I’m trying to persuade a friend who is very ill to go to A&E tonight, or at least call 111. I wish I was where he is and could take him.
He is not at all well in so many ways. He’s waiting for several operations. The worst danger tonight is that he has unbearable pain and symptoms to do with blood clots he has; we know with these symptoms that there is a danger of a blood clot in his stomach. We know he should seek help urgently in these circumstances with these symptoms; medics have told him this.
The main reason he is very reluctant to get help is what was said to him by a doctor the last time he was admitted, a few days ago. The doctor made a range of sarcastic comments about him to nurses and another doctor and said outrageous things to him including that hospitals are for people who are really ill not timewasters like him! This was when he’d been admitted when he’d attended as he was instructed to for an ECG and scans. He was found to have three bloodclots in his leg, as well as the numerous other serious problems for which he is due to have operations.
I cannot conceive what would lead a doctor to say what this person did. I know anyone can have a bad day. Anyone can dislike someone. Doctors, nurses, HCAs and other staff in hospitals are under a critical amount of pressure, now more than ever. But what would lead someone to say such bitter, accusing, unsubstantiated, false things to a person they are specifically there to care for? Did the doctor actually believe it? Or was he somehow venting anger, hate, judgement, for some reason onto my friend?
Not only this but without asking any questions to determine his mental state and without advice from the psychiatry team at the hospital or the community mental health service my friend is seen in, the doctor said to my friend that he should be Sectioned, and started trying to arrange this. Was he assuming or insinuating that my friend’s physical health conditions didn’t exist and were delusions? In spite of countless scans and test results and reports? Had he branded my friend as attention seeking because that’s the stereotype he holds of people with the mental health problems my friend has? Did that stereotype have such a hold it negated the physical evidence in front of him? Or does he regard people with mental health problems as unworthy of help or care however much they need it and think instead we should be shut up in institutions out of the way of those who he thinks do deserve help?
I’ve been on the receiving end of this numerous times. I’m really hurting for my friend and knowing he’s been left in so much danger now. Whatever the reasons behind what that doctor said, his words have told my friend he’s unworthy of help and must not ask when he needs it. My friend struggled enough with that already. He has had enough abusive people telling him he deserves pain, deserves bad, is asking for it. I don’t know exactly how it is in my friend’s head of course, but I know from my own experience how much louder memories that tell us we are unworthy, that confirm what our abusers told us, scream at us than any fledgling sense of ourselves and our value can. Words like this doctor’s join with the voices accusing and taunting us and they do not fade; they take a grip of us and punish us if we do not obey them.
My friend is in unbearable pain now and potentially great danger, and I’m trying to persuade him to go to A&E or if he cannot bring himself to do that, to call 111 for advice. I’m praying that if he does speak to 111 – when he does, please God – the advisers that speak to him are compassionate and show him there are people that do want to help and do have compassion and will help and believe him.
What this doctor said to my friend was awful by any standard, I think. Still, I wonder do people, especially people in authority roles (such as those who determine the medical care we get), know how much difference their words make, for good and for bad? I think words do have greater power for those of us with BPD, with histories of trauma and abuse and rejection, and no doubt with many other health conditions too. This is our responsibility to be aware of and to try to learn ways to cope with and I’m starting to see that very gradually, with a lot of time, we can. It would not be at all fair to demand that other people treat us more carefully than they treat others. Actually, this is one of the things I fear demanding of others. But when we are already in crisis, desperately needing help, it would help so much if those caring for us knew the lasting difference their words and actions can make.