Sexism in The Psych Ward

When I first started on this Mental Health roller coaster at 17 it was a nightmare. We all knew I had issues with depression and severe anxiety. I was self medicating with alcohol and not disclosing this yet. The first three doctors had me fill out a sheet of questions and hand them in. Then I would speak to the doctor. Each one was pretty much the same. “So you are depressed and anxious?” to which I would reply “yes”. “Any abuse in your family that you maybe not telling me?” “NO” “Absolutely not” I would answer. They would shuffle papers not asking anything else write a prescription for an antidepressant and send me to a therapist. That was it. The therapist was always female and also would cling to the idea of abuse. One going far enough to suggest something about my father. My father is the most honest, hard working, modest, unsexual, somewhat boring in a genius way, person I know. No one was going to suggest anything so ugly about him not while I was alive. After the fourth therapist did this I had had enough. And I told her so. I was never molested or beaten by a family member so get over it and move on! And I am not doing written homework that takes hours everyday while trying to maintain a 50 to 60 hour a week job. The antidepressants do not work and I dry heave frequently because of the anxiety. Not one of them listened or asked different questions.

So I kept taking different antidepressants and drugs like buspirone that help with anxiety and social phobia but have to be in your system for a time to work. I was never given a fast acting antianxiety medication which would have made a huge difference if I had been.

In between I had hospital stays in Psych Wards. I don’t reccomend them. Most are locked down co-ed wards and you are placed with people detoxing and the mentally ill of all degrees. For a young girl this is frightening to say the least. You really have no say about when you are released. You do not get any help from doctors. You are their to be watched over and to make sure you do not hurt yourself or anyone else. That’s it. I don’t think I even saw a doctor just nurses.

I was finally diagnosed as Bipolar a few years ago by an excellent doctor that I trust. I needed to go in for ECT, my depressive state had lasted a little over a year and I couldn’t take it anymore. So I went into his hospital to have the procedure done. Small problem. There was a blip on my EKG and they were not equipped to deal with an emergency heart attack. They sent me to the nearest hospital by ambulance that performs ECT so I could have it done there. I thought no problem. I was wrong.

The doctor in charge there didn’t believe in my medications so he witheld them from me the entire time I was there. When I tried to question it a nurse took me aside. She told me not to argue with him because he would keep me longer. My mouth was hanging open. 2 of my meds if you just stop you could have a seizure. Didn’t matter. I kept my mouth shut and watched elderly patients being robbed of food by drug addicts, a very sick man who just stayed in bed moaning loudly that he was in pain repeatedly and yes medications being witheld. I was also made to attend meetings 3 times a day even though I was not there for that. I was only there for ECT and that was suppose to be it. I was feeling the rage kicking in. I had my round of ECT that I will never repeat again.

As the doctor did rounds the next day he got to me. He patted me on the head and told me I was “too young and pretty for ECT and all those meds I just needed some therapy” and then he walked away.

On the day I was finally released I made sure all the paperwork was signed and being held by a nurse I trusted. Everyone sits at a big table, social workers, the doctor, the nurses and me. The doctor repeated what he had said to me. I stood up as tall as I could, made my soft voice as loud as I could, and asked him “Did you even read my file? The five suicide attempts? The fact that I am Bipolar and you are telling me to go off MY MEDS?!” “Where the hell did you get your degree? You are a disgrace to your profession.” And then free as a bird I walked out to hug my father.

I will never be put in that position again. Held in a place against my will, not a threat to myself or anyone else. I will run if I see that about to happen. And it’s sad that I even have to think that way.

If I had been asked a few key questions long ago I would not have suffered for over 20 years and continue to suffer. I at least know why now. The damage caused to my brain and the rest of me might not be so bad. But maybe it was meant to be, who knows? I do know without the love of my mother, who has since passed, and the love of my father I would not be here.