To Earn Trust After Past Mistakes

Image Credit: FB-I’m glad the sky is painted blue

Fifteen years ago my behaviour wasn’t worthy of anyone’s trust.  I know that, and I regret many of the things I did.  But I’m a different person now, and that was a long time ago.  I have forgiven myself  yet I find my doctor (who was not involved at the time) is unwilling to extend to me some trust.  I’d really like some feedback on this.  Do you think his stance is reasonable?  And how do you think I should go about correcting the problem?

Yesterday I saw my regular doctor (my GP).  In spite of being in the middle of a (so far) five day fibromyalgia flare up, it was a routine appointment from which I needed medication and a medical certificate to keep the bureaucratic wolves from the door.  I was in a lot of pain, and my head was so far in the fog that I wondered if it would ever come back.  I knew there was little my doctor could do on that front and just went to the appointment for the things I needed.

We talked briefly about my current symptoms, although he said nothing.  He simply typed.  We then attended to the medical certificate I needed before getting onto medication requirements.  Basically my needs are dictated to by my being on lithium.  It means that the medications available for fibro are largely not an option for me because of adverse interactions.  I understand that there are a couple of options but my doctor has previously told me he is unwilling to prescribe them for me because of the risk of side effects including suicidal ideation.

As for medication to relieve pain, so far he has only been prepared to give me over-the-counter analgesics.  Actually these do nothing, basically because fibro is a different type of pain than what analgesics work on.  I explained that what he had given me was useless but he refused to give me anything stronger because, what I think he was implying, I would become addicted to them and create a whole lot more problems.

In the end, he ‘won’ and I still have no effective medication.  The possibility of my mental health declining because of the pain I am in, appeared to be of no interest to him, and it was clear that he was waving my past mental health sins in front of me.

Fifteen years ago I would have totally understood this stance.  I was out of control.  I lived in a different part of the country so I was under a different doctor.  But I guess we carry our mistakes with us.  At that time I was being treated for a number of mental illnesses and was in and out of hospital constantly.  Actually they put a rule in place that I would have four days in and four days out.  Basically that’s how I lived unless I did something during the four days out that put me back in.  I was self harming constantly. I was starving myself and over-exercising, although at that time I was under weight but not dangerously so.  I was drinking to excess (in other words drinking to obliterate myself daily).  I was suicidal.  I had a bad habit of taking more medication than prescribed.  This was sometimes a deliberate over-dose and other times, simply over-medicating.  Actually twice I sat in waiting rooms waiting to be seen by mental health staff and took overdoses while waiting, once while my husband sat next to me.  I had become pretty sneaky and was definitely on the “too hard to treat” list of patients.  They were very clear about that.  At the end of 1993, I attempted once more to kill myself (by overdose) and nearly died.

That was the last time I tried to kill myself.  It wasn’t the end of the struggle and shortly after I was shipped off to a residential therapeutic community for a year.  While I have definitely struggled regularly with suicidal thoughts since then, I have never acted on them.  I have been very sick since then, but never over-medicated and never overdosed.  And now, all these years later, my mental health has never been as good as it is now, I am a normal weight, I don’t self harm anymore and I take medication as prescribed.  What’s more I have, and continue to, work my butt off in therapy.

The last two years have seen my physical health become the issue, and that’s where I am today.  I have been seeing this current doctor for about eight years, since I shifted to Christchurch.  However he used to be my father’s (who has now died) doctor and I am fairly certain that 15 years ago Dad would have been talking to his doctor regularly about my struggles, in order for him to cope with it himself.  I am guessing that is why my doctor now refuses to help me with medication.

I know that mental health can have a nasty habit of coming and going, and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is not one of those that can be cured.  But I think that I am managing my BPD pretty well and have done for about 18 months now.  So why can I not be trusted?

If your initial thought is to tell me to change doctors, I tried that nearly two years ago and leapt from the frying pan into the fire.  Never, ever go to a doctor who casually admits to being a little absent-minded.  She prescribed me the wrong medication (twice)and I ended up in lithium toxicity (a very unpleasant experience), thanks to her ‘forgetting’ she was prescribing me lithium.  Thankfully the second time my very careful pharmacist picked it up.  In desperation I went back to my original doctor, as it was very difficult to find a doctor taking on new clients.  So there I am back in the frying pan.

What do you think?  When do I earn his trust again?  Am I deserving of his trust?  It feels a bit like he has labelled me with a ‘unreliable psych patient’ label, and while I would have accepted that on the basis of my actions 15 years ago, I’m inclined to think of it as stigma.  I totally recognise that doctors need to be careful, but what is careful and what is down right unfair?

