A few weeks back, I was featured on Psychology Today by the wonderful CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, Sarah Fader. She asked me to write the story about how I was being mistreated by a doctor of psychiatry in Southern California. The office had refused to see me after not having been to the office in several years, and had proceeded to deny me my medical records, which is against the law. After much negotiation, they finally agreed to provide a letter which outlined my diagnosis.
When I drove 75 miles to the doctor’s office, I was given a letter that had the wrong diagnosis on it. I learned, via the signature on the letter, that the doctor I was dealing with was on the American Board of Psychiatry. I asked the woman who released the letter if I needed to have an attorney contact the office in order to get the documentation that, as a patient, I have a legal right to. She of course sang policy at me, and agreed to have their Office Manager contact me. Based on the half-ass way this office does business, I was very surprised to have received a call from the Office Manager on my way home from the office. The woman spoke to me like a child. She said that they were protecting me, that psychiatry is not like general medicine and is very personal. I am known to be a kind person, but not when you fuck with me. My closest friends know not to do so. I went off. If I could go back, I probably would have tried to stay calm. I’ve worked in Customer Service for so many years; I know that inappropriate attitude gets you nowhere. Beyond that, I don’t want to appear as an unstable paranoid schizophrenic. I’m not. I do have paranoid schizophrenia, but the reason I lost my shit is because I’m a human being. I had been dealing with their office and with her for months trying to get just the letter that was now wrong and I was on the ass end of a 150-mile drive in LA traffic. I was so done with their bullshit. I told her that the office she was representing was breaking the law, and if I didn’t have my medical records in one week’s time, I would sue the fuck out of them.
I had a call the next day advising me that my records were ready to pick up. I made the drive again yesterday and was handed an envelope, no questions asked.
The records are pretty standard, detailing my discussions with the doctor on my monthly visits. The very last page, though, was my initial conversation with him, wherein I disclosed everything that had led up to the point of me walking through that office door to seek help. My life was written in this upside-down chicken scratch all over the page, and I didn’t stop crying for twenty minutes. I wanted to show a photo of it, but it is probably the most personal piece of documentation I will ever hold in my hand. It would reveal how true Paper Souls actually is, and it was my choice when I published it to call it fiction. Which it is, but, the contention based on true events would not be so far off.
I am choosing to tell this story mostly because I made a public statement that this specific doctor was denying me my right as a patient. Which is true, until I wouldn’t take no for an answer. Beyond that, though, the aforementioned is another story in my campaign to fight the stigma of mental illness. Yes I am schizophrenic and yes I hallucinate, but no I am not unstable, and no you cannot treat me like a child who knows nothing of the world, and no, you will not extricate me from society because of my mental illness. I’m a human being who works hard and laughs with her friends and pays her bills on time (mostly) and all of those who treat the mentally ill like shit have another thing coming. We are really done being grouped in this standard of what you think mental illness should mean.
We’re all humans.
“You treat us badly because you are ignorant, not because we are bad people.” -Allie Burke, on Stigma Fighters