Wednesday, August 1, 2012
The Injustice and Indignity of being a Mental Patient
I've been pretty honest with people about where I was and what kind of a hospital I was in. I don't really have anything to lose. I hold no positions of responsibility or respectability that I have to live up to....and even if I did, I should not have to hide the truth from people. I have a disease. It's a disease that is not my fault. It is a disease that cannot be cured but which can be managed. Occasional hospitalizations are part of the picture.
I was truly miserable in the hospital. I was paranoid and add that to the fact that none of the nurses there liked me very much...and you have a recipe for a really bad time. And it was. Everywhere I went I heard their back of hand whispers and saw their snide looks they exchanged over my head when they thought I wasn't looking.
My husband tells me that all of this is paranoia....that the nurses are so abused by many of the other patients that I was completely innocuous and not on their radar at all. He said that a patient like me was a relief rather than an object of derision. But I disagree--totally. I didn't accept their crap lying down. I knew how things should be done and I held them to that standard. Once, when I felt powerless and ignored, I got my husband involved and one other time, my father. The nurses do NOT appreciate this. They do not want to be questioned. They do not want to be told what they should be doing.
I wore (as did all the patients) an ID band with a bar code on it which was scanned before the administration of any drug. My ID bracelet came off (OK, I took it off because I was convinced that the bar code was the Mark of the Beast.)...and more than once my nurse (particularly my evening shift male nurse) would just take my bracelet and keep it in the med room so that when they needed to scan it, they could.
I take some heavy hitting pain meds. Well, it occurred to me that it would be very, very easy for this nurse to scan my bracelet and help himself to one of my PRN's (a pill taken only as needed).... So I asked for my bracelet back. I met with resistance and I insisted. It became necessary to tell them why. My belief was not so much that this one particular nurse would do such a thing...just that it was possible that he could and as such I felt it was my duty to take care that no such abuse would occur.
Well, there was this African American evening female nurse who took great amusement in my concerns...and she sat there snickering and finally guffawing at my expense.
I lost it.
I got in her face and screamed at her.
I was so distraught that I still can't help but cry when I think of it. It is horrible to be an object of mockery. Didn't this nurse understand that possibly, just possibly, this was a symptom of my illness, this concern.? If a cancer patient had a symptom such as incontinence, would it be right to laugh at them? Would that not be horrifically cruel to do so? How is it that people --even mental health professionals --cannot see that there is no difference. I am not an object of derision. I am a person with an illness and I have a right to be treated with dignity and considerateness. I have a right to be treated with kindness and respect.
And the knowledge and apprehension of this wrongness was more than I could bear. It was unfair. Unprofessional, and unethical. People who cannot understand this....who cannot view a patient with compassion and courtesy, do not belong in their positions of authority in hospitals for the mentally ill.
Just my two cents.