Hello, World

I logged in having received notification of a new comment. I am always both somewhat embarrassed to come back to this blog, and also somewhat superstitious – that if I come back to this identity and look at it and revisit it, I might somehow fall back into this pit, or if I come here and write that things are better, I am tempting fate.

But reading the lovely comments left here again made me incredibly thankful that I spent the time writing this site when I was in the middle of the storm – knowing that it might be a light or comfort to someone else, or just plain old normalize the experiences, or help someone weather having to visit the doctor or emergency. I find the older writings of mine too painful to read, for the most part. I do live in terror of falling back into this place.

It still continues to get a fair amount of traffic – mostly people wanting to know what will happen at the doctor or for emergency care if they go for self-harm (the most hits are for some version of that question), if the doctor will know that they did it, why they have to wear paper gowns, various specific drugs I have taken, or cyclothymia. However, one of the top search terms is “doctors who self-harm” or “how to talk with patients who self-harm” or “can I be a doctor if I self-harm?” (YES!) Somehow I seem to have become an expert on this, though I’ve never done it.

As for me, for those following the rest of the story: I did end up relocating to the States and took a job as a GP in a smallish, somewhat obscure city, working at an urban clinic and hospital that do mostly charity work. Drug abuse is rampant here, including prescription drugs, and while that can sometimes be exhausting to deal with, often some of the underlying causes people end up in that situation are similar to what I have experienced and maybe I am helpful to some of these patients. Due to the financial situation of many patients, I am doing a lot of psychiatry because they cannot afford to be seen by a psychiatrist, and I think that my vast (ha ha) experience taking many of these medications and knowing what they feel like does help guide me. The bosses seem to appreciate me here, and I do feel like I fit in, in some ways for the first time in my life, as this part of the country is known for alternative spirituality and many of the GPs are involved in some kind of humanistic medicine, meditation, mindfulness training. One of the psychologists at the clinic where I work is starting a DBT therapy group, and I hope my schedule will allow me to co-lead with him, or at least participate in some way.

I continue with the same partner, stably. I have gained about 40 pounds from the medications, but have become the proverbial “fat and happy” woman. My writing talent has fled, however. I am no longer an introvert; in fact, one of the biggest changes I’ve seen in the medication is that people come up to me and ask me for directions. When they talk about personality psychopharmacology – well, that’s my clear evidence that it exists. Something has so profoundly changed that even passers-by notice it. I do not like this.

The sleep disturbances from doing the job are difficult on me. The other day I worked a night shift, and then went to a meeting and one of my new doctor friends said, “You seem a little manic, eh?” Joking, but that terrified be as I was a bit garrulous and inappropriately jocular. This terrified me. Sometimes, before sleep, I slip into morbid fantasies about what would happen and how various coworkers would react if I had another meltdown. My emergency plan is to take an extended sick leave and return to my country to recover if that happens.

At one of our meetings, another physician here who I greatly respect gave a talk about his experiences with mental illness which were astoundingly similar to mine (manic depressive spectrum disorder, long time of wondering if he was just “a self-absorbed asshole” before diagnosis) and left the same kind of relationship wreckage across his life. Unlike me, he stabilized and then went to medical school (definitely the easier path and the one I recommend if possible, but it can be done during medical school). He gives a funny, lively, and raw-honest talk about this and was open about his disorder while applying to medical school and further training and this job. I later found out he gives this talk about his suicidality at universities and medical schools all over the country, to try to reduce the stigma, prevent physician suicide, and give hope to other aspiring young people who feel like their lives have been derailed. I was incredibly proud of him, left in awe, but for a long time after that, every time I saw him, that was all I could think of. I wished I could be like him – someone people admire, who is strong enough to come out and tell the truth and remain standing, and not have to flee. But I’m not, especially since I came into my medical career with all of this stuff around me and was known in medical school and early career as somewhat unstable and highstrung. I don’t want to be like that again.

So yes, I am in some kind of remission, living in fear of the return; you can be a doctor if you are crazy; I don’t know what will happen if you tell your doctor you self-harm but a lot of doctors are crazy too and a lot are judgmental bastards. You can get better from being crazy but there will be changes to who you are. My answer to everyone seeking answers or solace here is an overwhelming yes, yes, yes.

