Mental illnesses versus physical illnesses are often viewed on a night and day spectrum. While both groups of conditions have an organic pre-curser, the treatment that sufferers from both groups receive is widely different. There is a tendency for those with mental health conditions to be treated with fear, loathing, disgust and dismay. Where as the group that suffers from any sort of physical condition is given empathy, support and even pity.
“Just grow up and get your shit” together, I’ve been told so many from my loved ones in regards to my mental problems. I also have Multiple Sclerosis and boy is there a huge difference in the attitudes of those around me . When I just mention that diagnosis, this is what I get: “you poor thing, your a strong women for dealing with this” etc..etc..really the list could go on.
Once there is a misconception or a misbelief about these groups of patients, consequences arise, for example in regards to compliance with medication. Many people believe that the mental ill refuse treatment, they should have it forced upon them. However, if someone with a physical condition doesn’t refuses treatment, we say ‘it’s their choice, they are doing what they need to do’. Well, I’ll tell you my side to that. My neurologist recently informed me that the majority of his patients only take their injections about 1/3 of the time, I of course am one of those. Now, the last time I told my therapist that I stopped taking my meds, she threw me in the hospital and the truth is I had only stopped taking the morning dose because I had a county program coming to my home every night dispensing my medications and watching me ingest them for almost one year. The irony in this is that when I tell my neurologist about not being compliant, he tries to make me feel better by comparing me with his other patients and then on the other hand when I tell my therapist something similar, I’m locked up for a couple of weeks in the psych ward.
I didn’t ask for Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) nor Bipolar Disorder but what I can tell you is that I only wish the public would treat people with mental health issues like those with physical ones. I want help, I’ve been in therapy for four years working very hard. However, even the therapeutic community has shunned me. We all know that BPD takes years to ‘cure’ however I’ve been told by 2 therapists that “I’ve burnt them out because I’m not improving fast enough’ or ‘our clinic feels we’ve done as much as we can for you’. And I honestly believe this has to do to the fact that BPD had in the past a misconception for lack of improvement. Now, If I had cancer, would my doctors tell me that I can’t continue to receive treatment because the chances of improvement are slim?
I am a willing participant in my therapy, I’ve been compliant and in return I have received some very wonderful service as well as had some great care providers. However, because many care providers and the general public have their stereotypes and over generalizations; I’ve been taken advantage of by people who were supposed to be caring for me because they knew they could ‘get away with it’ because I’m mentally ill and who would believe me.
In the four years I’ve been involved in the public mental health sector I’ve had the following happen:
- sexually harassed and threatened by a county case worker
- lied about in court by my ex-case manger; who stated under oath that I homeless and couldn’t provide food or shelter for my self (I live in a condo, which I own and have for 6 years)
- my ex-psychiatrist used me as a means for retaliation when he was caught embezzling from his own clinic
- lost a job because my past employers (whom are physicians) found out I was in the hospital for psychiatric reasons
These are just a few of the many injustices that I have suffered because of the misconceptions that people have about the mentally ill and I’m hoping that this article can help people to better understand the other side of the spectrum. Those of us who suffer from mental health problems are not all wasting away, de-compensating, helpless and uncooperative. I am an educated woman, with a masters degree in business, I speak three languages, I’ve lived abroad, owned my own business and have wonderful plans for the future – I also suffer from mental health problems.
Please try to see ‘us’ not as a generalization or a stereotype but a group of people with as many differences in compliance, denial and participation in recovery as those with physical illness.