It’s difficult because this is having a day to day effect on me because I can’t get the medication that would make life a whole heap less painful and more enjoyable.  Because of that I know that maybe I’m not looking at his attitude with clear eyes, and that’s why I want your thoughts.  Please don’t tell me what medications I should try because that’s not the issue here.  What I’m interested in is how you feel about my doctor’s attitude to me?

Meanwhile we have agreed he will refer me to a pain management clinic here, although I understand I might be waiting for a while.  And meanwhile I find myself upset.  I feel like I have been slapped in the face… very hard.


“We are all mistaken sometimes; sometimes we do wrong things, things that have bad consequences. But it does not mean we are evil, or that we cannot be trusted ever afterward.” 

―    Alison Croggon

“Ginny!” said Mr. Weasley, flabbergasted. “Haven’t I taught you anything? What have I always told you? Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps it’s brain?” 

―    J.K. Rowling,    Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets


22 thoughts on “To Earn Trust After Past Mistakes

  1. Like I wrote somewhere the other day (I have already forgotten where)…treatment of any kind is a partnership whether doctors want to accept this or not. I think I’d stick with him but shop around for a doctor who is willing to give you the trust you have shown you deserve. I understand his wanting to be careful but ignoring the fact that your physical condition can wreak havok on your mental health isn’t acceptable.
    Go shopping…you deserve better.

    1. Thanks for your comments. I very much appreciate them as I am starting to lose focus with this. The problem with shopping is that there are little options and not much on sale (even at full price). But I think you’re quite right. Thanks ❤

      1. No stores to shop. That is a problem, huh?
        Could you just confront him and ask if he has concerns about you that he hasn’t discussed with you? Maybe trying an open, show off your control of emotions dialogue, could help. ??? Wish I could wave a wand for you.

  2. Sharon Thomson

    Catherine, you already know how I feel about

    The docters refusal has and will continue to
    Have an effect on your MH. The doctor in my
    eyes is wrong not to trust you. You have more than proved yourself trustworthy. And the unfortunate thing is you are the one that is
    Now suffering. In my experience litihium is more trouble than it’s worth, and i suspect you probably feel the same. I truly hope the pain clinic can help you

    1. Thanks Sharon. Lithium has actually been a godsend for me, but unfortunately now it’s starting to kick back. I am hangin out for the pain clinic but I understand it will be months on the waiting list. Oh yay! Thanks for taking the time to comment. ❤

  3. Hi Cate!!

    After being seen by numerous doctors, counselors and social workers through a state agency for many years, where there was a great turnover in doctors, and having many doctors where I now go quit (I’ve seen six so far and will meet #7 next month) one thing I noticed about the bad ones — whether doctor, counselor or social worker — is what you mentioned: If they spend their entire time typing or writing, they’re not listening to a word you’re saying!! One social worker had many forms to fill out, so she’d circle all these items on one form, check off these boxes on another, etc. while I’m pouring my heart out to her because I’m living in agony. Then she always had me sign one of the forms and to this day I have no idea what I was signing. My sister bought me a two-way plane ticket to come stay with them for 2 weeks, during which time I’d miss an appointment with that s.w. and the doctor. I left a voice mail message. I knew my doctor wasn’t paying attention, either. (I know this won’t help you, because you’re aiming for something different, but wanted to continue the rest of the story.) At that time I always kept a journal. I’d had a vision one day of me standing on the edge of an abyss — behind me was sanity and in front of me was insanity, the abyss, and I was teetering on the edge. I described in my journal every detail of that vision. While at my sister’s I took those pages, made a copy and mailed it to my s.w. The Monday after I returned on Sunday she frantically called me. I was to come in asap. She was in my doctor’s office and mouthed off a lot of crap about me, proving she didn’t know me even after seeing me for over a year b/c she was too busy filling out forms!! She left and the doctor started talking. I finally had his attention!! From then on he took me seriously!! I desperately needed help and his treatment of me as his personal guinea pig stopped — instead of putting me on one sample med he’d been given by a pharmacy rep and jerking me off it when it didn’t work only to shove another sample med down my throat or else refusing to see me before my next 6 week appointment (or longer) when I’d had a side effect that made me too sick to continue to med, he now began to truly treat me and that’s when I began to get slightly better.

    Now that my story is out of the way, my main point is still what I mentioned: if they’re too busy filling out forms to do you the courtesy and give you the respect to look you in the eye and LISTEN to you, they are not doing their job and shouldn’t be in that profession!! It might not help your situation at all, and I don’t know if you want to or if you’re able, but you might simply speak a little louder and with more emphasis than normal and ask, “Are you listening to me? Do you understand that my main problem right now is the fibro? Are you or are you not going to help me with that? And if you’re not, why not?” Or something to that effect, yet in your own words. Yes, I realize you’re on the waiting list for the pain clinic, but I still don’t think he’s truly hearing what you’re saying. He either still has a pre-conceived idea of who you are (were) and/or he’s simply not a good doctor.

