk into a new clinic or hospital is to be almost guaranteed that your concerns will be reduced or dismissed if you have a mental illness.

This is a sampling of what I've either witnessed or experienced:
1. You are lying because you want me to give you drugs. I don't know if you are taking them or selling them but I know you are faking.

2. You don't know how you feel. You're mentally ill so I can't trust you to accurately describe what's going on with your body and mind.

3. You aren't smart enough (or educated enough) to understand what's going on. You need to just shut up and let me do my job.

4. You don't deserve any pain medication. I don't like you and I don't appreciate how you are acting in my hospital. I don't care that you are hurting and terrified and I'm enjoying wielding this power over you.

5. You are so much smarter than the staff members here and coming to therapy here would be a waste of time. Take this book home and read it. You can help yourself better than anyone else.
While it's true that I am mentally ill and I sometimes have difficulty distinguishing between reality and fantasy, I can assure you, Dr. Asshole, that I am an expert in how I feel. A fucking genius! And while I may be wrong about things on occasion, I'm no liar. I don't need to fake for drugs or anything else because the totality of my mental and physical ailments is one big pile of PAIN. 

And while I realize that drugs aren't always the right answer, there are times when they are. If I haven't slept for two days because of severe stomach cramping (from my IBS), then you can bet that when you don't help me out, I'm going to relapse into either depression or mania. That's what sleep deprivation and stress do to me. In case you didn't know, those conditions are far worse than me getting a couple of Lortabs I didn't need. You aren't helping - you are making it worse.

Of course, I know I have responsibilities here. One is not to lie about anything - not condition, not pain, not income, not insurance - because if you ever think I've lied about something, you will never believe another word I say. The other is to present myself as neatly and intelligently as possible. Because if, gods forbid, I show up looking and acting sick, you'll decide I'm a druggie bum who is faking. Now I know that when I look and sound normal, you'll say I "look fine" to you and don't need anything but that's the dance we do, isn't it?

What's been your experience with medical staff?  Do they make assumptions about you unfairly? Do they deny you care or medication inappropriately? How do you deal with the stigma?