Do doctors dismiss your physical health problems as mental health ones?

I’ve been having physical health problems for a long time, namely, weakness in my limbs (my left arm in particular), burning feelings in my hands, numbness, blurry vision which means I zone out while trying to focus my eyes, tremor (beyond normal essential tremor) and being a Clumsy Fucker Who Falls Over A Lot.  I should probably see a doctor about this, but I won’t.

The same way I didn’t see a doctor when I was passing blood clots through my arse (oh yes). And when I had an anal fissure so severe I couldn’t sit down without pain.  I can tell the world these things, but I can’t tell a doctor.

When I mentioned rapid weight gain to doctors, I got two responses:

1) You are eating too much.  Stop eating too much.  You must be binge eating (I wasn’t).

2) It’s your medication.  Tough shit. (But when *I* have said that, I’ve gotten response number 1).

Whenever I have attempted to broach a physical health problem with a doctor, it has always been dismissed as, “all in my head”.  As part of my mental illness.  As “anxiety”, or, “paranoia”.

This is despite the fact that I am taking medication that comes with health risks, namely, diabetes (which I don’t know if I have, but I do have PCOS), hypotension and tachycardia (which I do know I have). It’s despite the fact that the illness makes me predisposed to some health problems (as a small example, when I am ill, my body is under stress, and I get physically ill, such as the last time I had shingles).   If anything, doctors should be more alert to my physical health, rather than less.

It’s also despite the fact that, save for my recent mood, I have been stable for two years. The only way they would know I have a mental health problem is by looking at my notes.  And they do, instead of looking at the person in front of them.

So I don’t bother anymore.  I feel that when I go to see a doctor, I am just a disembodied brain.

People with mental illnesses die some twenty years younger than people without.  How much of that is because we’re too afraid to see a doctor, knowing it will be dismissed as all in our heads? Or being conditioned not to care, because doctors don’t?

Have your physical problems been dismissed as mental ones?  Or the other way around?  Do you avoid doctors, too?

Edit: Ooh, Rethink are launching a campaign on this very issue over here: Physical Health Charter

Auditory hallucinations: an audio representation

On another note, stick your headphones on and listen to this:


For any voice-hearers out there, how did you find the video?  And do you ever have positive experiences of your voices?

The Neverending Story

Hello! I’ve been privating a lot of posts lately, many apologies.  I will make this brief.

Firstly, thank you for the comments on the post I recently made private.  Love is very appreciated.

In summary, this is what has happened:

Relapse (if you could call it that, which I guess you could) into depression. I haven’t had a bad episode of depression since this time of year 2010 when it followed 3 months of hypomania, which, as autumn follows spring and rather literally so as that it when my moods hit the skids and gave way into one of the worst episodes I have ever had.  It was mercifully brief; antidepressants lifted it, then I was taken off them for the usual reasons (mood being like a sliding scale, and antidepressants going up, up, up, so you stop at the reasonable point).

I haven’t gotten that far yet.  As in, I haven’t even been able to see a GP to get antidepressants or anything else.  Then was different, I was still under CMHT care so the crisis team were called out by my social worker and they dealt with me.

This time around, I have none of that support.  I can’t get an emergency appointment (you must ring or show up at 8am- it’s either engaged or a huge queue and invariably, the appointments are gone) so I am waiting until the 29th.  I could self-refer to the local CMHT but they just said see your GP and by the way, take your medication.  Which I would have been doing had my GP taken heed of the psychiatrist’s letter and prescribed it.  I followed it up, but I had also felt okay through the summer so didn’t push them further. I felt I was managing anyway.  I tried to call the crisis team last week (after psyching myself up for some time) and they hung up.  I don’t think the nurse could hear me, she shouted, “HELLO HELLO” then hung up. I don’t think it was anyone’s fault but the click of the receiver was the last thing I needed to hear. But I am glad because I am not sure I want that kind of support anyway- even if it’s available. I need my space and time, and not intrusive and questions.  I know what is wrong.  I am trying to find my way through.

