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