When a Doctor in the ER Questioned Why She Should Help Me

3k
3k
51

Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

One morning last summer, I woke up to find blood seeping through my pajamas. Just hours before as the sun was rising, I had relapsed with self-injury after a year clean — this time worse than ever. When I realized I was still bleeding horror washed over me. I knew this meant I needed stitches. Which meant I needed medical help. 

I toyed with different scenarios in my head. My father and I were the only ones in the house, and I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that not only that I had relapsed, but that I needed to go to the emergency room. Filled with shame and disappointment, I couldn’t bear the look of shock and confusion that would undoubtedly come over his face. So I decided to drive myself. After washing up and re-dressing my cut, I finally mustered the courage to walk into the room and tell my dad I was hanging out with some friends and would be back in a couple hours. At that moment, as my dad smiled and told me to have fun, I felt like the worst daughter in the world.

When I arrived the ER was pretty empty. When they asked me why I was there, I swallowed my embarrassment and quietly told them what had happened. That I had cut myself and it was still bleeding. The ER worker seemed confused. It took multiple explainations until she understood it wasn’t an accident. Finally it registered, and I was sent back to a room in the department.

As I sat in the room, a couple of different nurses were in and out. Most of them were cold. Only one made things a bit bearable. Here I was, alone, bleeding, vulnerable and scared, and the nurses made it seem like I was interrupting their day. One nurse undressed my cut to look at it, gave me a bunch of gauze and then disappeared behind the curtain, leaving me all alone again. When he later came back and saw I was still bleeding, as he walked outside I heard him say, “We’ve got a bleeder in here.”

I felt like I wasn’t even a patient, let alone a person. He talked to the other nurses about my cut like someone gossiping about some drama. They made it seem like my wound wasn’t even attached to a person. The next time someone came in, I asked where the doctor was and if I was going to get stitches. He just told me the doctor would be there soon. 

Much to my dismay, the doctor didn’t make things better. In fact, she made things worse. I never felt so ashamed or embarrassed as I did in that hospital room. The doctor looked at my cut and asked me why. Why did I do it? I mumbled something about a relapse and she cut me off. It was not a relapse, because a “relapse” implies addiction, she said. Holding back tears, I tried to explain that for me self-injury is an addiction. But she told me this was a choice.

“Why should I even help you?” she said. “You’re just going to do it again.”

Those words cut me deeper than I have ever cut myself. This doctor — a person who has taken an oath to help those who need it — was telling me I wasn’t worthy of help or compassion. I finally got myself to go to the emergency room for a self-inflicted injury, something I probably should have done in the past, and I was being treated like I was wasting their time.

From what I’ve seen, this kind of treatment is far too common for people who live with mental illness. Even with so much information out there, stigma still exists in the very places that are supposed to help us. This is unacceptable. Mental illnesses are just as deserving of validation, treatment and compassion as physical illnesses. With 1 in 4 adults living with a mental illness, we need all health care professionals to be educated about mental illness so they can treat their patients with the compassion they deserve.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

3k
3k
51

RELATED VIDEOS

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

People With Schizophrenia Literally Wipe Off Their Labels in Moving Video

176
176
0

In honor of the U.K.’s Schizophrenia Awareness Week, Rethink Mental Illness released a moving video featuring the faces and stories of those with schizophrenia, a mental illness that affects up to 1.1 percent of the world’s population and about 3.5 million Americans.

In the video below, each person features a different design on his or her face representing a form of stigma. On one man’s forehead it reads, “Nutter.” A woman chooses white face paint because, she says in the video, “A lot of us are invisible.”

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.43.49 PM

They then wipe off the face paint, and talk about their experiences living with schizophrenia.

You also can watch the participants individual stories here.

Watch the video below:

176
176
0
TOPICS
, Video,
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

When My Son Found the Perfect Way to Describe Anxiety and Depression

388
388
1

My son is going to be 12 at the end of this year. He’s bright, easily carries conversations with adults and I’m told he impresses his teachers. But he’s occasionally insensitive, and sometimes he can hurt feelings. I’m sure it’s normal, but because of this I was understandably nervous to talk to him about the mental health problems I face.

