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Why I’ll Never Forget This One Comment a Psychiatrist Made About My Mental Health

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Editor's Note

Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

I like to think of myself as a duck. Not a rubber duck — I mean, I do have 762 rubber ducks — but a real duck. I want to be a duck that lets the bad stuff roll off my back like beads of water. My whole life, people have said insensitive things to me about my mental health differences. For example:

  • You take medicine? Well, that sucks to be you, doesn’t it?”
  • You have bipolar I? That’s really bad; people like that end up killing people and end up in jail. Did you know that?”
  • Did you say that you have PTSD? That’s only for veterans. Are you sure you have that? Are you making it up?”
  • Why do you always say, ‘what?’ after I talk to you. Are you not listening? Are you ‘stupid?’”

Though I’m pissed by their reactions, I try not to be rude when I respond. It’s aggravating, but I tell myself they are naïve. I say things to shut the conversation down because no, I’m not interested in talking to someone who has nothing nice to say.

Yes, I take medicine. And yes, it’s a great solution to the chemical imbalance in my brain because I’m happy and I can function at high levels.

Yes, I have bipolar disorder type 1, but I’m 24 years old and don’t have a single run-in with the law or a felony to my name. And for your the record, your random statistic is out of context; don’t throw them around like that, please.

Yes, I have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I bet you would, too, if your mom was murdered and you endured incestuous sexual abuse for 18 years.

Yes, I ask “what?” after a mumbled remark. I have hearing loss; I’m not “stupid.” I had a 4.0 GPA, two majors, four minors, honor roll for all four years in high school and college, 17 academic awards by the time I was 21, and a kick-ass GRE score.

Do you understand? I’m not “crazy,” “dumb,” a liar or illegitimate. I am me, and I’m cool with it, regardless of whether you are.

However, there is one comment I’ve never let go of. And it wasn’t a friend or acquaintance who said it; it was a professional I trusted and relied on, who sent an arrow through my heart — my psychiatrist. She said, “Oh, Alex. You’ve been dealt such a bad deck of cards in life. How unfortunate to be you.” Yes, she really said that. Word for word. And I’ll probably never forget it.

I don’t show emotions well. (Relatable?) So how do you respond to a comment like that? I didn’t cry, but I did leave her office with no intent to return. I blared “Battle Scars” by Lupe Fiasco in my earbuds as I walked out. Everyone around me could feel the anger coming off of me in waves; I wanted people to understand the injustice I felt. I was not supported, heard, or understood.

My psychiatrist did not relate or empathize; she spoke with no filter and proceeded to double my medication without consent. It was as if more pills were going to fix my trauma, my life experiences and my background. I have nothing against medication, but no supplement will fix the hand of cards I’ve been dealt.

In poker, you deal with the cards you are dealt — regardless of the hand.

You don’t throw the cards on the floor, lose your temper and ask for the whole game to start over. I mean, you can, but where’s the fun in that? What are the risks? What is the point?

Regardless of the hand you’re dealt, it’s important to employ your poker face. It’s even more important, though, when that hand is a bad one. You do the next right thing and wait for a better hand. You can trade with others (trade feelings with your therapist), use strategies to get ahead (use coping skills for your mental health) and win or lose the game (acceptance of the person, place or thing in your life).

Poker is like life; it is a game you can never predict.

But you play because it’s fun. You play because you want to learn and get better. You play because it’s a form of growth in matters of the heart. Life is a journey, a gift. There is no point in throwing the cards away or cheating the game. And there’s certainly no point in choosing not to play at all.

I was dealt a certain hand in life, and it’s my decision to judge whether it’s good or bad. I’m playing the game to the best of my ability. If I could start the game again, I wouldn’t trade a single card. My cards don’t define me; they shape me into the person I am today.

Life is like poker: It’s hard, but it’s fun. It’s tricky but intriguing. Today, I will manage my hand with intention and purpose. I’ll live my life to the fullest and never look back.

Photo by Egor Barmin on Unsplash

Originally published: August 29, 2020
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