By, Prerna Nambiar
First, I want to say thank you. Thank you to my family and friends. Thank you to my dad for supporting my decisions and taking time out of work to help me. Thank you to my mum — although you may not always understand why I feel the way I do, you were always there when I needed you. Thank you to my fiancé who has supported me in my recovery and helped me become a stronger person.
Thank you to my best friends who visited me when I was unwell and for your continuing ability to cheer me up. Thank you to the friends I made in the hospital who kept me sane at the hardest of times. Thank you to the nurse who listened to me when I said I could no longer cope, comforted me when I cried and made me laugh at the darkest of times. Thank you to the support workers who listened to me, cheered me up and didn’t give up on me.
Thank you for beating the stigma.
Unfortunately, this is where my thank yous end.
This is a letter to the doctors, psychiatrists, nurses, support worker and police who didn’t understand.
I was unwell. I was really unwell, but this was often ignored, laughed at or abused when you saw my diagnosis. When I poured my heart out, I was told I was making my illness up. I was told I was “playing the system” when I finally trusted someone enough to explain how I felt. I was ignored as I cried in despair that I did not want to live anymore. I was told I would never get better. I was left. I was lost and confused and those who are there to help made me feel like I had to deal with my problems on my own.
Imagine you break your arm. Your arm is swollen, painful and unrecognizable. You go to the doctor, you explain your symptoms. You expect the doctor to x-ray your arm, to straighten it and put it in plaster to heal. But instead, the doctor tells you he is not going to fix it. He’s not going to fix it because you have described the textbook symptoms and you are obviously playing a game. You want your arm to be broken so you have made it seem that way.
He sends you away and say it will get better on its own. You ask why he won’t x-ray it; why has he made this decision. You don’t understand. You are in pain. But the doctor shuts the door in your face and tells you to get on with it. You knock on the door to ask the doctor again and he tells you to go home, that you have wasted enough of his time.
Sounds ridiculous, right?
But this is what happened to me, not with a broken arm but with my mental health.
I asked for help but I was treated like a nuisance.
I asked for help but I was told to get on with it.
I saw others around me, same stories but a different diagnosis. They were helped. They were treated with dignity and respect. I wasn’t.
So to those doctors, psychiatrists, nurses, support worker and police who didn’t understand, I want you to listen.
I am not a nuisance; I am unwell. I deserve to be treated with respect. I am not angry at you, but I am saddened to see that those who are supposed to be there to help, those who should understand, are still overwhelmed with the stigma that is mental health.
I am not dangerous.
I am not a liar.
I am not a criminal.
I am not my illness and I am not ashamed.
I am scared.
I am confused.
I am me.