Much love to you,my fellow touched, and may your next incarnation be more beautiful.

It’s been a while

I’m not sure it’s a great sign I’m posting here, but saw that I still get hits and comments so I thought I would. Having logged in after a long time off, I see that I have hit 50,000 reads. That blows me away. Thank you. I hope it has helped someone.

Unfortunately, the emails people sent me got erased so if you never got an answer to some burning question from me, send again. I know I used to get a lot of mails from pre-meds and med students and the like, wanting help on planning their lives with the crazy. I’m totally happy to help, for whatever I can do, but if you wrote me and didn’t get an answer, just write again.

I’m now working in an underserved community, doing womb-to-tomb medicine. It’s as good as it gets in the medical world, I guess, as far as people being a little more right-brained. One of the docs even gave a talk about his own struggles with the crazies, which seem to be much the same flavor as mine. It’s funny, I so admired him for being able to do that, but now every time I see him, all I can think of is that, and I know it’s just not a good idea.

Still doing the 80 hour weeks, though. I moved, and here they have seasons, and their winter was oh so cold. I hate the feeling of layers over all of my body, all the time, and always being cold. The days don’t shorten that much and I did ok, and now the days getting longer have made me a little funny – horny and too loud and overly energetic. I hope it will be just a little funny though. They seem to like me ok here, and I wouldn’t want to blow that by going all nuts. The one thing I am looking forward to at work is that they may let me run a DBT or some other kind of crazy girlz group, though I’m a little hesitant because the way I would approach things (melodramatic legend, myth, and metaphor) seems so far removed from the socioeconomic language of the patients here, and I do enjoy the palliative care stuff. It feels like a kind of holy midwifery to me, though I do hate the power of making people make decisions and messing with the course of their lives.

I still hate delivering babies, though. I can’t remember if I’ve written about that before or not. It always seems like I’m ushering in 80 years of suffering.

Things, on the whole, have stabilized, mostly due to medication, but of course, there is always the price of blunting. And getting fat. One of the meds, the one that makes me nice and cuddly, makes it nearly impossible to concentrate long enough to write. I have to keep away from thinking too much, and I do miss my sense of feeling, but the working so hard and long is good for keeping thoughts and dreams away. The patients I work with have often had such wretched lives that it helps me be grateful for what I have, for the blessing of being able to settle into a boring, mildly dissatisfied middle-class life. And that depth of experience, well, yeah, I do sometimes miss it, and do sometimes know that I’m walking someone else’s path, and have those grave feelings of not doing what I was put on this planet to do, and fear of being sent back next time ’round to do it right. But fortunately, modern pharmaceuticals can mostly keep that away.

So I’ll leave you with this.

for prodigal read generous
–for youth read age–
read for sheer wonder mere surprise
(then turn the page)

contentment read for ecstasy
–for poem prose–
caution for curiosity
(and close your eyes)

Thanks for reading.

While I wasn’t crazy

The meds (Goddess be blessed) seem to have been working out and things suddenly, almost overnight, turned OK. (For those who are wondering – it’s Lamictal-Paxil, both in very low doses.) It has stifled the writing a little, as well as taking away much of interest to write about here.

I had a lot of last month off – not necessarily for fun stuff, CME type stuff and credentialing mostly, but still…not work. This was wonderful.

I’ve been able to appreciate the world again, to want to see it and love it.

Last night and into today, after being back about a week, and again on shift work, though not as brutal as before, I had nightmares all night. I know some of the readers are into that psychological stuff, so I’m going to do a highlights recap here and see what anyone thinks is fun to toss out as interpretation.

To be fair, I’m not sure at all what I believe about dreams – whether they are from the unconscious or some kind of psychological source, whether a neurological cleaning and memory mechanism (probably I mostly believe that), or something metaphysical (“One-sixtieth of every dream is true?”).

I will note the following events over the last week. When I was at the clinic, a doctor was attacked by a patient and the patient’s relative. It wasn’t particularly scary when it happened, more like a high school type fight, and I called the cops to come break it up. I was upset by it but not terribly, more at the fallout regarding how the doctor was treated by management and licensing authorities.

