If you want to start a new life, and erase your “psych” diagnosis from your history, don’t tell anyone you ever took an antipsychotic, even the janitor. Word gets around. You wouldn’t believe how much people can’t keep their mouths shut. Besides, you don’t know what fancy cell phone that janitor has, and next thing you know, he’s gonna whip that thing out, and say, “Hmm, Zyprexa, huh? Let me go look that one up.” Next thing you know, all his janitor buddies are yapping to all the other janitor buddies, and the whole town decides you’re a dangerous lunatic who is plotting a shootout in the movie theater tonight.
Also, please don’t admit you ever took an antidepressant either. I wouldn’t try lying and saying it was prescribed for back pain cuz I doubt that will work. Trust me, if it shows up on your “medical history,” you will be assumed to “lack insight” and nothing you say about anything you experience will be believed. Ever again. Forever.
That’s right. If you ever, ever took any of these meds, and you ever, ever had “psych” on your record, you are considered a dope when it comes to self-reporting. Everything you say will be doubted. So you tell them you have a headache. It’s normal for most healthcare practitioners to try to get a sense of how bad anyone’s headache is, but if you have “psych” on your record, chances are, if you say, “I have a headache,” you won’t even be heard.
What if you had a lump in your breast? Good luck. If you have “psych” on your record, you might have to make a lot of noise. You might be told, “You are only trying to get attention.” Once, I was incarcerated in a mental hospital, and while I was in the shower I found a lump in my breast. I was young and I had no clue what a lump really felt like or how to self-exam. All I knew was that maybe I should ask. But first, I went to another woman patient and asked her what to do. She said if it were her, she’d go to staff and not take chances. So I did, even though I was afraid of being belittled or accused of “trying to get attention.”
They told me, “You are only trying to get out of the hospital. You want an opportunity to go get a mammogram so you can escape.” What was I supposed to say to that?
This was back in the 1990’s. If I recall correctly, it was a private hospital and they had my mom drive me to a breast ultrasound place and back. No, the little mental patient didn’t escape. She was a good girl with her mommy. My mom and the breast ultrasound people were condescending to me, knowing I came from the mental hospital. Never mind they were dealing with a sensitive part of my body. My mom was always putting me down in front of people in these waiting rooms, saying snide comments that embarrassed me. I was glad to get the ultrasound over with and felt like such a fool by the time it was all over, never mind that they said the lump was “nothing.”
Well, that was one experience. Another time I was outpatient, doing okay, and found a lump, this was in 2008, or maybe 2007. I was in grad school at the time. I kept the lump secret for a while and told myself I didn’t want anyone knowing. I was convinced I had breast cancer and that I didn’t want to go through breast cancer treatment, and that I’d keep it secret and just let myself die. I told myself I’d be very, very brave and not tell anyone and just slip away.
Oh, goodness, what romantic ideas we all have about life and death. Death is messy. I know now that you can’t get away with disappearing. People tend to notice and get pissed. Or let’s put it this way, YOU notice when your friends start to hate that you are dying, and they even get hostile and rude. There’s nothing romantic about death, and it’s ugly.
So I told my therapist, finally, that I had a lump. My T was in her glory cuz she was kinda big on this sort of thing, getting people to mammograms was her deal, I guess. She got me hooked up with the mammo people at the hospital where she was connected. I hated going and I felt married to those people. I hated the stink of the mammo machine. I also hated the insulting remarks about my weight that they made every time I went there. Finally, they made me go in for so many unnecessary tests, and they were about to operate for no medical reason. A mammo tech told me, “I don’t think you should have to go through unnecessary surgery just cuz they can’t find a lump that isn’t even there to begin with. This is illogical.” She snapped a few photos and proved them wrong. I walked out of there and told myself I’d narrowly escaped a big, unnecessary hassle.
