mental health stigma

Mental Wellness

Angel Russell

(This was written during a recent hospital stay where I was suffering from food poisoning and a sinus infection, because I have ulcerative colitis they had to keep me in the hospital for days to make sure my digestive illness wasn’t having a flair up. During my stay the doctors were completely unaware of why I had my symptoms which were extreme vertigo, diarrhea, and severe stomach pain. Though I am grateful the hospital staff worked hard to find out what was wrong with me they ultimately sent me home unsure of what was wrong. While I was there I had a panic attack and one of the doctors upon realizing that I have PTSD told me perhaps all my symptoms were being cause by my anxiety.

To be honest here. I am so entirely sick of mental health stigma, ESPECIALLY when it comes from those in the medical profession. I may not have a doctorate but I know a hell of a lot about my condition. PTSD does NOT mean that I am unable to retain information, understand diagnosis, cause psychosomatic physical manifestations of stress on demand, especially fevers, diarrhea, nausea and vertigo. (yes I know long term stress can lead to illness) However, until you know what it is to be treated differently because someone sees your mental health truth, like in a big way, you can’t know this discrimination; the cautious look in people’s eyes, the pause before speaking. I was triggered before an operation because someone grabbed me from behind to push me into a wheel chair while I was being transferred. I very adamantly said, “DO NOT GRAB me.” I explained I have PTSD from physical trauma. I apologized. I very clearly showed that I understood the situation and made it clear it was a trigger for me. Since then I have been left in the dark about my diagnosis. I have been here for days. I have been under suspicion for some crazy infectious disorder, isolated, had brain scans, stomach scans, EKG, colonoscopy, etc. I want this. I want them to scan all possibilities. I know many disorders can be caused by stress, but I also know I was doing fine emotionally before I came here. So to be treated differently because I was triggered is so entirely frustrating. I have seen this before. I have had people tell me I am too much to deal with. What people with mental health issues need is compassion, understanding, and empathy, NOT fear, stigma, and isolation. I honestly believe if I had not been triggered I would not be treated differently because I wasn’t until then. Don’t let fear rule you. I above all know this. Learn, ask questions, don’t belittle, dismiss, degrade, or reject.

You know what I’d like? And I guess it’s terribly liberal, or what not of me, but I’d like to be called DIFFERENTLY ABLED, NOT MENTALLY ILL. Yes I know we need labels to understand diagnoses etc. But the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) turns people into cogs, not the multifaceted human beings they truly are. It’s good to have a guide (and I absolutely believe the brain can and does function in a way that can cause difficulties) but to think that the human mind can be forcibly shut into a small behavioral box is a bit irritating AND makes complete sense to me. This can go wrong, however, when doctors, psychiatrists, etc. (people on top of any field) use these diagnostic tools too rigidly and that it in turn closes their minds. For example, younger kids who show an inability to focus are often misdiagnosed with ADD when they may in fact have anxiety or are being traumatized at home. And think about this! They are prescribed SPEED!! Lumping the human brain in this way is both needed and somewhat wrong. A non liberal example would be the Pharisees growing so concerned with the law ordained by God that they lost sight of God. There are truths in every ideology, construct, and formula, and many times these truths force us into boxes that close our outlooks and perspectives. This happens in the government, currently with Liberals and Democrats being so right or left they are both WRONG. We become so closed off into our own ideologies and truths that we loose sight of God as the Pharisees did, truth in the shades of grey, and the fluidity of differing truths and perspectives. This is the sad problem of intelligent minds closed down by their own egocentric aptitude. 

Therefore, please, see my mind and other minds like it, as differently abled, not ill. My quick thought processes ultimately begun by anxiety help me to think quickly on my feet, my hyper-vigilance helps me to see problems in work and my surroundings well before others do, my years of developing coping skills, help me now to cope with many stressful events at once which has in turn formed me into the perfect business manager. These strengths came from what we call illness of the mind. How limiting, defeating, and sad. How terrible for each new young soul to be told of this sort of limiting ILLNESS, a diagnostic coffin nail in an already fragile mind. Teaching being differently abled instead of this illness we prescribe will help others like me see the glaring strength in their own tempered weaknesses.