What I take for granted, I suppose, is that he overhears my conversations on the phone and sometimes reads things over my shoulder as I write them. I sometimes forget I’ve said things out loud while he’s been near, which is easy to do because he rarely looks like he’s paying attention to anything. He’s usually absorbed in his own activities, whatever they are, apparently lost in his own little world.

As far as I can recall, I haven’t directly spoken to him about depression or anxiety, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover what he had to say when we had a little chat the other night. Here’s how the conversation went:

What is depression?

“Thinking that nothing can get better, and thinking there’s no hope even if there is a bit.”

What is anxiety?

“Fear. Knowing what’ll happen next but hoping it doesn’t happen.”

What do you think about people with anxiety and depression?

“They’re trying hard. They’re getting through — just about.”

Do you know that I have anxiety and depression?

“Yeah.”

What do you think about that?

“I think you’re doing well, you’re working hard.”

What do you think people should know about anxiety and depression?

“They should try to understand and give some respect. For those who have it, their lives are harder.”

Then, he said the most clever thing of the whole conversation.

How would you describe depression and anxiety? 

“It’s like a jar inside you, full of the anxiety and depression, and the jar is really hard to open. If you could just get the lid off the jar the anxiety and depression would get out and you could be happy, but the lid is stuck. You try really hard to get it off, but can’t do it alone.”

I must add I’ve had a difficult week with my son. He’s about to transition into a new school and routines are currently inconsistent. It’s been a bit stressful for him, and in turn has been extra stressful for me. But just when I was beginning to doubt him, he comes out with this.

He does listen. He does care. And I should never discount that perhaps his knowledge of what I’m going through affects him, too. But all in all, I’m so proud his true understanding and compassion is greater than what I’ve seen in many adults. So instead of feeling guilty that I might be adversely affecting him, I think it’s safe to say his experiences have aided his understanding and compassion for others.

I don’t think you’ll find bigotry toward anxiety or depression coming from my son anytime soon.

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 2.04.14 PM

Follow this journey on Talking This and That.

 

388
388
1
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Why I’m Telling You What This Photo Doesn’t Say About My Son

186
186
0

When you look at this picture what do you see? The obvious answer is a little boy at a wrestling match. But things aren’t always as they seem, and sometimes you have to look beyond what’s in front of your face.

Version 2

You see, my son has invisible disabilities. I have two children. My daughter rides in a wheelchair and uses a communication device. The world sees her disability. It flashes like a blinking neon sign. But when you live in a world where appearances mean everything, it’s hard for people to understand why my bouncing, bubbly son, Marvin, has disabilities.

When we adopted Marvin out of foster care, his social worker said, “Just love him and he’ll be fine.” People assured me he would “outgrow” things and would be “just like everyone else.”

I know they meant well, but a lot of times I wanted to snap back and say, “So did everyone else get abused and exposed to drugs in utero?” It just made me mad. His preschools insisted he was just fine, too. They pointed out other kids and told me he was just a boy.

But Marvin isn’t like everyone else. He has many invisible scars. He was born addicted to meth and abused. He was medi-flighted after his biological mom shook him until he lost consciousness. My son lives every day with the damage inflicted upon him. He has PTSD, shaken baby syndrome, ADHD, detached retinas, trauma, dysgraphia and other learning disorders. Every time I turn around, it seems like a new diagnosis is added. They’re all tucked away in his soul.

We deal with each issue daily. We go to therapies; our house often looks like a giant sensory room so my son can get the input his body craves. I also fight daily for his needs. For a child who looks and, most of the time, acts like everyone else, it’s hard for people to understand why he needs so much. With my daughter, they shower me with equipment, therapies, doctors and specialists. With my son, I’m often left on my own with doors shut in my face. I get funny looks when I try to explain about his needs.

There is something else you won’t see in the picture either. It’s how proud I am of my son. He lived through things you or I can never imagine. He’s a survivor. He has to work harder than the average 8-year-old to do things that children take for granted, like writing a couple of sentences. But he has come such a long way. Every time he makes a new gain, figures out school work, manages to stay in a crowded noisy area without coming undone, he just beams. I took that picture after his wrestling meet. You see a kid beaming with pride. I see a warrior who is going to take the world by storm.

