You are not alone if you’ve ever felt bullied by a doctor in charge of your mental and emotional well-being. It’s time we started to advocate for ourselves.
Have you faced behavior such as: rude body language, pursed lips, tightly crossed arms, obvious annoyance, irritation, eyes peering through you? What about rolling of the eyes, lack of interest in what you’re saying, sighing, not facing you, and speaking AT you instead of TO you?
I have. Over the years since my BP diagnosis, I’ve felt blindsided and too intimidated to respond. Not anymore!!
I recently had an experience with a young lady whom I’ll call “Sarah”
Sarah’s additional diagnosis is borderline anorexic and terrified of gaining an ounce of weight. She was referred to a Psychiatrist by an outpatient care program. Sarah was on several medications for BP disorder and severe anxiety when she began her treatment with “Doctor New”.
The medication that stabilized her most recent episode caused her to gain a moderate amount of weight. That having been said, I suggested she discuss it with Dr. New. Things seemed to be heading in the right direction. Her weight dropped steadily and her mood was stabilized.
Then a health crisis arose. Sarah was given urgent advice to have a biopsy performed. I’m sure you can imagine the upheaval and whirlwind of stress and panic she felt. Dr. New discerned that Sarah would require a medication adjustment and he was spot on about that. Fast forward…..
Happy and relieved by the benign results of her biopsy, Sarah was able to exhale and mentally regroup. Sarah shared with me that she currently feels overmedicated. I suggested she see Dr. New and ask for a readjustment.
Sarah begged me to accompany her to see Dr. New, because she was too afraid. Puzzled, I asked her why she was afraid. Sarah stated that during an earlier appointment, she reminded Dr. New about her fear of weight gain and his response was that she needed to choose whether she wanted to be happy and fat (yes you’ve just read the word fat), or she could choose to be miserable and hospitalized! (BREATHE CANDEE, BREATHE!!!!!). I assured her that I’d be at that next appointment.
Upon our arrival, Dr. New had an annoyed look on his face that quickly changed when he noticed me beside her (my facial expressions really need to be controlled). I politely shared that I had Sarah’s permission to sit in on their appointment.
Dr. New weighed her, took vitals and then he sat facing her (he didn’t say a greeting nor ask how she was doing). She explained how the benign diagnosis made her feel much better but now she’s feeling overmedicated and….he cut her off and insisted that she remain on the current regimen of meds. I could see nervousness in her face. After allowing him to speak without interruption (proper etiquette) Sarah continued to explain that she experienced physical discomfort and mental fog.
Dr. New spun his chair around to face his computer screen, and continued to speak AT her.
I raised my hand and asked to speak, I articulated exactly what she said but in a different way. He asked me a question and I shared an observation that confirmed what she was saying.
He swung his chair around and nodded his head and in a cocky tone said to Sarah: “That is not normal, that behavior is not normal you see?” Then I suggested that she was experiencing anxiety not psychosis (she nodded in agreement and relief).
Dr. New completely ignored us both and proceeded to hand Sarah a coupon for the same class of medication by a different name! She read my expression and we walked out of his office. She sheepishly stopped at the front desk and made a follow-up appointment. It took everything in me to remain neutral. Sarah’s care is hers to navigate. It is dangerous to interfere with someone’s treatment. I remained silent, not offering any impressions, assumptions, nor judgements. As soon as we left the building I asked her for her opinion of the visit. Her response was: “I think I confused Dr. New.”
Sarah was insidiously made to accept accountability for Dr. New’s behavior. She was vulnerable and deserved to be treated as a collaborator in her treatment, and at the very least treated with dignity and respect. Instead, she was frowned upon as if she were ignorant and unworthy of a partnership in the maintenance of her own wellness and stability.
Here’s a suggestion: If you should find yourself in a similar situation, have someone accompany you (therapist, spouse, close friend). Remember that you are 50% of the doctor/patient decision making in your treatment.
Candee was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a little over 10 years ago. Long before that, she tried to tell anyone who would listen, that something in her brain wasn't wired right. Her parents said she was being dramatic; her siblings got a kick out of her being the family clown, bouncing off the walls; her friends, emphatically said: "Oh no girlfriend, you don't fix that, you ride it like the wind!" So she did....then BAM! Out of the blue, she ran into what felt like a wall of nails. Awaiting her was a nasty bout of depression crippling her for a long time. After finding the right treatment things slowed down a bit and she’s back on her feet...in a relative sense. There are no "typical days" for a BP warrior - it's a lazy river or a tightrope. She is somewhat grounded by her husband of 26 years, her teenaged daughter and her Shetland Sheepdog. Oh, and the other "elephant in the room:" Rheumatoid Arthritis. Stay tuned.
This past year has been challenging, and the upcoming holiday season is likely to be no different—especially when we’re feeling isolated. To stay out of the holiday blues or bipolar depression, I am approaching this season proactively, tackling loneliness directly and finding ways to be festive and joyful. Feeling Lonely & Isolated During the Holidays...
With bipolar disorder, we’re more likely to become overdependent on our digital devices. Here’s how personal tech can affect our moods—plus tips for self-protection. Are we too attached to our digital devices? That question has been debated for almost as long as the iPhone has been around, giving rise to the first National Day of...
Mood symptoms such as overspending, hypersexuality, anger attacks, and self-isolation hurt those around us. A simple apology is just the starting point of making things right. When Our Actions during Bipolar Mood Episodes Harm Others Olivia S. of Colorado got up one morning to unexpectedly find two of her four grown children in her living...
Naturally, my journey with bipolar has had its ups and downs. It took time, faith, family support, and a lot of persistence to come to a place of mood stability and genuine happiness. In the depths of my bipolar depression, I never could have imagined living the life I now treasure. My Lifelong Dream Since...