I suffer from depression. I am not ashamed of that. Nor am I ashamed that I sometimes need medication to help me through darker points in my life. It has taken me many years and a lot of self-reflection to get to the point that I feel comfortable enough to say all of this. It’s taken a lot for me to get to where I don’t judge myself every time I admit that I suffer from a mental health disorder. Which is why I’m still working on not expecting horrible judgments when I talk to others about it.
But there are some places that you can go knowing that you won’t get judged. Today, when I realized I needed help, I went to my local hospital. I thought I’d get the help I needed there. I thought I’d be treated with respect for admitting I had a problem that I couldn’t fix on my own. I thought a lot of things.
Let’s start here: I recently moved to the city I’m living in at the moment, and I haven’t gotten a primary health provider yet. I know. I know. I should have done that by now, but I haven’t. My bad. So the first thing I did when I got to the hospital was schedule an appointment with a regular physician who could work with me from here on out. Good plan, right? However, it turns out that the earliest anyone could see me is roughly a month from now.
Fine, I’ve dealt with worse. At least I can talk to someone here at Same Day Care and get some help with my depression until I can see a doctor in a month. After all, I already know what’s wrong and I know what antidepressants work for me. They’ll help me out.
So I wait for an hour or so until a nurse calls me in. I tell her what my previous prescription was and that it worked and that if I could get back on it I think I’ll be okay until I can talk to a regular doctor next month. She’s all sorts of nice and understanding, but explains that they can’t prescribe anything at Same Day Care. However, she can escort me over to the ER, who will “get me taken care of.” This is her exact wording, and she’s all smiles and reassurances, promising me I’ll be okay, and I know that I REALLY do need to get back on antidepressants sooner rather than later, so I agree.
We head over to the ER and I sit in the waiting room for another 45 minutes. Then a woman appears out of nowhere, leads me into a small room and tells me to start taking off my clothes. Remember, at this point I thought I was still just waiting to talk to someone about the refill on my prescription, but when I try to say that she just says “every PAT has to do this. Take off your shirt, please.” She checks me everywhere while constantly asking “are you sure you don’t have anything on you that you can use to hurt yourself? I’m not going to prick myself on something if I reach in here, right?” She even confiscates my bra because of the underwire. I keep saying “no. I’m good. I’m not going to hurt myself. I just need to talk about my prescription.” But she says I’ll have to wait for a psychiatrist and makes me put on a pair of scrubs that are obviously made for the psych ward.
I don’t know how to explain to you how…demoralizing it was to put on psych ward scrubs. I already knew what was wrong. I knew how to fix it. I didn’t need this, did I? But she tells me it’s necessary and puts me into a very small, very empty room. A security guard is placed out front.
What can I say? I broke down. I cried so hard. I’d come here looking for help. I already knew I was depressed. I already knew “there was something wrong with me.” But I knew what I needed to get better, and so far no one was even listening to me. Instead, I was being treated like… like a crazy person. I thought I’d worked past thinking of myself and others like me as “crazy.” But here we are.
They did eventually move me to a different room when a “more unstable patient” needed the security guard room, which I guess I should find comforting. Apparently I was stable enough to have a TV remote, now. So that was nice to know.
Except I already KNEW that. I already KNEW what was going on and what I needed help with. I just needed to be put back on my prescription. Why couldn’t anyone help me with that? Maybe when the psychiatrist came…
I waited in this new room for FIVE HOURS. In all that time, no one came in. No one asked me any questions. I couldn’t even get my cell phone back so that I could call my husband. I just… sat there. Waiting. In a psych ward uniform. In the hospital. For five hours. Wondering if all people seeking help with depression got treated this way or just the “stable” ones.
After 4 hours and 50-some-odd minutes, a woman came in and said she was going to ask me some questions before the psychiatrist came. I answered them all honestly. Yes, I’ve shown signs of depression. No, I’m not suicidal at the moment. Yes, I have had suicidal thoughts in the past. Yes, I’ve been on antidepressants (“actually, that’s why I’m here.” “Sorry, ma’am, you’ll have to wait to talk to the psychiatrist”). Okay. Yes, I have support at home.
I’ve been through this before. I know to tell the truth and not to be ashamed. I didn’t hide anything. I just wanted my prescription so I could leave (finally) and go on living life. That’s what I’d wanted six hours before. At least it seemed like things were starting to wrap up and the psychiatrist would see me soon.
I never even got to see a psychiatrist. Eventually the woman came back and told me that she knew I was tired of being there (I’d mentioned this several times during our “interview.” Because seriously– five hours) and the psychiatrist didn’t think I was a danger to myself or others, so I was free to go. Have a nice day.
I…just stared at her. Then I told her I KNEW I wasn’t a danger to myself or others. I KNEW that before spending five hours in a psych ward that I’d checked myself into on behest of the Same Day Care lady. I told her (again) that I was only there because I needed a prescription for antidepressants that could get me through a month until I could see a doctor. I just needed to make it a month and I wasn’t sure I could do it on my own.
“Sorry. I don’t know why you thought you could get antidepressants here. We can’t prescribe anything.”
“So… I’ve been here for five hours for no reason? I came in because I know I need antidepressants. I told every person I talked to that.”
“I wish I had better news for you. If it gets too bad, come back in. Until then, you’re free to go.”
“So… No one helped me, but I still have to pay for an ER trip and a Same Day Care trip?” (By this point I was crying again. I was tired. I was hungry. I was still wearing the humiliating psych ward scrubs without a bra on. And for the first time in a long time, I was ashamed of my depression. I think life was worse now than it was when I’d gone in).
“I’m sorry. I REALLY wish I had better news for you. Maybe the hospital can help you with the bills. Try calling them during business hours tomorrow.” (It was past regular hours by this point. I’m still not sure how that’s going to affect my bill).
So… I left. I left with six hours of my life gone, less pride than I’d had upon entering the hospital, and none of the help I’d gone in there for. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. And I wouldn’t wish the feelings I carried with me out those doors on my worst enemy.
I think that, as a society, we need to stop the demonization of mental health issues. I think we need to be less ashamed of the things we can’t control and take more pride in treating people decently no matter what their situation. And, I think a lot of people are working on that. Or… I thought people were. But now I’m not so sure. When our medical PROFESSIONALS can make someone hate themselves more than society does on a daily basis… I don’t know. I just know that this isn’t right. People should be treated with respect no matter what they’re going through. Being treated like lesser beings because of what we can’t control is the REASON that so many people don’t want to talk about mental health disorders. Why they deny the issue and don’t try to get help. Because look what happens if they do eventually put their fear aside and seek aide. And no one cares if they’re treated poorly, because we don’t fight for mental health like we do other things. Which, of course, only makes those with mental health issues feel more alone.
Stop the stigma. Stop making people fear getting help. And if a mental care provider near you is treating its patients without respect, DO something about it. Because no one listens to the “crazy” ones. And they won’t until we, as a society, stop labeling those with mental health issues as anything other than “human.”
Hey, thanks for reading. If you or someone you know suffer from depression, I hope your experiences with mental health professionals aren’t like mine. And I hope you realize that there’s always hope. Chin up. Also, maybe read THIS POST.
EDIT : Thing are better now. Here’s an Update.
EDIT AGAIN: The price for writing this post was more expensive than I thought. Here’s Another Update.