186
186
0
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

What the Woman at the Gym Taught Me About Being in Eating Disorder 'Limbo'

32
32
3

The voice in my head, the voice of my eating disoder, degraded me in every aspect of my life. At school anything less than an A was moronic. In my social life no one really liked me, they just let me hang out with them. At the gym I was a fat pig who could never burn enough calories. At meals I didn’t even deserve to eat. The voice was so loud sometimes I wanted to curl into a ball and cover my ears. In the beginning I tried not to believe him, but my eating disorder continued to egg me on. “Don’t have the toast, have some coffee instead.” He was almost gentle and, I hate to admit it, encouraging. Soon my eating disorder had taken on a life of his own, and he was the only voice I listened to. He abused me emotionally, and I in turn abused myself physically. I was a shell of myself.

Although physically now I’m healthy, my eating disorder has never really left my head.  The volume of his voice waxes and wanes, but has never disappeared. It’s hard to explain what it’s like to have an eating disorder in my head and not in my body. Often I find myself overanalyzing my eating habits and “correcting” for errors like a sick game of checks and balances in which both the judge and jury are my eating disorder.

It was hard to imagine others could understand my position. For whatever reason, I’ve always thought everyone else was either recovered or not, and here I was in limbo. Somehow I thought I was the only person with an eating disorder who experienced these thoughts silently because her body didn’t show the monster in her mind. 

And then I found out that the woman at the gym — whose body I wanted, whose strength I wanted, whose endurance I wanted, whose commitment I wanted, whose size I wanted, whose agility I wanted — was also recovering from an eating disorder. The woman I hated for making life look so effortless, the woman who I constantly compared myself, she has an eating disorder in her head, too. Who knew? Everyone has their own invisible struggles. Even the people we put on a pedestal; a pedestal which distances us from their humanity.

And so when a mutual friend reached out and asked if she could connect the two of us because we had so much in common, and because the woman at the gym could use someone who understands, I said, “Yes.” At the very least it might help her know someone else lives in this tenuous limbo in which an eating disorder lurks, and that someone else has some of the same invisible struggles as she does.

32
32
3
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

5 Things I Didn’t Know About Depression Until It Happened to Me

2k
2k
2

I experienced my first depressive episode during the second semester of my sophomore year of college. After experiencing a series of events that shook me mentally and emotionally, my anxiety was understandably at an all-time high. Then, it suddenly crashed.

I woke up crying, went to bed crying and sat on the toilet crying for almost two weeks straight. Getting in the shower sounded like backpacking through Europe. Walking outside? Forget it. 

Hello depression, it’s nice to meet you. My name is Ariella and I have a feeling we’re about to get to know each other all too well. I’m aware of your friendship with anxiety, so I was expecting you would pay me a visit one day. 

Although I knew the surface facts about depression, here are five things I didn’t know until it happened to me:

1. It’s not enough to “distract yourself.”

To me, depression was almost like grieving, and just like you wouldn’t ignore the grieving stage of losing a loved one, you can’t just ignore depression.    

2. You feel alone, even though you’re not.

When I’m in the right mindset, I know I’m not alone when it comes to having generalized anxiety disorder and depression. But when I’m depressed, I always feel alone and somehow convince myself it’s true. The truth is you’re never alone. But depression can skew everything you know. 

3. It physically beats you up.

I always thought depression was the equivalent of sadness, but it’s so much more. It chews you up and spits you out. Along with the crying spells and irrational sad thoughts, my body became crippled. Getting off the couch to go to bed could be the biggest chore. Depression made me weak, suppressed my appetite and told my brain the only thing I wanted to do was sleep.

4. It’ll test you, but you’re stronger than you think.

During my first depressive episode, my eyes were so puffy I could barely see out of them. With time and patience (almost months for that first episode), I got through it and came out stronger than ever. As the quote goes, you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.

5. Depression is the truest friendship test.

I found there’s no friendship test more accurate than the depression friendship test. Unfortunately, I lost touch with many people in my life after my first experience with depression. But if someone can’t handle you at your worst, they sure as hell don’t deserve you at your best. Depression taught me which people in my life will always be around, no matter what. When I’m depressed, having them around means the world.

2k
2k
2
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

8,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.