Archive for » September, 2010 «

Mental Health System is Damaged

The brains of the mentally ill are damaged in some manner.  Neurotransmitters are either overactive or not functioning.  Synapses aren’t working correctly.  Whole sections of the brain aren’t working as they should.  Mirror neurons are missing.  There aren’t enough neurons.  Ventricles are too large.  The cortex isn’t working properly.  On and on, hundreds of theories regarding what is wrong with the brain to result in mental illness.  The problem is, the human brain is so complex, that even the highest trained neurologists can’t comprehend how exactly the brain works…how complex it really is.

The same could be said about the mental health system because it is just as damaged as a mentally ill brain.  Different clinics prefer to work with specific types of clients.  Some clinics don’t want to be responsible for the patients who have severe mental illness or have a history of self-harm or suicide attempts.  Some clinics have policies that border can be viewed as unethical and certainly are capable of stripping away the rights of the mentally ill individual.  Some doctors would prefer to nearly incapacitate their clients with large amounts of medication simply to make them easier to deal with.  Other doctors don’t really want to take clients who might require more than a 15 minute session every  months.  Here, the problem is, the people who need mental health services can’t always figure out how to get those services because the system is damaged…it doesn’t always make sense because it isn’t working properly.  It is similar to a schizophrenic, we aren’t always rational because our brains don’t always tells us things that make sense.

Since my last post, I obtained an appointment with yet another mental health clinic in town.  I went to the intake assessment in which my assigned therapist went over all the paperwork that I had to sign and then asked me a lot of questions to determine what sort of help I need, give the psychiatrist some background information, and develop a treatment plan with me.  To the best of my understanding, getting an intake assessment means that the clinic is willing to provide you with services.   Some of the questions asked involved how often do I hallucinate (daily), how often I have delusional thoughts (daily), the last time I harmed myself (August: non-lethal; June: lethal), the last time I was hospitalized (Sept. 2009), and what medications I am taking.  The therapist appeared to be very concerned about my answers to these questions.  I don’t quite understand some of that.  She wanted to know why I wasn’t on anti-psychotics.  Well, I functioned a lot worse when I was on them and they didn’t eliminate my delusions.  They were also negatively impacting my physical health.  So what was the point?  If I am doing better while not being on those medications currently…why is there a problem with not taking them?  Further, I am not completely against taking these medications.  Currently, I wouldn’t really have a huge problem with it because I strongly feel that my brain needs a rest from such psychotic symptoms…I’m struggling a lot to keep everything together.  I wouldn’t mind taking a break and allowing the medications to help somewhat with this…provided a better medication could be found that did not cause my level of functioning to plummet again.

Anyways, exactly a week after that appointment, I received a phone call from the clinic saying that my appointment for tomorrow with the psychiatrist had been canceled.  It was canceled because I am seeing a therapist through my college and this clinics policies state that it is unethical for a patient to see more than one therapist.  Hold on, when did I lose the right to decide what treatment I believe is in my best interest?  The person who called me tried to explain why this is unethical.  His example: a person has a phobia of spiders.  One therapist works on desensitization and wants the person to hold a tarantula eventually.  The other therapist feels that a phobia of spiders is rational and doesn’t need to be worked on. Okay sir, your example not only assumes that I would not take measures to prevent such confusion, but also assumes that I am dumb.  Why would I ask one therapist to help me with a fear of spiders…then turn right around and ask the other therapist to help me with this problem as well?  Why in the world would I subject myself to such confusion?!  I wouldn’t because I know that by doing that…I would be wasting the benefits of having multiple therapists and I would be confusing myself.  I informed this man that when my treatment plan was developed during the intake assessment, it was specifically decided that we would work on things that I am NOT working on with my other therapist!  In response, he fumbled around and responded with something about how it just goes against the policies.  Bullshit I tell you!  Those are stupid policies and you know that I just proved that point!  This man went on to explain to me that he would help me obtain services with another psychiatrist.  Now, over the summer I called a lot of local clinics multiple times.  Of all the psychiatrists accepted by my insurance, the one at this specific clinic is the only one accepting new clients…the others don’t even know when they will be accepting new clients again!  So I asked this man, what happens if you can’t help me find another psychiatrist?  His response, “I’ll broaden my search to include other states.”  Huh?  You feel it would be better for me to drive hours away to see a psychiatrist when there is one perfectly available in my own town?  How is that for ethics?!

But this isn’t the only stunt this clinic pulled last week.  See, I had already encountered the multiple therapist problem before…and I was under the impression that it had been resolved.  The director of the college counseling services had spoken with the director of this clinic.  An agreement had been made…I see a therapist at the clinic once a month and they will allow me to continue seeing my current therapist and still provide my with psychiatric services.  Okay, agreed.  But last week, the director changed her mind.  So I spoke with her to see if perhaps she had forgotten about this agreement?  She denied it had ever occurred.  Yes, she spoke to the director at the college but he supposedly didn’t tell her I was seeing another therapist.  She couldn’t tell me why the director of a counseling center would contact her if I was not seeing anyone at that counseling center.  So I asked her what I was supposed to do to find another psychiatrist since this clinic was literally my last option.  She told me, “that isn’t my problem.”  She had also tried to explain to me that seeing multiple therapists was not therapeutically beneficial.  I asked her if she thought that not receiving psychiatric care was more therapeutically beneficial.  That made her angry.  She proceeded to yell at me and told me, “I am not going to argue with you anymore.  This isn’t my problem and I am through with it.  Have a good day.”  And then she hung up.  I’m sorry…at what point in the education and training needed to become a director of a mental health clinic were you told that it is okay to yell at the mentally ill?  I am being lectured about ethics and that lecture is concluded by yelling at me and being very rude?  I think you are sending mixed messages Ma’am.  more…

Not Everything Can Be Sugar Coated

I’ve made a good attempt to keep this blog relatively light-hearted.  Maybe that isn’t the right word.  In my goal of providing an example that despite having schizophrenia, I still lead a productive and fairly normal life, I have failed to provide examples of the true reality of having schizophrenia.  This isn’t fair to anyone who reads this blog.  I cannot be ashamed of my own illness and at the same time, try to be a realistic example of it.  Realistically, I would not actually have schizophrenia if it didn’t continue to affect me or cause me to struggle in ways that most neurotypicals cannot comprehend.  So why, in a blog in which I hope to provide honest insight, should I sugar coat the reality of my life?

The past several days have taken a huge toll on me.  I’m fairly certain that lately I have been going in and out of psychosis…something I haven’t had to deal with in over a year.  That is not to say that I don’t experience symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions very often.  In fact, rarely a day goes by in which I don’t have to ignore a few hallucinations or fight with my brain to recognize the irrational aspects of a delusion.  But, I strongly believe that successfully accomplishing these aspects of my daily life are  not signs of active psychosis.  When my daily life becomes a fight–a dirty, tooth and nail brawl with my brain–I don’t classify that as managing my own symptoms.  more…