I have worked in the medical field for a decade now and in that time I have met some very good doctors. Doctors who are honest, caring and compassionate and who genuinely want to help their patients.
That said, the following two doctors permanently tainted my view of doctors – especially in the mental health field – indefinitely.
I have struggled with depression and anxiety since childhood. After a rough, dysfunctional upbringing left me in a bad place both mentally and physically, I was Baker Acted for the first time at around the age of 14. I had spent the last six months planning out my death, but after my mandatory three day stint I thought for sure that I was cured for good. I had seen some really awful things in that facility that really put my life into perspective for me, and I was cured, for a while.
Unfortunately, depression isn’t something that just goes away. It can – and often does – come back with a vengeance.
How It Began
Fast forward about a decade and I have found myself on the brink, yet again. Depression is at my doorstep and it’s brought a friend with it: Self-medication.
In March of 2010 I lost a very close friend to a drunk driving accident. In just a few days my world had crashed around me. After he passed, I had no idea how to cope and it threw me into such a spiral for the next year and a half that you could argue I was a completely different person.
I didn’t eat. I lost so much weight. I never slept, because every time I closed my eyes I saw horrible, horrible images. I was eventually diagnosed with PTSD due to the fact that I would have flashes of morbid images day and night. I self-medicated because I didn’t have the means to see a professional or to get the care I desperately needed.
So, for a couple of years I dealt with it all myself. And by dealt with it I mean I took whatever substance I could to escape my own brain. Marijuana, alcohol, pills – it didn’t matter – if it took me to another place or allowed me to sleep, I took it. This, of course, just added an entirely new layer of misery onto my already pretty miserable existence.
Finally, in November of 2011 I had reached my breaking point. I found myself sitting in the shower with a blade against my wrist. I was done; I couldn’t take it anymore. Not only had I been dealing with depression, PTSD, substance abuse and insomnia, but I was also broke, stressed, overwhelmed and just generally surrounded by darkness no matter where I looked.
The First Doctor
I was Baker Acted the second time at the age of 22. It was a Monday and Thanksgiving was that Thursday. By Wednesday I was feeling much better. I was on a medication regimen that was helping immensely and the talk and group therapy I was attending was going well. Just like before, I saw that there were other people who had it so much worse than me and it gave me hope. I was learning how to cope with my grief and how to face it head on. Not only that, but things were happening at home that were going to make my home life better and more stable. Well, at least I thought so at the time.
The doctor who admitted me had told me that I would be going home before Thanksgiving Day and I was so happy! We had family in town and I told everyone and we started to make plans. That was until the doctor left for his holiday weekend and his replacement showed up.
When the time came for my daily check-up, this doctor immediately made me uneasy. His bedside manner was awful and he never looked me in the eye when he spoke. Still, I kept the thought of leaving firmly in my mind. Then he snatched that thought away with a simple sentence:
“Oh,” he said, as nonchalantly as if he was telling me the sky was blue, “you’re not leaving until Monday when the other doctor gets back.”
Of course, I become upset. I have already made plans to leave and see my family and celebrate my recovery. And because my body is a traitor, when I get upset I automatically begin to cry. They are tears of sadness and shock and anger. The other doctor had just told me I would be out! How could he do this? Then it got worse.
He looked at me for the first time and scoffed with a slight smile.
“You see?” he said, motioning toward me but talking to the other employee in the room. “That’s the problem with suicidal people. They just start crying when they don’t get their way.”
I sat in shock, tears silently streaming down my face, as he walked out of the room with a smug look on his face.
Finally, the nurse came in and asked me what was wrong. When I told her what had happened I noticed her tense up. She then told me not to worry about it and that she would work it out. I could tell that she, too, was angry and that she didn’t care for that doctor anyway.
A grueling hour later, she told me the news; she had convinced him to let me leave. I hugged her and thanked her a thousand times. After leaving, I sent a complaint to the hospital which was never followed up on. I saw him in the news receiving accolades just a few months ago.
He wasn’t the end, though. I still had another one to deal with.
The Second Doctor
During my outpatient treatment I went to see another specialist. My first appointment with him went really well and I was very excited to continue on the road to recovery with him.
I should have listened when an acquaintance told me, “He’s alright, but don’t make any mistakes or upset him. He’s got a really bad temper…” I just thought that the guy was a bad patient and had a bad experience. The doctor I met that first day couldn’t possibly have a bad temper! Oh, how wrong I was.
Everything was fine until his staff made a mistake in the schedule and it looked like I had missed an appointment when I hadn’t. When I came in for the appointment that I had made, he barged into the room, leaving the door wide open (a HIPAA violation) and began yelling and accusing me (just rude and bad bedside/human manner).
When I spoke up to defend myself, he responded with, “Stop! I’ll send you to inpatient right now if I don’t like the way you’re talking to me.”
Anger flashed through me and I bit back, “Then do it!”
He calmed down a little at that point. I then continued to explain what had actually happened when he cut me off again.
“I already talked to my receptionist,” he said, puffing his chest out, “and she said that’s not what happened. Are you calling her a liar? Come say it to her face!”
He then lead me out into the reception area. He got in her face and asked her about it. She sheepishly admitted that I was right and she had made a mistake. In one millisecond, his entire demeanor changed toward me.
“Okay,” he said, suddenly calm and collected – as if his blow up had never happened, “well why don’t you go ahead and make a follow up and I’ll see you in a month.” He said with a smile.
I was enraged, and honestly still am a bit.
I left that day without making a follow up and with hatred in my heart. Here I was, trying my hardest to get better and the people tasked with helping me were adamant on making it worse. I’ve never gone to another mental health professional and I honestly probably never will.
Luckily, I was able to learn to cope with my depression and then many of the underlying circumstances changed, allowing me to live in peace and happiness. Today I am better, but I still struggle occasionally.
Even though that was years ago, I still think about it to this day and become angry. I wonder how many other patients those two doctors hurt. How many patients have decided, like I did, never to seek help again because of their interactions with them? What if those people couldn’t recover like I did? What will happen/has happened to them?
The fact that I reported the first one and nothing was done and now he’s highly esteemed makes me hate the industry I work in. But the only silver lining is that it has made me a better medical professional. I will never allow any patient under my care be treated that way – no matter the circumstances or threat to my livelihood.