Unexpected Stigma

I have been very lucky with the care I’ve received from medical professionals in the past few years since my diagnosis of bipolar and psychosis. The two psychiatrists who’ve been charged with my care have been understanding and respectful. All good news. That is, until this week. I have a new psychiatrist. My first appointment with him at the end of last year was fractured and awkward. I thought that maybe we just needed to get to know each other, and build a rapport.

The appointment this week was even worse. I’m not in an amazing place at the moment. I feel stressed out and my moods feel all over the place. One moment I feel suicidal, the next I’m full of a tense energy that makes me irritable and lash out. I’d hardly slept the night before and had spent the morning before my appointment contemplating taking all my meds at once with bottle of whiskey.

My Mum took me to my appointment. Before we left we talked about how I’d been feeling. She was calm and compassionate towards me, and didn’t judge. Mum encouraged me to be completely honest with my psychiatrist and not to hide anything from him.

I walked into my psychiatrists office. He didn’t stand up to greet me, he didn’t smile, barely looking up from his computer screen. I laid it all out for him. Through tears and scattered sobs I explained how stressed I was, and how I didn’t know what to do about it. Without looking up from his screen and as he typed he passed me a box of tissues. No eye contact. No words of encouragement. No empathy. I was shocked. We sat in silence, the only noise the clacking of the keys on his keyboard.

Eventually he spoke. Matter of factly he said,

“Are you taking your medication and is it still working for you?”

I replied that they were working, but that it wasn’t the point. He made some agreeing noises. I told him about my ongoing problems with food and that I’d managed to break the binge/purge cycle of bulimia, but I was still struggling. He asked if I’d ever been referred to the eating disorders team and I said no. He left it at that. I was in too much of a vulnerable place to press him further and ask if he was going to refer me.

Then I thought ‘sod it’ I’m going to be honest about how he’s making me feel. I told him how appointments like this often put me on edge and I dreaded them. These appointments made me deal with difficult feelings and I was finding it especially tough today. Instead of providing some supportive words he simply told me I wouldn’t have to come to the hospital anymore. He was going to discharge me back to my GP. I was still crying, now my body was shaking with the tension and fear I was experiencing. None of this seemed to bother him.

I often see people celebrating being discharged from their psychiatrist or mental health team. I’m not one of them. I’m not ready for this change. I again sat in shock opposite him as he started to explain how long I should be on my meds for and the process of tapering off them. Tapering off! The second part of 2018 I’d only been truly stable for the first time in my adult life and he was talking about taking that away, already. Like I said, I was feeling vulnerable and didn’t have the capacity to challenge what he was doing.

I knew what he was doing was wrong. I knew this was stigma I was facing, but I was shocked it was coming from a psychiatrist. He wasn’t treating me with respect, as an equal. He was making decisions for me without discussion, without asking my opinion. I’m an expert on my own mental health, I live with it everyday, so I should be involved in significant changes to my care.

I’ve had time to reflect and I’m going to make an official complaint about him through the hospital. I’m also going to meet with my GP to discuss my moods and the stress I’m feeling. This isn’t ok, and isn’t the behaviour I’d expect from a medical professional.

10 thoughts on “Unexpected Stigma

  1. Hi Katie I’m so sorry your feeling like this at the moment. I’ve had my share of shrinks over the past 25years and some have been proper arseholes. I’ve never had the same one for more than a few years. Remember they work for you!! If it wasn’t for people with complex mental illness like myself, you and a lot of other’s then they’d be out of work. In young enthusiastic ones you know text book one, they have to learn from us. Then there’s the grumpy old fuckers who can’t wait for retirement! I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t let one bad apple spoil the whole dam bunch. Get that Complaint in see your gp and get referred back. It’s all government under funding. Good luck and Stay safe. 🙃🙂

  2. Hi Katie. I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time of it at the moment. I also suffer from psychosis and I’m in between psychiatrists at the moment. It’s not easy. Just know we’re here for you. Keep blogging sweetie.
    Kathryn Xx

  3. Wow, this is awful! I’m glad you are filing a complaint, because you deserve to have quality treatment. I’ve also encountered numerous psychologists/psychiatrists who are not only impersonal but just cold! Compassion is a part of their job and it’s unsettling to see that not everyone does that. I’m happy to see you speaking out about it! Much love,
    Heather
    mamasnosaint.com

  4. I worked on mental health teams for years. The worst stigma was from some of the professionals. If a patient complained, they were labelled difficult/paranoid or diagnosed with personality disorder. I really feel for you but please know that you are right, he is an a****ole and he has no right to treat you with such disrespect

    1. How awful is it that when you use your voice, you get told you have borderline personality disorder. They tried to give me this label, I refused it, they discharged me and told me there was nothing else they could do for me. I hope you did go ahead with the complaint. We must continue to use or voice or at least our words to challenge unprofessional professionals.

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