A few uncomfortable encounters on Twitter have started me thinking about: at what point in my recovery will my opinions be considered legitimate instead of being put down to being due to a disorder?
Yesterday, someone on Twitter professing to be a former mental health worker (a psychotherapist I believe) finished a discussion before blocking me by saying:
“I no longer get paid to put up with such behaviour. #blocked”.
Who in particular said it is irrelevant, it’s the attitude behind it that concerns me. At no point in the conversation was I abusive or otherwise yet such a remark just tripped off the tongue, which to me is a telling indictment of attitudes of some mental health professionals and an attitude I have come across in my experiences in mental health services.
In addition, I’ve sometimes participated in #mhchat which professes to be for all those interested in mental health. Given that I have experienced mental health problems and am interested, I assumed I would be welcome and my opinions listened to and engaged with in discussions. Some of that has occurred but for the most part, I am ignored and the ‘professionals’ in the chat tend to adopt an ‘us v them’ stance.
I have had positive experiences too of professionals on Twitter and will note them later, however, this all ties in with my experiences of a service user with a diagnosis of personality disorder (pd) and something I need to get out there so to speak.
As a service user with a diagnosis of pd, all too often, any legitimate (or perhaps not so legitimate yet valid) opinions, views and questions have been put down to my having a pd. Professionals have not seen past the diagnosis of pd. They have not assessed each opinion/view/question – I have a pd therefore anything I say can’t possibly be valid or needed to be listened to, it’s merely a symptom of my pd. Such dismissals have a somewhat high correlation with professionals clearly feeling challenged that their position as a professional is not by itself enough to make everything they say completely right.
This leads me to the questions:
- At what point in my recovery will my opinions/views/questions be considered on an equal basis as those of someone who has not had a diagnosis of pd?
- How does my being on a journey into recovery (yet with the same pd label) somehow now make my opinions/views/questions something worth considering by mental health professionals whereas before, the same opinions were not even given a look-in?
- When will the ingrained attitude of many mental health professionals change so as not to have them resort back to the lazy stance of: I’m not going to bother considering anything you say because you have a diagnosis of pd?
I suppose only time will tell but I’m trying also to think through what I suppose they would call a dialectic in DBT: how to balance wanting and needing my opinion to be heard as an individual and my pd diagnosis not coming into it with wanting my opinion and views being heard precisely because I have experiences and opinions as a service user.
It’s important for me to note that although I have had many experiences of my views and questions being dismissed by mental health professionals due to my pd diagnosis, I have also had positive experiences within services and on Twitter where that has not been the case. I very much dislike the whole ‘mental health professionals are all evil and uncompassionate’ stance and prefer instead to acknowledge differing experiences I have had within services.
The most important experience of being properly listened to in services has been through the DBT programme that I’ve been very fortunate to able to access via a neighbouring NHS Trust. The staff, although very much aware of the thought patterns and problems that can arise with individuals with a diagnosis of pd, do not dismiss a patient’s opinions on that basis (or any other). Not once within the 16 months of the DBT programme (which includes the assessment and pre-treatment period of the programme) has that been my experience. A principle behind DBT is that the therapist/team is a consult to the patient – it’s a co-operation, not an attitude of us v them.
Finally, I’d like to note that last night on Twitter I had a very positive experience of mental health professionals in #mhnursechat. I was not the only one. Both professionals and service users that took part in the chat regarding borderline personality disorder felt a real sense of professionals and patients chatting on an equal level – no us v them mentality. Hopefully, such an attitude will become commonplace rather than the exception.