The time I demanded a doctor listen to me.
As soon as my doctor took a seat, I picked up my chair and set it in front of the door.
Calmly, I sat down and looked at him. I counted to 15 in my mind while looking him in the eye. Then, in a low, quiet voice, I said, “There’s only two ways you’re leaving this room. Either you’re going to give me a prescription to help me get better, or I’m going to throw you through that window behind you.”
How did I get there? Why is it important to advocate for your own mental health?
Let me tell you the rest of the story.
Limited Mental Health Care Options
The only mental health care available to me at the time was through a state sponsored clinic.
While several members of the staff sincerely tried to help the patients, the center cycled through doctors faster than the seasons passed. It was rare that I saw the same doctor more than twice, and that’s a horrible thing when you’re at the beginning of your bipolar disorder journey.
Every time, I had to create a new rapport with the doctor, tell them my story, and make them believe I was bipolar even though I wasn’t acting like it at the moment.
My doctor mentioned in the opening was the worst one so far.
A Terrible First Visit
I first met him two weeks prior, and I was in a horrible place.
Things inside were so dark that it’s shocking that I made it through the next two weeks. During my first visit with him, he refused to write any prescriptions, including to refill the prescriptions I was already taking.
“You don’t seem like a danger to yourself or others,” he told me, dismissing me like an unruly child asking for a cookie.
“You don’t need to worry about the people who are hysterical,” he continued. “It’s the ones who are calm, cool, and collected that are to be feared.”
With no more words, he left the room, leaving me alone to fight the monster raging inside my head.
Apparently, I was too emotional to need help. High-functioning bipolar was stopping me from getting the help I needed.
Determined Not To Give Up
I almost didn’t go back, but I believed I could live a better life with bipolar disorder. I was determined not to quit.
Fighting for me meant exploring every treatment option until they were all exhausted.
If you haven’t figured it out already, no one is ever going to care more about your mental health than you do. That means it’s up to you to advocate for yourself. You have to speak up when necessary and make your professional care team understand what’s really going on inside you.
You have to advocate for you.
I have what they call high-functioning bipolar .
Most of my life, I’ve been able to work, care for family, and maintain an active social life. I did everything while fighting the monster inside, using every ounce of energy to keep a smile on my face. Because of that, and because I was used to wearing a mask of sanity, many doctors didn’t believe I had a mental illness the first time they saw me.
I couldn’t be bipolar and still function in society. None of their other patients did.
How wrong they were.
Only the doctors who were willing to look back through my chart and see my mental health history actually understood what I was going through. Those doctors, like the one I see now, are worth their weight in gold. They understand that they only get a glimpse of what’s going during your office visits. They know the rest of your life may differ vastly from what they see in 15 minutes.
Bipolar can cause radically different behaviors from one hour to the next.
The mental health professionals interested in helping their patients understand that reality.
Don’t Do What I Did
I don’t recommend scaring your doctor.
I’m not proud that I acted that way. It’s never a good idea to threaten anyone, and especially not with bodily harm. But I was desperate. I’d reached the end of my rope, and there was nothing else to grab on to. I knew if the doctor didn’t help me that day, I wouldn’t be able to go on. My life depended on making him understand.
I think my calm demeanor that day terrified him.
He finally agreed that something was wrong with me and prescribed a new medication. Although it wasn’t the best one for me, it helped. That treatment kept me going until a better doctor came along a few months later.
Don’t threaten your doctor, but don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself either.
Your life has value, and you’re worth receiving excellent medical care. If something’s not working for you, talk about it. Tell your doctor what’s not working and why. Whether you don’t like the way the medication is making you feel, or that it’s leading to weight gain or making you sleep too many hours a day, speak up.
Your care team needs to know all the facts, and you’re in the best position to tell them.
So open up and be your best advocate.
Until next time, keep fighting.