How The American Mental Health Care System Failed Me (And Everyone I Know)

I write this now, at midnight, after spending two days in the ER after a complete mental break down. My life has slowly become more and more difficult as my depressive episode continues and swallows me whole. It hit me suddenly. I sobbed for two hours straight; and then I could not move. I was reduced to shaking, nearly passing out three times, and going completely non-verbal. My friend drove me to the ER, and I was signed in as a psychiatric patient.

They did the usual; blood work, urinalysis, EKG. I was placed it what was called the “quiet room” and had a care giver who would watch over me to make sure I was okay. I answered all the questions they asked honestly. “Do you feel hopeless?” Yes, “Do you feel like your life is worthless?” Yes, “Do you have a quality of life?” No.  They told me I was the first on the list to see the ER psychiatrist, and that I would be evaluated soon.

I arrived at the hospital at 8pm. They tell me at 11pm that the psychiatrist is actually not here. So I will have to spend the night, and I would be seen in the morning. This was especially frustrating considering I was used to this. I have been generally ignored by physicians in emergency rooms most of my life. Especially as a mentally ill, disabled person. We are pushed to the back burner. Even in an ER that currently had three patients who were there for bone injuries.

Today, the day I am writing this from my home, the psychiatrist who was meant to see me at 11am saw me at 3pm. And he treated me like garbage. I explained what I have been through. I explained my experience yesterday. I explained that it pains me to get out of bed, terrifies me to leave the house, that I literally have no reason to be alive. And his response was simply “Well. You came here today.”. As if that completely invalidates any feelings caused by my major depression. I am a very quiet person about my mental illness. It takes a lot for me to reach out for help. It exhausts me because I want and need to be there for others, and taking care of myself is terrifying. So to finally open up and be shut down over and over was horrible. I feel degraded and ignored.

Not sick enough to get treatment, but not well enough to exist.

He told me that I will be safer at home, though I feel extremely triggered here. He told me to find a new therapist, even though he was aware of my financial status as well as my lack of proper insurance. He dismissed my feelings of worthlessness by what I was wearing. A ring from one of my best friends, and my past brother’s watch. Items I find comforting. I went to this ER because this particular hospital has a whole ward devoted to the treatment of major depressive disorder. Which is what I happen to have. But the only thing I got was a hand shake that hurt, two hospital bracelets, and discharge papers about an illness I have lived with for years.

I was sent home, and I haven’t been able to get out of bed since my return. I cannot keep food down. I cannot stop sobbing. I cannot handle the feelings that come with being human. But, as I was told, I am just fine. I am perfectly stable.

And what saddens me is that this has happened to many friends of mine. People who bravely reached out and asked for help and treatment for highly stigmatized illnesses. They are shut down and refused treatment because of how they appear rather than how they feel.  I understand these doctors do a lot of work. But we need to start caring for patients who do require assistance. Who require immediate intervention and help. I have been in this depressive episode for two months; and I see no light at the end of this tunnel.

We need to be offered more treatment options. We need to be LISTENED to. No one knows our minds and bodies as well as we as individuals know them.

I feel shamed, silenced, and like a failure. And one day I wish that when I ask for help; someone will finally take my hand and do just that.

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