But I admit I had forgotten a brief moment in my first appointment with her when she responded to something I said with “you haven’t got a mental illness“. For me, that’s a pretty big thing for me to ‘forget‘ considering I’ve had 20+ years of being treated for a number of mental illnesses. I think I decided at the time that I’d give her the benefit of the doubt. We were, after all, new to each other.
I wasn’t actually there to deal with any of my mental illnesses. I was at a Pain Management Clinic, for treatment of pain related to Fibromyalgia. To put this in context, I had been waiting over three years to be accepted to my region’s Pain Clinic. Other sufferers of fibro had told me that getting into a Pain Clinic was ‘the answer‘ to how pain was dominating my life since I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.
The Psychologist and her colleagues were aware of my medical history, including mental illness. But it is important to remember that I was there for treatment of pain and not the mental illnesses.
We were now having this particular conversation because a few days back I had mentioned to one of her colleagues (an Occupational Therapist) that I thought I was depressed. I mentioned this because he was wanting me to set goals and to find some more direction in my life. That’s pretty hard, although admittedly not impossible, to do when you’re depressed, and it was what I was trying to say.
My impression had been that he immediately dropped me like a ‘hot potato’. There was silence when I mentioned my depression, and then he said we wouldn’t schedule anymore (previously) weekly appointments until he spoke to his colleague. I admit I felt discarded. The temperature in the room had suddenly turned frosty, seemingly because I had referred to depression as a reason why I was finding it difficult to do what he wanted.
So here I was, with his colleague a few days on, ‘my‘ Clinical Psychologist, who was assigned to help me with the psychological aspect of pain management.
Her colleague had told her what I had said. The fact that she seemed dubious to my belief that I was now depressed didn’t bother me. That’s just the way I came across, but if she took a look inside my head, or even just asked me a few questions, she would know.
For some reason (which I have forgotten now) the subject of my Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) came up. She immediately responded to me saying that “Borderline is not a mental illness” and is not even an illness. She went on to say, “Borderline is simply a set of behaviours“.
By now there was steam rising from my head because I don’t believe these statements at all. I admit that my BPD is probably the cause of the steam. I know only too well that people with BPD don’t like hearing such things, simply because we don’t see it as true reflection of who we really are. It suggests though (rather loudly and firmly) that we are simply drama queens (and kings) and/or attention seekers. We are apparently quite able to change our behaviours if we wanted to. It is simply that we don’t want to change.
I accept, although don’t agree, that some people don’t see personality disorders as mental illnesses. I had clearly found one of those people in my Clinical Psychologist. Furthermore, some people think that people with BPD simply behave badly and that if we wanted to, we could change that behaviour. Again, my Clinical Psychologist’s view. And again, in most cases I don’t believe this to be true.
Back to the depression of which I believed I was currently suffering, she told me that ‘I didn’t want to get well‘. This was without any discussion to confirm my self-diagnosis let alone any talk of what I was or wasn’t doing to head towards wellness. Actually it was without any discussion at all.
I hadn’t said that I didn’t want to get well, and I didn’t feel that way at all. I don’t know exactly why she jumped to that conclusion, but she also said the Occupational Therapist’s view (again, no discussion took place with him).
To give you the shortened version, that was the last day I saw my Clinical Psychologist. I had always believed that I wasn’t able to be treated by a health professional who held those views and treated me that way. Unfortunately this time, it meant I would no longer be able to see anyone (including the Occupational Therapist) at the Pain Clinic (their rules). That’s okay. It was a cost that I deemed worth paying. The loss involved is that I won’t be able to see my Pain Specialist (the doctor), whom I had found very helpful and accepting of all my health issues. Right now, he had sorted my medication but I’m not sure what I will do if I need help with that in the future. Maybe I’ll just have to move to another part of the country (that’s a joke!).
In looking back, the psychologist’s views of BPD had little place in the treatment of my chronic pain. It wasn’t the issue. But it was clear that she was stigmatising BPD sufferers and particularly me.
The issue of the day was depression, and it was clear to me that stigma of mental illness and specifically depression was a clear issue for both of these health professionals. They had both deemed me unwilling to work on the issues regarding chronic pain, because I had told them I was depressed.
I get that many people, and sadly health professionals hold very negative views about sufferers of BPD. I am used to that, although admit I hadn’t had to deal with such views myself. But I know it is not just BPD that comes into the firing line. All personality disorders are viewed with derision by some health professionals. And even mood disorders can also be looked down by them. It seemed that these two had negative views about depression. That is a great shame considering that many people who suffer chronic pain also suffer from depression.
Am I alone with this? Have you been on the receiving end of stigma from health professionals, be it general health or mental health? How have you handled it and what effect has it had on the overall treatment of your health issue? If it isn’t something you have experienced, how would you handle it if you came across such stigma?
© Cate Reddell and A Canvas Of The Minds 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cate Reddell and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.