Friday, December 15, 2006

The Problem with Mental Illness

Here's a perfect example of what happens once you're given the label "mentally ill":



Look at the difference between the psychiatric definition (#4) and every other definition. Generally, using a neologism is a creative use of language, which is a good thing. But for those labeled mentally ill, a neologism is a nonsense word-it's meaningless. Why? Well, because once you're mentally ill, everything you have to say is at best, suspect, and at worst, absurd.

It doesn't matter that many mental disorders are cyclical. Even when you're doing well, you're still stigmatized. I wrote about my gallbladder surgery recently. Once the gastroenterologist reviewed my history and saw "lithium", his manner changed. He did the physical exam and informed my that my gallbladder felt fine (the test results and the surgeon disagreed), and that it would be difficult to sedate me for the endoscopy he ordered (it wasn't). He even said I'd be so difficult to sedate that I might be awake during the entire procedure (which included 8 biopsies).

Anyone else out there terrified of medical procedures? I am, and the buildup of anxiety (I also have an anxiety disorder!) before my endoscopy was terrible. What actually happened? I remember watching him inject the drugs, then a nurse telling me I needed to wake up so I could go home.

When the nurse was prepping me, and Dr. Bigot hadn't arrived yet, I confided that I was scared of being awake during the endoscopy. The nurse said "Oh, honey, if you ever give signs that you're not fully sedated, we just give you more drugs. We don't want you to be awake during something like this!"

I guess she hadn't seen "lithium" on my chart.

16 comments:

mercurial scribe said...

i hate the stigma. It just... sucks.

Normally i'm more eloquent than this, but i'm uber medicated.

Wordpress is much better. i too made the switch. Wordpress' free blog will even import all your Blogger posts and comments. Très brilliant!

flawedplan said...

Generally, using a neologism is a creative use of language, which is a good thing. But for those labeled mentally ill, a neologism is a nonsense word-it's meaningless. Why? Well, because once you're mentally ill, everything you have to say is at best, suspect, and at worst, absurd.

Brilliantly put! It's depressing on one hand but inspiring too, that you caught this.

These assumptions about crazy are the core of our passivity, paranoia, defensiveness and self-silencing. I think you're right, if we are to overcome we begin by pointing out these proofs that psych consumers automatically have no credibility and start right there, with a protest.

taught_to_despise said...

(((((((((((((((( S.E.)))))))))))))))

I was bawling right up until the moment I was knocked out for my tonsillectomy, so I can only imagine what you went through with that horrid doctor telling you that rubbish!!

I'm so glad you were knocked out properly. Thank goodness for kind nurses, eh? It's like the doctors are expected to have no compassion what-so-ever and the nurses are meant to have enough compassion to make up for it?

As for the doctor saying your gall bladder felt 'fine'.... maybe he just wanted some time off for an extended lunch or something. Grrrrrr Was he trying to scare you into 'admitting' you'd made the whole thing up?? Damn!

It just seems sadistic. Personally, I would make a complaint. BUT that said... I don't know if you've made complaints against doctors etc in the past but I have virtually given up complaining about anything. I've been constantly written off as insane and therefore anything I have to say is bullshit.

Sorry about the depressing tone. I just know what you mean.

I'm so glad the biopsies are over though!

Take good care,

Z

sparkleMatrix said...

SE what an excellent observation - sad but very revealing.

spotted elephant said...

mercurial scribe-I don't know, I think you summed it up nicely.

flawedplan-I know, it would have been kind of nice if the different definition hadn't jumped out at me.

We have to protest this-how can we do anything else if we're not taken seriously?

Z-I should have made a complaint, but at the time, I was just to sick. He had a real "covering his butt" mentality that makes me think nothing would stick.

But yeah-thank heavens for that nurse. Nurses are always cleaning up doctors' messes.

Sparkle-At least I get to choose not to go to him ever again.

sparkleMatrix said...

Yunno this makes me so angry. As you know SE my therapist recommended I ‘do not disclose’ stuff - what sort of therapeutic environment is that ffs!

“An invented meaningless word used by a person with a psychiatric disorder”

Nothing much has changed - ever - Male white honky dOOds laying their ‘way of being’ onto anything they fucking choose.

BloggingMone said...

I know this is off topic, but I am happy to be able to comment again. I just had to let you know!!!

Sally's Life said...

If this gets on, I too am happy to be able to comment.

So glad you don't have to see that Gastroenterologist again.

There was a time (before, during and after divorce!) when I was labelled 'depressed', with the attached stigma, by the medical profession, and I had to counter every attempt to ascribe the latest physical symptoms which were in fact the beginning of Lupus, to the mental illness depression.

I knew I was depressed; I also knew that labelling me mentally ill was unfair to those who struggled with mental illness, as my father had.

