Ending the Stigma of Mental Health
I went to see a neurologist the other day.
It had been years since I had seen a neurologist due to being told everything was fine and my problems were anxiety related. I have a long history with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and an eating disorder, and I had been experiencing on and off neurological issues for the last 7 years. Balance issues, lack of coordination, numbness/weakness, and vision changes. It gets so bad sometimes that I can barely walk. I have to hold onto the walls and that’s a pretty painful realization. I used to be a ballet dancer, marathon runner, and sometimes now I need to hold onto walls to keep myself steady. Painful AF.
I had given up on figuring out what was going on because I was told it was just anxiety and decided to simply deal with it if it came back again.
I now have 2 children, one is 8 months old. About 5 months after having him, I had the worst neuro relapse I had had in years. Trying to care for my baby, toddler, and running the business and a non profit was nearly impossible. I finally got up enough courage to go back to the doctor and request an MRI.
I had this completed and it showed more changes than previously and I was thus referred to neurology once again.
Fast forward to the appointment and I was a ball of nerves, but I kept telling myself “I know something is wrong. I know my body. I can do this.” Trying to lean into advocating for myself. I put on my girl boss blazer, held my head high, and went into my appt.
I was met with an incredibly cold doctor. I felt dismissed, unheard, and disrespected. It was an awful experience. My history with mental health was brought up repeatedly. Yes, I have anxiety. Yes, I am medicated for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Yes, I have a long history with an eating disorder. It felt accusatory. Like the things I was saying were completely discounted because of my mental health issues.
I work very hard to decrease the stigma around mental health disorders. We are all humans, doing the best we can to navigate our world, and yes, some of us struggle with mental disorders. It felt shameful at the appointment.
My takeaway was because the doctor saw those diagnoses on my chart, her mind was made up before she walked into that exam room. Even with pronounced changes in my brain MRI, she didn’t bother to listen to me. Her mind was made up. It must be anxiety related, right? Isn’t that what we are told if a doctor doesn’t have a clear diagnosis?
I know I am not the only one who has had this type of experience with the medical field and that hurts. I will not only advocate for myself, but I am advocating for all of us with a history of mental health issues. We deserve the same objective treatment as a person without a mental disorder. The medical field needs to do better. People with mental illness deserve the same time and objective lens as anyone.
Please hear me, loves. If you have a history with mental illness, YOU have every right to be treated the same as everyone else. Having a mental illness does not make you less than and it does not mean what you are experiencing is not real. I believe you and I will continue to advocate for you all and myself.
Please share this blog. We need to decrease the stigma around mental illness and that starts with normalizing it. There is no shame in having a mental illness. YOU are enough, valid, and worthy and I believe you.