I then made the mistake of telling my brother how smart this mammo tech was, and all he did was to insult me nonstop and tell me how stupid I was to allow extra x-rays to be taken. I can’t win, and I hate it when people insult me and tell me how stupid I am. I promised myself I would never, ever tell my brother my business again. I was sick of the insults.
However…I have had so few medical problems in my life and I am lucky. Of course, when I broke my tooth in 2010, I was totally not believed and told it was “all in my head.” Now this is because I was a mental patient. I broke my tooth while binge eating. I had this newfangled therapist that I thought was oh so great. Of course, this was the abuser, but I didn’t realize this. All the abusers I thought were oh so great, the best therapists when I first met them, they were God. So I had her cell number, and I phoned her and told her I broke a tooth. Never mind that I broke it in a binge.
When your tooth cracks while you are biting down on something, you feel it. You even hear it. It goes crack like the snap of a bolt of thunder. I knew it was broken and it hurt, too. It hurt afterward to bite down on anything. But guess what? My therapist sent me to a psych ER. Yep, she wanted me to get evaluated, she said, for a psych ward, and I blindly followed her advice.
So wouldn’t you know it, she sent me to one of the worst ER’s in Boston. We have the absolute crap places here, our city has bad ones and you’d think Mass General would have this ritzy palace, but no, it’s a hellhole. Patients sleeping in hallways and crying on these bench-like chairs, all of us sitting in this germy room for hours with no one around except a few security drinking coffee at a desk. Patients shaking and crying who were withdrawing from bad drugs, drunks coming in pissing in their pants, guys off the street, homeless people with nowhere to go, women looking for shelter from their husbands, runaways, and people who had been “sectioned.” We were nothing but dirt to the staff, and they didn’t care. Most of us didn’t get “placed” that night, so we slept on cots not in the ER beds, but in the hallway while staff and visitors shuffled past us to tend to the “more important” heart patients and people who had had accidents and other patients that were far more worthy of their time.
I ended up at McLean. So I suppose a few days later finally I got someone to listen to me about my tooth. Finally someone said, “We’ll get a doctor to look at it.” I heard they took people to dentists, but in order to get that done, you had to have lots of money and hire a nurse to accompany you and babysit you while you went to the dentist. That sounded like baloney to me anyway. This was 2011, not the day of Girl, Interrupted.
After a few days, the doc came. So this doctor took a flashlight and shined it into my mouth for less than a second and said, “I think your tooth is fine. You only think it hurts. You are anxious.” The staff encouraged me to take antipsychotics whenever I complained that my tooth hurt after that. I was in the hospital for three weeks.
When I got out, I found that taking the antipsychotic pills was sure not fixing my broken tooth. In fact, McLean had done nothing for my broken tooth and had given me a new anticonvulsant drug that made me wobbly when I walked. This was supposedly to stabilize my mood. I told my outside doc that the drug, called Trileptal, was causing ataxia. Ataxia is one of the most common complaints that patients have about Trileptal. Problem is, patients aren’t told what ataxia is, though they see it on the list of side effects. This is what causes the “swaying” effect from it, when you sway back and forth while you are standing as if you are on a boat. I had no clue. The staff didn’t know what ataxia was, either. The inpatient doc would ask, “Are you getting side effects from it?” The staff always told me the “around and around” feeling I had was “mental confusion,” or “psychosis” and no one put two and two together.
So when I told Dr. P that the Trileptal was causing ataxia, she said (get this) “You have always been wobbly from antipsychotics and you MUST stay on the Trileptal, otherwise you will become UNSTABLE.” Now, what a scare tactic, and lots of sense that made! I should have told her the Trileptal didn’t fix my tooth very well and didn’t stabilize my tooth and I needed an oral surgeon far more than I needed her pills that were clearly making me FALL OVER! I didn’t need more broken teeth.
Guess that line she gave me that day is even funnier now than it was the day she said it in her office. I think it’s the damn funniest thing she ever said to me.
Conclusion: After you get off these psych meds, don’t tell a soul you were ever on them unless you want to get completely discredited.