Second, there was a recent break-in at the neighbor’s apartment. Simple theft, about a month ago, but I felt sort of invaded. It’s not like car theft, I mean, it’s someone’s home.

Third: I have been practicing lots of meditation/metta style (though that one feels oddly selfish to me) and various other techniques. I’m in the “noble failure” stage, but am still working at it. I’ve finally come to see the value in a settled, happy person as being kinder to the world (whereas in the past, I thought, very much in line with my culture, that a degree of righteous anger and discontent was necessary to keep one working to better things). Last night I came to bed somewhat anxious, and tried the deep breathing techniques, and tonglen, which has seemed scary in the past. I’m wondering that, if you believe in it, it’s psychological resistance to trying to calm anxiety.

Fourth: I don’t write about this a lot, but I live in a part of the world embroiled in a violent conflict. Last week, the government on “my side” (if one can say that, though in this case, that kind of thinking – the my side / their side just means everyone loses) did something violent and inexcusable. And it feels like there’s nothing that anyone can do to stop this, and my partner and I have once again been wondering: United States, Australia, New Zealand? Over the last ten years, every time I am in North America, I feel like it is very shallow, everyone having these long conversations about which tile to pick out. I was there recently, though, and my partner and I promised each other that if we go there, we wouldn’t become that. And when we came back here, and this event happened, we said, Fuck…maybe the conversations about floor tiles aren’t so bad. Especially compared to the ones about casualty numbers.

Fifth, the most prosaic: it has turned hot here, and sleeping during the day (and night) means a lot of sweating and physical discomfort and icky sleep.

Dream One Woke me up at 5 AM, panicky, to the point of having to turn on the light and check the house:

It is night at the clinic, toward closing time, maybe 1 AM. We’re trying to close up – the clinic in the dream is pretty much like it is in real life, nothing distorted in the layout, same auxiliary staff, and they keep letting people in (theoretically, we see everyone who walks in by official closing time). I’m sorta pissed off because they keep letting “one last patient” in. (Note: this actually happened last night.) At the end, everything is closing up, lights are off, doors are locked, and we’re trying to see the end of the patients.

Then someone comes to the door. He’s scary. He is tall, maybe 7 feet, and thin and has shoulder-length hair and doesn’t look quite human. His eyes are dark and blank, he looks sort of like pictures of Jesus, but scary. He’s dressed in white. He has no facial expression, but he is here to be treated.

And he is terrifying, and we tell them, “Don’t let him in,” but then something about having to treat all comers and ethics pops up and they let him in. It becomes immediately apparent that he is a murderer. Also, he removes two prostheses from his lower legs, revealing bilateral Syme amputations, and he walks on the stumps, and his shins are disproportionately long anyway so he’s still tall.

He has a medical letter describing that he is part of a white supremacist motorcycle gang (not really something found in this part of the world), and lost the feet in an accident. He is also described as having had sociopathic tendencies during the hospitalization.

We are terrified, I go to call the police. On the phone I calmly tell them where we are, and fumble trying to think of the street number (Note: this is exactly what happened when I called the police for the real-life incident, we’re in a shopping center and everyone just says that and no one knows the actual number, but they asked.)

Everyone tries to hide from him around the clinic, while still trying to treat him. I wake up suddenly with the image of the man in my mind, and wonder if this will be one of those terrible dreams that are almost forgotten by morning. My beloved cat is sleeping on one side of me, my partner on the other.

In the end I turn on the light and get up and check the house.

I have no mental association of a man of that description whatsoever. Or white supremacist gangs.

Dream Two

I am lying in bed, and for some reason I am sobbing and very ill. Sweating. I hear noise outside toward the apartment door (it opens onto a courtyard), and go to see what happened. I discover that the window and door have been attempted to be broken into; the window is open, and the metal and paint around the door lock is chipped away, and the thing that covers the gap at the bottom of the door has been prised off, leaving a gap.

The gap under the door is big enough for my cat to go in and out, and he is there creeping under and playing around, along with a strange cat who I don’t want in the house. Also, I know that now I have a hole where mice and snakes can enter and I think, Shit, what can be done about this?

