To the Doctor Who Laughed When I Told Him I Was Majoring in Psychology
When I was 19 years old, I was no longer eligible to use my parent’s insurance. I had to go uninsured because insurance costs were sky high. Going uninsured means I had to visit your practice, which offered free or low-cost visits to you, a “family doctor.” I came to your office because there were no options for a low-cost or free therapy program. So you were my only choice.
When I went into your office, I was greeted by the lovely woman at the front desk. She checked me in and said you would be with me shortly. I waited in a room surrounded by little kids with colds and elderly patients who were there for routine exams. I was the only one, so it seemed, to be visiting you for psychiatric services.
When I was brought back to the exam room, I sat on the exam table, rather than the chair next to the door because I wanted you to understand I was sick, too.
When you came in, you briefly checked the chart and asked, “So what are we here for today?”
I explained to you I struggled with depression and wanted to talk about getting on an antidepressant. You scoffed in my face. You didn’t even try to hide your disapproval.
Immediately, I went into defensive mode. By defensive mode, I mean total brain fart mode where the only thing I could say was, “Wait, what?”
You asked me in a condescending tone, “You think you’re depressed?”
I nodded, stating I had been diagnosed with depression when I was 12. I explained my financial situation to you and my reasoning for visiting you rather than a therapist. You smirked the entire time.
When I was finished explaining, you sighed and laughed as you said, “Allllllright. Well…”
You tried to make casual conversation with me, conversation I feel was only brought on by your curiosity as to how a teenager with depression could possibly be sitting in your office. You asked me if I was in school.
I said, “Yes, I’m in college. I’m majoring in psychology.”
You immediately burst out in a fit of laughter.
“A depressed psychologist? Who in the world would want a depressed psychologist? That’s rich!”
Before I could react, you left the room without another word, giggling and repeating “depressed psychologist, hahaha!” under your breath. I looked to my mother and immediately broke out in tears. I could not handle this situation. Before you came back, my mother and I left the room and informed the woman at the front desk we would not be returning.
I never got to tell you how small you made me feel. I never got to tell you how the reason I came into your office was because my mother was scared I was self-harming again. I never got to tell you I needed those antidepressants because my previous prescription ran out. I never got to tell you I came off my meds that day cold-turkey after a three-year regimen. I never got to tell you the night after I saw you, I went home and picked up a razor for the first time in more than three years. I never got to tell you I never did use that razor because your words were pounding in my head, giving me strength.
When you laughed at my dreams, you told me I was incapable of becoming what I wanted to be because of my mental illness. You made me feel like seeking help was a joke because people will not take me seriously. You made me want to give up. But I didn’t.
I didn’t use that razor because you made me feel like you wanted me to fail. You made me think I had to prove you wrong. I never got to tell you I eventually graduated college with my A.A. in psychology and moved on to another college where I am continuing to work on my bachelor’s degree. I finished my degree despite my obstacles while being an active member of the Active Minds mental health awareness club on campus.
When I walked across that stage, I smiled at the thought of your smug face looking up at me, a “depressed psychology student.” When I get my bachelor’s, I’ll think of you again and smile at my achievement. When I achieve my master’s degree, I will laugh as I cross the stage because I proved you wrong once again. When I finally get my doctorate and my license to practice, I will toast to you.
You, the doctor who told me no one would ever want a “depressed psychologist.” You, the man who didn’t understand that my mental illness does not define me. You, the doctor who didn’t want to help me because I was “lesser” than you.
I am lucky to be headstrong and have support from my family. Others may not be. I spent several nights wishing on stars, begging the fates to send people like me away from your office. I am lucky to be able to use your criticism to empower me but others may not.
Some people might have been unable to put down that razor. Some people might not have had their mom or other support next to them to help them walk out of that office and make a stand. Some people may not have been able to say, “No. I refuse to believe your opinion is a valid one.”
When you laugh at someone for their mental illness, you are telling them they are not worthy of your treatment and they are not worthy of a job. You are telling them not to pursue their dreams because overcoming depression is not a possibility. Today, I am in my fourth year of college and will be graduating with my bachelor’s in psychology. Something you never thought I could do. Today, I am stronger than you made me feel.
I forgive you because there are others like you. There are others who feel that depression and anxiety are terminal illnesses. There are others who believe a person who struggles with a mental illness can’t be a psychologist, a mental health professional or even a doctor. I forgive you for being ignorant about mental health because frankly, there are many people who are.
Stigma is everywhere and it can come from the most educated of us. Stigma pushes us and begs us to give in to the negativity, but we won’t. We will never let someone like you tell us our dreams are not achievable.
One day, the people you put down are going to laugh in your face when their dreams become reality. One day, those comments will ring in their heads and empower them to become more than what you thought we could be. Because I am capable and I am enough.
Image via Thinkstock.