“Some People Have Real Problems”

As a nineteen year old, depressed to the point where I had stopped going to lectures, writing, or eating/ drinking anything besides wine and the occasional vegetable, I went to a doctor to see what I could do about it.

He said:  But you’re on paroxetine.
I said:       Yes.  It isn’t helping.
He said:   I mean, what brought this on?  Did anything traumatic happen in your childhood?
I said: No.
He said:  Well can’t you just… you know… get over this?

I swear that, though the conversation was probably a little longer, this was the crux of it and those were his exact words.  Even through a fog of absolute self-hatred I could see why what he was saying was wrong, though it still fuelled my guilt.  Some people have real problems.  Some people were hurt.  I have no right to feel like this.  Therefore I am a bad person.  Therefore I deserve this.  God, this is exhausting, I am going back to bed.

I don’t think I will ever forget that conversation.  I didn’t go back to the doctors again for ages.  I got more and more ill that year, and eventually got pretty seriously anaemic from a lack of nutrition.  Which, honestly, does not help with depression at all.

Eventually I was referred to a psychiatrist who said “You might have bipolar.  [it was still a “might” at the time and for quite a while].  Let’s try mood stabilisers.  It’s a chemical thing, you know.  It does get better.”

And suddenly Edinburgh Uni’s support services decided that I was worth listening to.  That is pretty shocking, isn’t it?  That depression was seen as something that’s “not really a disability… I don’t know what you can do about it” [University Advice Centre, direct quotation].  Something that couldn’t be helped and should have been caused by something else.  Something that couldn’t be classed as purely chemical, something that wasn’t an illness in its own right.  Either things have changed by now or Kent Uni just has better services…

But the idea that someone can be told, in essence, that their problem is ridiculous/ untreatable if it has no evident cause and the third anti-depressant hasn’t worked amazingly, they are not worth listening to… that has stayed with me, and continued to enrage me (on behalf of others as well).

Depression is an illness, not a weakness.

See it for what it is, and everyone concerned can have an easier time… especially the person whose very real problem it is.


21 thoughts on ““Some People Have Real Problems”

  1. I’m not sure how long ago this was, but I found my university (over the past 4 years) SO helpful on the most part. The first doctor I saw in my first year when I started feeling unwell interrupted me halfway through my explanation and said that most freshers feel that way and that I should go out clubbing more(!) After that though, I got a different doctor who was totally understanding and DSA (although dealing with Student Finance England themselves was quite distressing). I also got a couple of extensions. Hopefully support services are learning to cope with a wider range of illnesses now 🙂

    • My undergrad was about 5/6 years ago. Since then, support services have been completely amazing. Seriously. And I know what you mean about DSA and SFA (haha apt acronym for when they mess it up!) But it is so worth getting the support that you *deserve*- frustrating that some people still don’t see it as something deserved rather than desired, but steps are being made all the time I guess


      So glad you’ve had positive experiences since the “go out clubbing more” days- that is some of the most ridiculous advice I have ever heard!!

  2. Hmm … and I get scattered symptoms for anything from a cold to TB so it ust be all in my head hey:)
    … and I can never quite get the meds I need because the cluster of clinical symptoms the doc wants to see are incomplete most of the time…
    Talk about killing with care!

    • Thanks for commenting! Yeah, it is ridiculous really, if someone isn’t entirely textbook they get ignored completely, and made to think it must be “nothing”. Since when are symptoms of *anything* just nothing?

  3. Just….WOW. One of my first docs threw pills and a diagnosis of bipolar I at me, all within the first 20 minutes I ever met her. The next doc shot that diagnosis down within the first 5 minutes, and we are currently working on the symptoms rather than the diagnosis (although he did say paranoid schizophrenia). Thank you for sharing this, it helps to hear others have experienced similar, um… utter failure.

    • Hey, thank you so much for commenting. It does help to hear other people have experienced this kind of crap treatment. Sometimes I think it’s really best to work on the symptoms: diagnoses limit the treatment that you are offered, and while labelling something isn’t necessarily a bad thing, “boxing” somebody really is a bad thing. (Does that make sense?) Sorry you’ve had similarly ridiculous experiences to mine.

  4. I am so sorry. You would think people in healthcare would have more knowledge, but I think there are still so many people who believe you can “just get over it.” I left my last therapist in part because his solution for me in one session was “just stop it.” Right…like being clinically depressed is so much fun that I was holding onto for fun.
    Don’t listen to the idiots; unfortunately, there’s plenty out there.

    • Wow- that sounds like the worst advice a therapist could give! I’m glad you had the self-preservation to leave that kind of ridiculous “help” behind!!

      It’s horrible because a part of me always had that guilt of “I must just be making this up somehow” and that conversation “confirmed” it for me at that time. But since then I’ve been treated much, much better! It’s part of how I learned to stick up for myself I guess.

      Thanks so much for commenting and sharing some of your story!

  5. How true. Depression is as crippling as any physical disease or disorder…and harder to treat. I’m having a hard time with it myself, it’s always good to know I’m not alone.

  6. That’s the kind of attitude (Uni Health’s, I mean, not yours) that kills people. Thank God you finally landed where they knew what they were seeing, and understand that depression is a lethal illness, and so is Bipolar. Take good care of yourself.

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