I decide to call the landlord and tell him this needs to be fixed. I think I am in underwear and a T-shirt and I see my neighbor (a sort of friend, my age, her husband went to med school with me) heading off for the day, and I realize that my face is all red and it is obvious that I have been crying, so I try to explain that I’m ill, not crying. Somehow it all feels like a ruse – both the illness and the crying.

At some point in this dream, I am sweating and shivering and feverish curled up on a miscellaneous shrink’s couch, being observed. I think that also somewhere in the dream, I receive an invitation to my medical school graduation ceremony, an invitation which is vaguely threatening. I am trying to make the connection between those two events.

When I wake up, I am truly sweating because it is hotter than hell in the room, being mid-day in a bedroom that gets morning sun.

Dream 3

The last dream.

I am in my mother’s room – but the house of my middle school years, where we all were desperately unhappy, not the house of childhood that I loved, or the one in late high school where my mother lives today, which is her house more than anything. Whenever I have a nightmare that takes place at a childhood home, it is in this house, and whenever I dream about this house, it is a nightmare.

In real life: We moved there in my father’s desperate attempt to climb a social class, and all went to hell there when we didn’t fit in and life did not become the dream that this McMansion was supposed to buy him. I lost my neighborhood and school friends and he became more and more miserable.

In the dream:

I am in my mother’s bedroom and she’s sitting in bed, we’re chatting. My sweet cat is there, and he has found a little kitten that looks a lot like him. (Note: in real life, my mother recently visited a friend who is bottle-raising a litter of kittens and she told me that there was one who looked like a baby version of mine.) I am trying to convince her to keep him, as he is very cute and I feel sorry for him. The two cats seem inseparable, playing around various places in the house.

The two cats keep playing around. I see that the little kitten is somewhat dirty and has fleas. I take him into the adjacent bathroom – also true to the original floor plan of the house, down to the two vanity sinks, and wait for the water to heat up to bathe him, thinking that I need to go out and buy something as a flea treatment too.

I fill the sink with water and wash the little guy, chatting with Mom all the while about how long it takes the water to warm up, how much nicer he’ll look cleaned up. But the kitten starts choking a little, and I make sure to keep his head out of the water but he keeps choking.

Somehow, he seems to be getting smaller and in more and more distress. Finally, as the water drains, I realize he has become even smaller than a newborn kitten and has died, and changed shape. The core of him seems to shed the fur and creep off down the drain. I am terrified and don’t know what happened, what I did. I saw that something inside of him, something stick-like, slithered down the drain, so I wait, not sure he could be really dead. The skin and fur are still in the sink.

Then, a fully grown green dragonfly emerges from the sink, spreads and shakes out its wings, looks like a praying mantis. It flies around and I realize that whatever the thing was, it wasn’t a cat, or it was, and became a dragonfly. It flies around the bathroom. The turn of events is horrifying – how could this have happened? How could it have not been a kitten?

Downstairs, there is someone at the door, and my beloved cat goes to see who. I don’t open the door, because I know it is someone frightening. I think it is this trashy neighbor who lived a few doors down.

And then I woke up – the phone rang.

I have very few associations with this dream, except that this house appears from time to time in my nightmares. I’m not particularly afraid of dragonflies and have no associations with them other than admiring their long lifespan in high school biology. That bedroom and bathroom were on the third floor, don’t remember any kind of bug problem there.

My cat did once bring a praying mantis home (in my current apartment, he wasn’t even born at the time we lived in that house). Why did he have a double?

* * *
The only unifying theme I can see here is doors, closed doors, intruders behind the door. As a kid, door knocks when I was home alone used to terrify me, I’d run and hide, I think as a result of being a sensitive kid shown those “Stranger Danger” type filmstrips at school. I have never been the victim of a home burglary or assault. No one scary ever came to the door in real life.

So – anyone see any other threads? For whoever likes this kind of stuff – you’re invited to go at it. Is something coming for me?

Oddly, my partner also reported a night of nightmares, making me lean more toward either the metaphysical or heat explanation.