It had begun in September and become intolerable this month in which I have been filthy, unwashed, gained 20lbs, wanted to sleep forever and been finding it hard to even speak.  With the odd okay days (and evenings, when I sometimes feel better) thrown in, just to annoy me, just to make it seem like the awfulness was all in my head and all I needed to do was Change my Attitude. The same way when this hit I was shocked.  As if it had never happened before.  The aftermath of episodes brings the forgiving anaesthesia, the not-remembering, the not being able to recall the pain of despair.  Or not recalling the excesses of hypomania (in flashbacks, they come, with shame, shame, shame).  And then depression itself brings the same anaesthesia, of dulling the happiness and warmness of memory.  A friend asked the question the other day, “When was the last time you laughed til it hurt?”  And I have?  Have I? I must have done.  But I can’t remember.  Even the joy of my wedding day, less than 3 months ago, feels as though it never happened.  An email from a colleague who I met on placement telling me I should be on the stage instead.  That was me?  That capable, bouncy, happy person?  8 months ago? How?  And now.

I stopped wearing seatbelts. Cried myself to sleep in despair at how I was ruining my husband’s life, how I was ruining everything.  Spent days researching where to get medical grade nitrous oxide for the big deep sleep.

I had been on placement full time while depressed and it became increasingly clear I could not cope. I finally saw my tutor (also a mental health nurse) and asked for help.  I felt shaky and sick on the way there.  I felt like a failure.  She said she could immediately see I was unwell (seeing is believing, not just the dull dead face but the stress induced face-herpes and bloatedness from weight gain).  That I am not the girl she knows right now (it is true, and it is agony to hear those words).

So now I am on sick leave.

My relief is indescribable because as much as I get the, “Well, if you’re not taking your mood stabiliser of course you got ill” schick I got from the CMHT, it is also, “Well, you are working shifts which is destroying your incredibly necessary sleeping pattern, and you’ve had a massive life change in getting married (and HA! this depression will begin to destroy your marriage before it has even had time to root, enjoy that), you have intense pressure upon you, you are financially fucked due to studenting and not being able to work part time too (but use every single penny to move from the place were you are being stolen from and bombarded with religious shit day and night) and you are in an emotionally draining environment…So of course you got sick”.

I need time and space and sleep.

It’s the same swooping mood crash as always, the same out of nowhere crash.  Maybe something fiddly in the brain, bipolarity, par for the course. But I have limits.  I do. I could work full time and study part time and I managed beautifully.  It was stressful but I came home, went to sleep, woke up, had some sort of routine. Not bed at 11pm then up again at 4. Then bed at 12pm, up at 10am.

Remember when I started this blog, back when I was just diagnosed, all 20 years old and full of it, and the strongest believer in the medical model, absolutely ear-closed to the idea that it could be anything BUT this thing in my head (the spiky sea urchin, christened then and ever was, will be) which could be vanquished by Lithiums and antipsychotics and and Effexors (the last one, a particularly particular disaster). Now I can’t believe I ever thought that way.  It was part of me then, but one I thought I could kill.  I don’t believe that now.  It’s a part I have to live with, forever. The medication does help.  It does.  But there is no magic pill.

How things change.

Accepting that means accepting, really accepting, that this could happen again. Whether it’s a character flaw, illness, or both, it could happen again. That thought is intolerable.  The unhopeful me does not want to accept it.  Best to stop it now, here, and never live through it again.

But I won’t do that.

I’m seeing the doctor on the 29th, I am moving, I am going back on the 7th, I am going to try and be more open with my husband and not feeling like an abject failure for this, try to be more open in accepting help from friends, who have been wonderful in offering it.  To find things that interest me (writing, radio, if anyone wants anything, even though I can write for about 10 minutes a month these days) and use it, little projects, to occupy myself, to keep some semblance of a purpose.  To make myself get out of bed when all I want to do is sleep. And that is what I am doing. It is what I have to do.

The old posts

I’ve been getting more requests than usual to restore the old blog posts. I privated most of the archives here as I was moving sites and because I was getting hurtfully trolled and didn’t want to give ammo.

I will restore the archives when I have the energy, and in the meantime, I’ve put the Insane Guides to Mental Illness back up.


There’s a black dog on my shoulder again

Hi chaps.

I’m in an awful place right now and I deleted a post at the end of September saying as much, so this one might get deleted too.  I always delete posts that reference anything negative these days, for a couple of reasons.  One being that, because this blog got all popular, because it followed (unintentiionally) an “arc” from, “Mental” to, “Ooh less mental” I got pinned with the, “Recovery Superstar” thing. When I fall sort of that, I feel awful, it is another failure heaped upon my life of failures.

