Editor-At-Large: As I See It
(Column: Editor-At-Large: As I See It)
I remember returning home from my first pass. I was in a private hospital for depression. My friend's mother said, "I haven't seen you in a while. Where have you been?" She knew!!
She was the building's queen of gossip. I was angry, hurt, and yet silent. Even at age 16, I knew that six letter word stigma: STIGMA!! A word that you can't wash off with a thousand showers; a word that permeate your brain's thoughts, feelings, and possibly life itself. This experience still is burnt into my brain.
We all know what stigma is. What we don't know is how to get it out of our lives. Everything we do as consumers, whether in a program of one sort or another is permeated with stigma.
I spent a long time in day treatment programs. Many years more than I care to admit. The program didn't help me overcome stigma. Very rarely was it discussed. In fact, only when I was in a work program did the word come up.
It did hit me in the face when I wanted to work in the patient's library. I was given the run around and finally turned down. I didn't take it sitting down. I went to the hospital's patient's representative and a new interview by the new volunteer coordinator was granted. Also I had to fight my way into an occupational therapy college curriculum as well. I won!
I found out a while ago that hemorrhoids are a psychiatric disorder! I'll explain. I thought I came down with hemorrhoids as I had pain. I went to the emergency room of the hospital where I was receiving psychiatric treatment. I don't go often to the ER but I needed help. I saw the triage nurse who took my blood pressure, temperature, a list of my medicines, and why I came to the ER.
After three hours of waiting, my name was called. I looked up and saw a man in a tan sport's coat, contrasting brown pants, white shirt, and a maroon tie. Yes, I knew who he was and said so, "I am not here for a psychiatric emergency!"
After some discussion I finally agreed to be examined by the shrink. He was a rare bird. He wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty. He examined me and wrote a prescription. Why am I telling you this -- even though I was at a major New York hospital that has inpatient and outpatient psychiatric departments? Whatever my problem, they see it as a psychiatric problem. Where are these ER personnel and doctors in general coming from!!? Didn't they learn about mental illness in their training!!? We are human beings. Our disease is secondary. We must fight for what is due us, but we will win. Our fight is just.