A recent opinion piece at the New York Times is creating a buzz about discrimination and, in particular, mental illness. And yes, migraine does come into the picture.
The author, who writes about personal experiences, has bipolar disorder. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
It’s little wonder that many people with a serious mental illness donâ€™t seek medical attention when they need it. As a result, many of us end up in emergency rooms â€” where doctors, confronted with an endless stream of drug addicts who come to their door looking for an easy fix â€” are often all too willing to equate mental illness with drug-seeking behavior and refuse to prescribe pain medication.
I should know: a few years ago I had a persistent migraine, and after weeks trying to get an appointment with any of the handful of headache specialists in New York City, I broke down and went to the E.R. My husband filled out paperwork and gave the nurse my list of drugs. The doctors finally agreed to give me something stronger than what my psychopharmacologist could prescribe for the pain and hooked me up to an IV.
I lay there for hours wearing sunglasses to block out the fluorescent light, waiting for the pain relievers to kick in. But the headache continued. “They gave you saline and electrolytes,” my psychopharmacologist said later. “Welcome to being bipolar.”
When I finally saw the specialist two weeks later (during which time my symptoms included numbness and muscle weakness), she accused me of being “a serious cocaine user” (I don’t touch the stuff) and of displaying symptoms of “la belle indifference,” a 19th-century term for a kind of hysteria in which the patient converts emotional symptoms into physical ones â€” i.e., it was all in my head.
Be sure to read the whole article here: When Doctors Discriminate
It made me think about just how many different kinds of discrimination there are. Have you experienced any of these?
- You’re over-reacting. I know, because you’re female.
- It’s just because you’re stressed. I know you’re stressed, because you have migraine. Which you have because you’re stressed.
- I know it seems worse than normal, but I’m sure it’s just another migraine. You get those, therefore it’s always going to be the same thing.
- It’s just a headache. Take two painkillers and stop bothering me.
- You have depression/bipolar disorder/etc. Therefore it’s all in your head. Just pull yourself together.
- You don’t have depression/bipolar disorder/etc. But everyone with migraine does. So you’re in denial.
Thankfully, most doctors aren’t that blunt. As a matter of fact, I believe that most doctors are actually doing a pretty good job with what they have, and they actually want to help you. So no, this is not an anti-doctor post.
However, sad to say, there are some doctors out there who are a little too quick to jump to conclusions (conclusions that may even be true some of the time), too quick to think they know more about a patient’s symptoms than the patient (an objective view is great, but patients can actually be pretty perceptive about what’s going on in their own bodies), and too quick to buy into stereotypes.
Do you feel like you’ve experienced discrimination? What kind? And what have you done about it? Let’s talk!