As I said…

Crazy doctors are better for crazy patients.

Other than that, I’m here, the new med seems to be ok, I mean, at least I function, but has absolutely shot my writing ability and drive. The words don’t fly, I don’t have the motivation, the little voice doesn’t talk. Trade-offs. I’m coasting through picking up odd jobs.

In response to a comment on an older post, I wrote this:

Since last posting, I found a different psychiatrist, and after a few more med attempts, landed on one that works, and I haven’t been back to see him since. And hopefully I won’t. The difference was immediate, the guy was … not great, but PROFESSIONAL. No mind fucks, no innuendo. I don’t really understand what exactly happened with the one before, I think in retrospect a lot of the drama and trouble was not my fault. The perspective of distance from the situation has let me see more clearly and stop blaming myself for someone else’s problems and emotional shit. I have not ever been in any kind of relationship like that before. The best explanation I’ve heard so far is that somehow we crossed in past lives or something. It is just one of those things.

Now that I am reasonably well medicated, all the crazy just falls away. It’s so strange.

Sorry for anyone waiting for me to write or anything. It’s just not there anymore. I’m a little sad about that, but at least I am back among the living.

Article Link

NYT Book Review.
Diagnosis: Female
Click here for link.

May have to read it, wish I’d written it.

The Medical Paper Gown

I recently got an email from a reader that included this bit:

I just left the hospital last night after a small cut needed 7 stitches. Nothing big, just obviously a self inflicted wound. The nurse tried to force me to put on a gown in the middle of the ER while no other patients were wearing one. I realize now it was to see how many other cuts I had. She yelled at me when I refused.

Which led me to realize that a good topic for a post would be “What’s up with those hospital gowns?”

About gowns in general, I assume the reader is in North America.  The whole gowns thing is an American thing. Sometime in the 1950s, some efficiency expert decided that doctors could work faster if patients were all naked when they came in the room. But naked seemed too awkward, so the NOT-awkward paper gown was invented. And they tell you to get in it before the doc comes in, presumably to save time! There’s no real medical reason. Most doctors today probably don’t know this. Incidentally, there’s tons of discussion online between medical professionals about what is more sanitary/cheaper/classier – paper or cloth gowns, but no one seems to question much the whole necessity of the things. Check out this article, and don’t miss the comments! They go over and over when to gown, what kind, how to put it on, but NEVER ask why to do it at all.

Nakedness/gowning never caught on in the rest of the world. I suspect this might have to do with cost of either disposable gowns or laundry. I’ve never worked anywhere where those gowns even exist. Our ER has pajamas for people who come in covered in blood or whatever – but they’re just pajama pants and button-up shirts with a hospital logo. There are robe-type tops for people who are having heart attacks or something and might need very quick access to their chests…but nothing like the American hospital gown (except in labor and delivery, and those are also cloth nightgown type things and everyone brings their own clothes anyway).

So, when the reader asks, “Is this normal protocol for a forearm wound?” I have no idea. For someone who finds him/herself in that situation, what I’d recommend doing is just saying Ok to the nurse, and not changing. I seriously doubt anyone would notice.

I personally don’t think that any time saved by undressing a patient beforehand is worth causing discomfort/awkwardness. Every country I’ve worked in other than the US seems to agree. In most of the world, the standard practice is for a patient to come in the room and sit down and talk first, and then move to the exam table.

If we are on the subject of medical culture, I’ve also found that medical office rooms look weird in the US – most other places, the room is divided into the office part and the exam part, with a curtain or screen around the exam part and a locking door. The doctor sits at a desk, and the patient on the other side of the desk at first, moving to the exam table only later. It’s like walking into basically any other kind of office in the world. I have no idea what’s up with the weird rolly chairs and patients sitting on exam tables there.

To examine a patient, AFTER we’ve discussed what’s going on, we ask him or her to move to the table if necessary; if I only need to check their throat or something, I’ll just do it in the chair. No getting naked. They go to the table, and I either put my hand under the shirt or pull it up to listen to heart and lungs, pull pants/skirts down to the hip and shirts up to the ribcage to examine a stomach, whatever. It is NOT the world standard to do the whole gown thing or ask a patient to strip down to begin with. I guess sometimes, if I need to check feet or something, I wait a little for someone to take off their shoes…but I doubt it’s a significant amount of time. Not worth having every patient come in with shoes off.

