A girl with too many thoughts...

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Unprofessional Professionals

Unfortunately, it is possible to encounter so-called 'professionals' that turn out to be anything but professional, when trying to seek support for your mental health condition. Care, understanding and empathy are all qualities that are fundamental when dealing with a patient with mental health problems, but it seems this is not always put into practise.

My reason for writing this is because I have had my own experience of being treated like I'm anything but human within the health system. Personally, I believe this sort of behaviour and lack of understanding stems from the remaining stigma that surrounds many mental health disorders, as well as a lack of time, funding and training.

For a few months, I had been calorie restricting and actively trying to lose weight (something which I will go into more detail about in another post). This eventually led to me being in a very bad state, both mentally and physically. After several abnormal ECG's, as well as significantly low blood pressure and pulse, I agreed I needed help to try and restore my weight. When I got referred to a mental health service for treatment, they requested I get regular check-ups at the GP surgery and outlined to the doctor various tests which should be carried out routinely for the coming weeks.

At my first appointment with the GP, it was made quite clear to me that I was asking to be treated in a 'special way' compared to all of her other 3,000 patients (something she actually said as soon as I sat down). I think I knew from that moment how the rest of the consultation was going to go...

I was told how I displayed none of the physical symptoms of an eating disorder, that even though my ECG's were 'abnormal', they were fine (I'm not saying that this was incorrect, but there are much better ways to explain these things than the way she chose). She expressed how my blood results were also perfectly normal and she couldn't possibly understand why she needed to add magnesium to the blood form (another extra special thing I was requesting apparently).

However, after being lectured for 20 minutes on how I was in fact completely healthy, it was then implied that I couldn't possibly think rationally because I had 'starved my brain'. Also, according to her, I refused to do the squat test because 'that is what somebody who is as ill as me would say, because they want to hide how ill they really are' (somehow, I think my down-right refusal to carry out the squat test was more to do with the fact that I was, by this point, crying my eyes out due to her attitude towards me). Again, according to her, I was actually crying because I'd realised how ill I had made myself. Still, she was just going to 'carry on regardless, because that is just what she does when people cry'.

At the end of the consultation, I was of course reminded that GP appointments only last for 10 minutes and I had been there longer than that (so basically get out). It's funny how she had still found 20 minutes to explain to me the very basics of OCD though (to somebody who had already had a year of CBT and was on medication for OCD - yes, before you ask, she was very aware of this).

So that was just some of the things I was told by the doctor when trying to get help for disordered eating. Although at the time I was very upset, I soon realised that she was in fact the one with the attitude problem, rather than me being at fault. However, that experience could have potentially damaging affects on somebody with a mental health condition who needs to be treated with compassion, not accused of wasting GPs time. Many of us already feel copious amounts of guilt, so those sorts of accusations really aren't helpful!

Don't get me wrong, I understand that health services are under extreme pressure in terms of time and money. The mental health service was asking the GP to carry out several tests that they may not usually be required to carry out, and the doctor was clearly unhappy about this. However, it should never be the patient that ends up on the receiving end of any political arguments between health services, especially when that patient could be vulnerable.

This experience has highlighted to me how much more education is needed surrounding mental health before people get the quality of treatment they desperately need and deserve. Nobody with any sort of health condition, physical or mental, should be made to feel like they are a burden for needing help - after all, absolutely anybody can end up with a condition that needs treatment.

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