I have been struggling with this for a while. A nurse or doctor or “counselor” will say something, and instantly, it is believed as gospel truth by a majority of the public. Why shouldn’t it be believed?
But whenever I say something, my word is doubted. I am assumed to be delusional, mistaken, or inaccurate. Why? Because I am, or rather was, a “mental patient.”
Here’s what’s probably one of the best examples I can give. I was at Massachusetts General Hospital’s psych ward in 2000. The place is called Blake Eleven. I have no clue when the Blake Building was built, but I’m sure it’s been around a while. It’s a tower near the White building, etc, quite similar. The Blake Building has an elevator, too, just like the White building and the Wang Building.
Blake Eleven is MGH’s psych ward. Inside this ward is another ward, that is, an inner ward where they keep the patients they consider more “dangerous” or more “inappropriate.” The ones they want to watch more closely.
I was kept in that inner ward for five days in 2000. I didn’t mind actually. I had a private room, and did nothing but write all day. They let me keep my laptop. I had a private phone right in the room. A large “treatment team” came in now and then. They were nice, especially the psychologist. I ignored the other patients and pretty much any other goings-on on the ward. I never thought about it again.
Early in 2011 I was in McLean and the other patients were saying they’d heard MGH had the best care in the world. They said MGH had won an award. I had just come from that horrific ER at MGH (the psych one) where I’d been kept for 24 hours, slept on a cot in the hallway, and wasn’t too impressed with that.
Then along comes mid-2011 and I was stuck in MGH again. I was on the medical floor and then put into Blake Eleven. They put all ED patients into the inner ward. This time, it was a living nightmare being in there. I’ve told you of the horrors. One of my friends begged me to do everything I could to get out of there because he was afraid I would die of dehydration.
After I got out, I couldn’t believe the response. People on my treatment team were saying I was delusional that there was an inner ward. I’m not kidding you! Even my psychiatrist who worked at MGH! Had she never been there? My therapist had come onto the ward, but that inner ward wasn’t exactly staring you in the face with a big sign on it saying, “We keep the patients we are torturing in here.”
One day I was at Alcott and even the other patients were telling me there was no inner ward. They told me they’d been patients there and had never seen it. So were they doubting my credibility? Assuming I was delusional? Then, the staff interrupted our conversation and said it was “inappropriate.” Of course. They were always doing that to further invalidate me.
This kind of discrediting that happens to mental patients is a form of torture. I am not blaming the other patients, who simply didn’t see the door there. However, our society puffs up authorities such as hospital personnel, who are just as likely to be mistaken or give out misinformation as I am.
I have a friend who, through no fault of her own, doubted my word until she heard it from another patient who had been through the exact same tortures in ED treatment at MGH, came out terrified and wanting to sue the pants off the place. Could two people who have never met have the exact same “delusion” with the exact same details? Not likely.
How many times have you been told something by a doctor or nurse that wasn’t true? Such as the following:
“This medication won’t make you gain weight.”
“This won’t hurt a bit.”
“It couldn’t possibly hurt that much.”
“There’s no reason you should be in that much pain.”
“There are no side effects.”
“There are no other treatments besides what I am offering you.”
“We don’t have a bed.”
“Your levels are fine.”
Of course, I have developed the bad habit of qualifying a lot of what I say by backing it up with, “My doctor even said so.” This I might say to boost my own credibility. Why? People assume I don’t know what I am talking about, and the doctor certainly does just because she’s an MD.
Experience means nothing to the general public if it’s the experience of a “mental patient.” However, every human experience has incredible value, far beyond “expertise.”
What’s more valuable, a doctor’s word on a drug, or the word of a person who has actually tried it, a person who has felt what it feels like in their body? Or several people? Do you go check out the studies conducted by drug companies whose interest is in marketing the drug, or do you ask your buddies? Or do you put the pill in your own mouth and see what happens?
Take me with a grain of salt. But please, take those medical “professionals” with a grain of salt, too. They lie, they cheat, and they are mistaken. They often don’t admit when they can’t answer a question. They cover up mistakes to avoid lawsuits. Don’t tell me they are more credible cuz at this point, I don’t believe it.
Telling a person over and over that what she is saying is a delusion is a form of torture. That’s what I went through in 2011, 2012, and 2013. I’m awfully glad I left the MH system. It was killing me. I don’t fault the other patients or general public who doubted my word, but I certainly fault the MH professionals who should have known better, and in some cases, were deliberately discrediting me due to their own fears.