Sunday, 20 October 2013
"People Like You"
I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder three years ago. Four years after I first sought help. Seeking help when you don't know what's wrong and when you're scared and completely desperate is hard. I think we all expect people in the medical profession to have empathy and be free from prejudice. We put our trust in them because we believe they are experts, so when they don't come across how we expect it's even more difficult. I remember very clearly the first time I went to see a GP because I felt so bad. I remember it clearly for the wrong reasons. I knew I was depressed. As I tried desperately to tell him what was wrong he looked at me and said "I'll prescribe you Prozac.Thousands of people take it, it's very safe. You have to remember how old you are. You're getting close to the menopause. Are you sure you're not just having a Shirley Valentine moment?" I took the prescription and ran out crying. He left me feeling like I was just some silly woman having a mid life crisis. I doubt he even realised the impact of his words. He obviously thought I'd see the joke. I didn't. It turned out Prozac wasn't safe at all for me. It kick started hypomania and then a mixed episode that lasted for months. I changed my GP but it took me a long time to feel ok about going to the doctors. A few careless words at the wrong time can have a huge impact.
I always find going to see my psychiatrist a challenge. Depending what frame of mind I'm in, I'm either ready to cling on to every word he says, because he knows everything or I'm ready to argue with whatever he says because he knows nothing! Of course there are several scenarios in between. My usual psychiatrist, who I had a good relationship with and trusted, sadly died. It wasn't a surprise as he'd been ill for a long time. One of his replacements left me feeling angry and upset with his words. He'd explained to me why he wanted to leave my medication as it was, which was fine but then he came out with " of course people like you need to be extra careful about how you behave". What was that supposed to mean?
Maybe if I'd been in a different frame of mind I wouldn't have reacted so badly to their words, but I wasn't and I did react. I'm sure that any good doctor would be horrified if they thought they'd upset a patient with their words but I'm sure it happens all the time.
Thankfully I now have a fantastic GP, who is very knowledgable about my condition and who treats me with respect.