Another being that I am worried about backlash, another about professional bodies getting me done for it, another shame, another being that I am afraid of being Googled by potential employers because, and ha! Paid, non-shift work might actually help save me a bit now.  I think so fondly back to early last year when I had a full time job (working regular shifts) and did part time study and I was the happiest and most stable I had ever been.  I managed, after my initial first month in paid employment in four years wobble, and I managed so well I got a bottle of champagne and an, “I’ve been dreading this” when I said I was leaving to go to uni, and a distinction in my course.  I take some comfort from that, a lot, in fact. My legs were more wobbly and new then than they are now and I still walked.

Stress, intense stress, and shift work is absolutely screwing with my head.  I can’t get regular sleep, I can’t take regular medication (I also can’t take regular medication because my GP surgery, and I hope they are Googled and someone finds this, THE DULWICH MEDICAL CENTRE, are absolutely shambolic and have still not actioned the psychiatrist’s medication changes of upping Lamictal to 200mg, and have left me without a prescription 4 times in a row), I have no balance in my life whatsoever and I never see my husband, and I am earning nothing.  I feel like a failure, I bring nothing to my house but misery and we are heading for financial ruin.  The feeling of contributing nothing to our household weighs on me, the feeling of our plans (we had them, kids, love, time) being on hold because of me, even more so, and even more so when I can’t see a way I can fulfil any of those plans.  And I can’t do a part time job on this course. And I seemingly can’t get any help or support. We’re living somewhere we hate.  This may sound stupid but I have been rotating the same two dresses and one pair of trousers for 3 weeks because all my clothes were stolen from our line.  At first, I thought I lost them. Then I washed all my best stuff (dresses, knickers, cardigans, which I have to wear) to start placement and they were all stolen, everything. I can’t afford to replace them.  And because I’ve gained 20lbs in the past 2 months, I wouldn’t be able to wear them anyway.  Our neighbours blast religious music constantly so we can’t sleep in our bedroom and sleep in the tiny spare room, and I live in the kitchen because the living room is often unusuable due to noise. I have no time or inclination to write, my thoughts are slow and dull, I have no inclination to see anyone or do anything, to move,  I feel as though I am fading away. What happened to that passionate talented person I used to be?  I am ghost.  I walk around the flat like a ghost, I walk through my husband, through life, carrying nothing but guilt and failure and self hatred and wanting to scream like an adolescent, “I HATE MY LIFE” and that feels like a stupid indulgence too. As does blithely saying, “I need a routine, I need money” when for years I tricked and lived as someone without both and thought it was so bohemian and not killing and I hate the fact that, “routine” helps me, as does some sort of creativity, some sort of expression and identifying which I feel I have completely lost (that part is not surprising)  I like evenings, I am better in the evenings.

I am partly depressed because this is what tends to happen to me at this time of year. I have been bitchslapped viciously by depression around September almost every year for… a long time. And I know it doesn’t last.  I know I spend months hating myself, pissing into glasses because I can’t move, eating everything in sight, wanting to sleep constantly, having no energy and having my husband try to cheer me up with jokes like, “Welcome to Seaneen’s chat show, in which she stares into space and doesn’t say a word for an hour”, which did make me smile.  This is my life.  This is what happens to me, and I don’t know why, and I don’t know what to do but make lists and try to carry on but I feel as though I am sinking. It has barely affected my work yet because I am very good at hiding it but inside I am screaming that I desperately need a break to sleep and to think and to recover. And it angers me because what I do now I have been so good at doing until lately. Even with the killing shifts I was managing and was a lot of the time great at it.

But it’s also partly stress, circumstances and situation and I have some hard thinking to do and I am also hard-thinking trying to.  i have worked my arse off for 2 years.  -Edited out stuff because I can’t be bothered-. I am also haunted by not mentioning my dad at my wedding.

I KNOW I am probably “not well” but all I hear in my head that this is stupid indulgence, that I am just not trying hard enough, that I am to blame, complete, drowning shame. I’m not a quitter, I am stupidly committed and hard working in a lot of ways. I know this too.

And even though I KNOW a lot I am still in furnace rage because I WAS FINE and was for a long time and although I KNOW things, because of diagnosis shit in the past few years I still DON’T KNOW or trust why this happens to me even though I almost tediously fall into the criteria for bipolar depression, even though I have been under a lot of stress (I have been under stress before and managed) when I was fine, so it feels like even more of a failure and a weakness than it already did.

So, that’s where I am.  Send love.

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