Now the medics run scared from treating me when they see the wheelchair - I had to fight, with my General Practitioner's help, the Neuro Surgeon's prejudice that because I am a wheelchair user, I would not be safe to have surgery !

Its the worst form of discrimination - professional selfish laziness, from those who are afraid, or cannot be bothered, to take responsibility for looking after someone whose needs are different.

Lucy said...

I am so sorry that you had to interact with that shithead. Mr. Doctor was following a long line of physicians who are so terrified of actual medical disorders that they become cognitively impaired. I know some lovely doctors, but I had to push my way through and displease people to find them.

One woman's attitude toward my increasing abdominal pain - once she discovered that I had a psychiatric history - was to suddenly realize that I was in the room, make eye contact for the first time, and introduce the idea that my pelvic pain was psychsomatic. I ditched her, and then discovered that I had a leaking ovarian cyst.

Nurses are - in general - caring and knowledgeable about patients. And of you can find a doctor who useta be a nurse, you may be well-cared for.

Hoping you are feeling better-

lost clown said...

bastards. I agree with you completely.

JamesRaven said...

As one who has lived with what the docs call bipolar disorder for over 30 years, I can say a simple fact: It's not mental, and it's not an illness.

At best, it's neurochemical, which makes it physical (even though I think it's far more metaphysical), and illness implies a continuum, and, like spotted elephant says, we're fine a lot of the time.

What we have is the judgment and naming/shaming of a group of people - the docs - who do not have this condition, and sadly, a culture that still thinks like the Puritans, ie; we're possessed.

I used to be asked about "suffering" from this condition. My reply was often a snarky... "I only suffer from the ignorance of people who don't have the condition."

Laura Linger said...

Jamesraven: right on. I have always felt that "mental illness" implies that indeed it is "all in our heads." My condition is treatable with medicine, and I live a full and rewarding life. It's just that sometimes I have some difficulties. Who doesn't? You wouldn't judge me if I was a diabetic.

I'm going to link over to your excellent post from my blog. So very, very true. I never had a doctor hesitate to sedate me because of my meds, but I had my judgment questioned over and over and over again by well-meaning but generally clueless medical staff about my tubal ligation last February. You know, because I am bipolar, I just had to bring on the crazy and have my tubes tied. Um, no, not really...I just want to fuck for fun and not have to worry about babies. That's all there is to it, and the illness has nothing to do with it.

spotted elephant said...

Sparkle-It really does put "do not disclose" into a whole different light.

BMone-Welcome back! :D

Sally-

I had to fight, with my General Practitioner's help, the Neuro Surgeon's prejudice that because I am a wheelchair user, I would not be safe to have surgery !

Just unbelievable. Writing you off for any surgery you could need because he thinks he can. This is very well put:

Its the worst form of discrimination - professional selfish laziness, from those who are afraid, or cannot be bothered, to take responsibility for looking after someone whose needs are different.

Lucy-And she couldn't put aside her prejudice long enough to notice that you were in severe pain? She really shouldn't be allowed to treat people.

James-So very, very true. What about all the time that we're well? Is it meaningless? And I can't even imagine what it would be like if there was no stigma attached to "mental" illness. Really, I can't.

Laura-They blamed you wanting a tubal ligation on bipolar disorder? I'm not going to try to figure out how they justified that-I prefer a functioning brain. ;)

Axinar said...

Sometimes you have to be QUITE forceful with medical types and fill them in on how you react to specific drugs.

Me ... I have to keep telling them over and over again be VERY careful when blasting locals in and around my CNS as I may break into a cold sweat and faint - that and not to lay me down completely flat if I DO faint.

Also, they need to give me MASSIVE amounts of muscle relaxants to keep me down under a general.

Flip side of this is that I generally resume consciousness WAY before I can breathe right, which causes me, generally, to try to SWEAR my way into breathing.

Usually doesn't work ...

And they have to knock me out and intubate me again ...

Ah, yes, having a nervous system that works differently from most of the rest of the planet is SO fun ...

HelloAriel said...

your posting here hit too close to home for me not to make a comment. i'm bipolar and about to have surgery to remove my gallbladder after 6+ months of illness - the last 4 of which my primary doc was colluding with my shrink to convince me that it was all somatization (ie. in my head). lucky for me, my gastroenterologist was *not* convinced and she finally had the right test done which shows conclusively that all my discomfort has a real, physicial cause in my disfunctioning gallbladder. whew! i found your post while searching for a link between lithium and gallbladder damage because this whole saga started after my shrink nearly killed me with a toxic dose... haven't found any proof of connection yet, but really appreciated your post.

spotted elephant said...

helloariel-I hope you see this followup comment. I can't describe how much BETTER I felt after getting the gb removed. I am scared of all medical procedures, but the gb surgery was one of the best things in my life, ever!

I'm sorry you've had to go through this. It's bad enough having health problems, it really sucks when you have to fight your doctors to be taken seriously. Feel better soon!