The Unbelievable Way My Allergy Doctor Stigmatized My Mental Illness
I should have spoken up, but I was too dumbfounded to respond the way I wanted to. For the first time, I have personally experienced extreme ignorance about mental illness and it was from a doctor. I went for a consultation to meet an allergist in order to begin allergy shots. He took a look at my medication list and said, “wow, this is too long for someone your age.” I agree, but it keeps my mind and Crohn’s disease stable, so what can I do? He proceeded to go down the list and question each medication. When he got to the three used to treat my bipolar disorder and anxiety, it got uncomfortable.
Doctor: “What are you taking these medications for?”
Me: “I have bipolar disorder and anxiety.”
Doctor: “Do you know if you have type I or II?”
Me: “Type II.”
Most doctors haven’t even asked that, so I was thinking, “wow, this guy knows something about mental illness.” Boy, was I wrong!
Doctor: “Are you sure you have bipolar disorder and not just depression? You look like you have it all together. “
Me: “Yes, I’m sure.”
I sit there, stunned.
He questioned further to find out exactly what my symptoms were, and then he wanted to gather my family history. He asked if I had children. I said I had a son. His response was: “Wow, you do? Are you married?”
I was even more stunned.
My interpretation of this was, here I am sitting with a doctor who is questioning my diagnosis based purely on my looks. I guess in order to be bipolar, you have to look “crazy” — what does that look like, anyway? Since I am bipolar, my child must not have been a choice. He has to be the result of a one-night stand during a hypomanic episode and of course the person wouldn’t want to marry me! And the best part is none of this has anything to do with my seasonal allergies or asthma, which brought me there in the first place.
Maybe I’m a bit sensitive, but I never have experienced such blatant ignorance or left a doctor’s office feeling insulted and pissed off. I have experienced being brushed off by some doctors because they figure my symptoms are “just anxiety,” but this was much more offensive. As I got into my car, I became so angry. Part of me wanted to march back in and ask what he thought bipolar disorder looks like. I also wanted to ask if I look like I have Crohn’s disease or asthma.
Every diagnosis I have is invisible for the most part and this man just perpetuated the stigma of what we all fight so hard to erase. A response like this might even make some people believe that their illness is all in their head. All doctors should treat patients with respect at all times. If this ever happens to me again, I will try my best to find my voice and speak up for myself and everyone else.
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Getty Images photo via AntonioGuillem