***TW: Suicide and self harm
It had gone on long enough, I was scared of what would come next, but I knew I needed to get help. I felt like I was out of options, I couldn’t carry on living in a world that had lost all its colour, existing in a void where I felt no emotion, just emptiness. Suffering through every day at work wondering if I’d be better off dead, crying morning, evening, and night because I just wanted it to stop. I sat in my car after another day at work, and finally called the doctor.
I have never seen the same doctor twice about my mental health, I have a ‘run away’ mentality when I don’t feel the appointment went well – I just book a different doctor next time I go. I also don’t see the doctor as often as I probably should, my last appointment was a year ago. I personally feel like the doctors I’ve seen haven’t had enough training or exposure to mental illness, and no matter what you’re dealing with or what did or didn’t work for you in the past, they just hand you a packet of pills and call it a day. It feels like a write-off, and is one of the reasons I’ve taken to battling my illness alone. Nevertheless, I knew when enough was enough and it was time to go back. I got an appointment with a new doctor that had just started working at the practice, I was nervous about explaining all my problems to someone new but I tried to think positively – this could be the doctor I stick with! I’ve only seen two doctors at the practice who have been very helpful – one of them was the one who finally diagnosed me after years of tests for anaemia, glandular fever, thyroid problems and heart defects. That was the first time I’d heard anyone say “Mental illness”. Unfortunately, it seems the rest of the town know how good these doctors are, because they’re always booked up, and when you’re in a mental health crisis and feeling suicidal, you can’t wait four weeks for an appointment, so I’ll take whatever doctor I can get.
I arrived right on time and was relieved when I went in for my appointment. It was all progress, I was going to get help. However, my optimism quickly faded when I realised he was reeling off the same ‘stock questions’ I get every time I see a doctor about my mental health: What do you enjoy doing? Are you sleeping much? Are you eating? What’s your job? And I do understand they need to ask these questions, but it’s the same rinse & repeat question/answer/question/answer that’s tapped into the computer and then completely glossed over:
“Are you eating?”
“No, not at all”
“Have you lost any weight?”
“Not that I’ve noticed”
“Oh, it’s not that bad then”
Do I have to be skeletal before it’s a problem?!
But this wasn’t the worst part – after I’d explained to him about my compulsions, intrusive thoughts, not eating, not sleeping, crying every day, random panic attacks, and contemplating self harm and suicide (even to the point I almost drove into a bus on my way to work), he looks at me and says,
“Hmmm, maybe you should come back in a few weeks and see how you feel?”
I was completely floored by this response, I thought we had moved past this. That one response from him invalidated all my feelings, not just from the last few weeks, but the last seven years. He made me feel like I was just being over dramatic instead of ill, and that seven years of fighting a mental illness would blow over in a few weeks on its own – was it really that simple?!
Shocked, disgusted, and feeling dismissed (By a doctor!), I replied “I haven’t got ‘a few weeks’!”. Because let’s be perfectly honest here; I’d told him I was suicidal, but clearly I wasn’t suicidal enough to warrant treatment there and then. I booked a doctors appointment for today – I would like help and treatment TODAY. How suicidal do I have to be before I’m taken seriously? By then it’ll be too late. The doctors approach to my mental health and final conclusion of “Come back in a few weeks” is a dangerously irresponsible attitude to have. I practically had to beg for antidepressants and he prescribed them begrudgingly. I drove back to work in the foulest of moods, swearing to never see that doctor again. I hope nobody has had ‘treatment’ like that but I know full well they have, even in 2017, professionals have a lot to learn. And that isn’t okay. If you reach out to get help, and you feel like you’re not being taken seriously, fight to get the help you need – and deserve! Your life is worth the fight, and I’m sorry you’ve not always been aware of your treatment options and been able to access them easily. Attitudes have to change, because thanks to that doctors negligence and ignorance, I could have ended up as another statistic.