    I don’t think you’re untrustworthy, not do I think you’re unstable. I think your recent history should have proved this to everyone. I know in our conversations and in the things you’ve written, you sound like a “normal” person who just happens to have these health issues to deal with. I really do believe it ties into that whole stigma issue — just as I wrote about what happened with my current s.w. Some people just simply don’t understand and will never understand — especially if they grab onto a notion about you and will never allow that notion to change. Your name is “________” (fill in your mental/emotional health issue) and that’s how they will always see you, no matter the growth, no matter the survival, no matter what else you’ve done/are doing with your life!!

    I absolutely hate that and I hate that this is happening to you, Cate!! You deserve so much better than this and you deserve to be free from pain!! And you deserve the respect of someone actually listening to you and hearing what you’re saying without having preconceived notions in their heads that prevent any of this from happening!!

    I’m so sorry this is happening to you!!!

    1. Thank you Kathy and I very much appreciate you sharing your story with me. I get the impression that I am just labeled as someone to push through and get out of his office. Sometimes I wonder if I expect too much from a doctor, although that said I have had some brilliant doctors in the past who treated me as a person and listened to me. Unfortunately I shifted cities and for some reason (lol) those doctors refused to pick up their lives and shift with me.

      1. I know what you mean!! They SHOULD have moved with you!! 😀 I’ve actually cried when a couple of my doctors quit and I didn’t found out they quit from them — I had to hear it from someone else, which I think made it worse. Then again, if they’d told me themselves I probably would have made a fool of myself by bursting into tears in front of them!! 🙂 What you and I and countless others have experienced really says something about the so-called health profession!! It’s a blasted shame!!

      2. I totally agree. Actually yesterday to add insult to injury I found out that my psychiatrist has given up practising. He’s gone. It’s not like he asked me if he could! lol

  4. it’s terrible that your health is being affected by the attitude of this doctor and you shouldn’t have to suffer because of his refusal to accept the fact there is nothing more you could have done to prove your trustworthyness. I attend a pain clinic on an irregular basis and it certainly provides tips and assistance to me so I hope it can do the same for you. your health shouldn’t be affected by the stubborn attitude of your gp and you deserve to be treated well. i hope things improve for you very soon

    1. Thanks. It’s good to hear that a pain clinic is helpful. I have this tiny fear in the back of mine that they will simply tell me to think positively and ignore the rest. LOL. If only it were that simple. Thanks for your comments. I very much appreciate them.

  5. That is so frustrating! 15 years is a long time – and 18 months is also a decent amount of time – and for him to still not trust you is unfair, and in my opinion, unreasonable. Maybe your dad did talk to him about your struggles, but he’s still supposed to treat you as your own patient. He’s still supposed to listen to *you* and what you have to say. In my opinion, he should trust you. I can understand his concerns, but he could offer more supervision. He could offer to see you once a week, or more, in order to keep an eye on you and how your mental health is doing while on these medications. Even refuse to refill your meds if you don’t see him once a month or something like. Or just give you a 2-week prescription and refill it on that basis as he sees you. I know my psychiatrist, will not refill my meds unless I see her at least every 2-3 months. Same goes for my primary physician for my PCOS and blood pressure meds.

    Physical health indeed has an impact on our mental health (mental illness or not), so how he can dismiss your pain which is actually happening, for some concern of a side effect that may not happen is beyond me. Considering that our physical health does impact our mental health, it’s basically a given that you will suffer emotionally from this… the very thing he’s trying to avoid by not giving you your needed medication. So, I think you deserve trust at this point, and if he’s concerned, then offer closer supervision.

    I’m sorry you have to deal with this, Cate. Especially with all your pain you’re in. I hope he can realize that you deserve to be trusted and he needs to work with you to help your pain. No one should have to live with such excruciating pain. Hang in there, Cate! Hugs!

    1. Thank you Summer. I really appreciate reading your thoughts as I find myself losing perspective. I agree with you that all that is needed is more supervision to make sure everything goes ok. That doesn’t seem too hard to me. Thanks ❤

  6. Personally, I think your doctor’s attitude is unreasonable and based around his interests to protect himself. I had a similar situation when I was 21 and took an overdose. The first thing he did was tell me he was disappointed in me, and cut my meds out. I struggled like this for a year, then changed doctors. The difference was enormous.

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