The Life You Save May Be Your Own

DID, knitting, sci-fi, and strong opinions

If we treated physical illness the way we treat mental illness May 16, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — weordmyndum @ 5:16 am
Tags: , , ,

“You researched your blood pressure medication online?  You shouldn’t do that!  I’m the doctor, not you.”


“No, Vioxx has no major side effects.  There’s no way it could’ve caused your heart attack.”


“You can’t sign a DNR.  There’s always a chance that you could come out of a coma and get better.  We’re going to hook you up to machines and keep you alive no matter how much pain you’re in or how little hope there is for recovery.  You should be grateful that we’re SAVING you.”


“It doesn’t matter if the side effects of the chemotherapy are unbearable and aren’t shrinking your tumor.  You’re ill, and that means you aren’t allowed to have a say in your treatment.  If you refuse chemo, we’ll get a court order forcing you to keep getting the drugs.”


There is certainly something to be said for the paradigm pushing for people to accept mental illness the same as physical illness, without the stigma.  It’s a smart analogy; whoever came up with it first must’ve been an excellent rhetorician.


But I feel like the practitioners of mainstream psychiatry have usurped it and now use it to disempower patients, and that pisses me off.


In any other kind of illness, our society recognizes the right to refuse treatment–even if there are effective treatments, even if others don’t think refusing treatment is in the patient’s best interest, even if it makes the person more of a burden on society, even if refusing treatment can cause death.  We recognize that a person’s body and life belong to them alone, and they are allowed to make the decisions.


Except in psychiatry.  When you become a psychiatric patient, you lose the right to self-determination.  When you become a psych patient, you lose control of your surroundings, your circumstances, and even your body.  You lose your autonomy, but you’re told that this total deprivation of control at the most basic levels is going to make you better.  You’re told it’s for your own good.


No, it’s not always like that.  There are psychiatrists and nurses and therapists and so forth who are decent human beings and treat their patients as human beings.  Sadly, those practitioners are the exception, not the rule.  I’ve had too many traumatic experiences with psychiatry to have any faith left in the system as a whole.  And yes, I’m bitter and angry.  How could I not be.


I’ll leave you with a brilliant quote from C.S. Lewis:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.  It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.  The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.  They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth.  Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult.  To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of wisdom or those who never will; to be classified with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.



4 Responses to “If we treated physical illness the way we treat mental illness”

  1. colourtheday Says:

    I do hope you find (or have found) someone decent to help you. I recognize the feeling, however more as a patient with a physical illness… “Your headache is probably just stress…” Things like that. To be in the “patient” category is a state where you are supposed to let go of yourself, your feelings, opinions, clothes, food options, control etc to fit into the system. That doesn’t make people heal…

    • weordmyndum Says:

      I’m in a treatment program now that’s pretty alternative–it’s an intensive outpatient program where you work with your team on an individual basis, and you as the patient are very much included as part of the team. (Definitely NOT my experience other places.) It’s based on the concept of Open Dialogue, a treatment approach that originated in Finland and has had some pretty amazing outcomes. They treat me like a person who has some problems, not as an inhuman cluster of symptoms that has to be drugged until they’re silent. I get to retain my personhood and autonomy. They take a holistic approach, too. Instead of just drugging me, my psychiatrist did a battery of tests, which is how my MTHFR polymorphism was discovered. When I got treated for that, suddenly my depression disappeared. I’ve been on psychiatric medication on and off since I was FIVE, so why did no one test me for this before now? This psychiatrist is the first doctor I’ve ever had who’s been willing to help me get off psych meds. It’s been slow going with some bumps, but overall it’s working out.

      The drawback is that people at this program don’t have a lot of experience with trauma and related disorders. They work more with things like psychotic spectrum disorders and bipolar, sometimes depression. I did come in with a diagnosis of severe depression, but that turned out not to be a real mood disorder but a genetic disorder. But they’ve been willing to learn, and I’ve recently (three weeks ago) started seeing a therapist outside the program who specializes in treating trauma. So I’m very hopeful.

  2. hollytietjen Says:

    That is a really wonderful quote. Thanks for sharing. It is so true! Your psychiatrist sounds great.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s