I don’t do a lot of gynecological exams, but usually the standard is to just undress from the waist down, or pull a skirt up, and use a regular sheet to drape over the patient. I don’t give instructions, so some women wrap themselves with the sheet more like a towel after a shower, which is fine with me. If I know that the complaint is not likely to require a full internal exam (likely a yeast infection or something), I usually don’t even do this, I just have her lie on her back and slip her pants down to her knees and look like that while I stand at the side of the table. I think it’s less invasive if I stand there than between the legs, and it feels better to have pants around your knees than totally off. I do not use stirrups at all, just have them put their knees on the table and spread. I’m not even sure if most of my exam tables even have extendable stirrups. I think that the ass-hanging-off-table and feet floating in the air in stirrups is a much worse feeling than just lying down on the table.

Of course, I’d probably fail a medical school exam if I were seen doing this. And I don’t often do a really comprehensive gynecological exam where I need “full access.”

Other times I can think of where I need more exposure is during an orthopedic exam if I think legs might be different lengths or I want to check for scoliosis (both can be done in underwear or even with pants pulled down a little and shirt off, bra for the ladies), a full skin exam (which can be done in parts), rectal exam (which I do by just lowering the pants as little as possible while the patient lies on his side with knees bent, which I think is better than bending over, but if you’ve been through it, let me know if I’m wrong). Believe me, it feels better to have your underwear half pulled off or lifted than to sit around naked in a gown.

While we are on the topic, another practice that seems uniquely American in my experience is for the doctor to be running between multiple exam rooms at once. I’ve not seen another country where patients are briefly seen, asked to undress while the doctor leaves and sees another patient, and then returns. Most doctors have their own office where they sit all day, and patients enter, finish everything, and leave. Offices are therefore more personal as well, because they belong to a specific doctor and all of her shit is in there (well, especially if you are like me), not a clinic where doctors are bouncing all around looking for open rooms. I can’t wait to finally be settled in my own permanent office, where I can paint in warm friendly colors, and put in nice furniture and curtains and normal lighting rather than overhead.

One more thing: chaperoning! I personally hate this. My family doc is a man (I used to have only women doctors until I went to medical school and then realized that 1. it didn’t matter, and 2. I would be pretty pissed off if someone didn’t come to me just because I was a woman) and despite knowing me for years, he lately has started calling the secretary in for even simple exams.

I do understand why and all that, but on the other hand I find it kind of offensive – like, does he really think I’m going to sue him? It bugs me every time, messes up the basic trust of the relationship. And of course, it makes me wonder that if I weren’t a psych patient too, would he do it?

Thoughts? Do you want the chaperone or not?

Sodium Valproate, or “Here we go again…”

I started taking it a few days ago and I think I’m having a bad reaction. The physical stuff hasn’t been too bad, a little stomach trouble but that’s it. No super-drugged feeling.

But my mood has crashed. It’s now an active depression as opposed to a passive one. I woke up this morning crying with guilt and hopelessness. I thought of an upcoming vacation I’m supposed to take with my partner, how much I wanted to enjoy it, for us to have a nice time and be together again. Between the crazy and work, I have barely been present over the last two years, and he really loves me, so he has hung around and not said anything. I just wanted…I don’t know…for things to be nice. For him. For me.

And the shittiest part of it is that I was looking forward to it, despite everything. From the day we booked to a few days ago, I was thinking how nice it would be to have a vacation, albeit a shorter, closer one than we originally wanted. I was looking forward to the sea. I was looking up dumb tourist attractions in the area.  I was finally sort of happy about something.

Then, this  morning I woke up sobbing, then yelled at him over one tiny part of the arrangements that I didn’t take care of.

And I felt so hopeless. Guilty, that he deserves better. That everyone who knows me deserves better. That I have no future, my career is ruined and I haven’t been able to find a different kind of job. That I never will. As broke as I am, last night I gave away a sizeable chunk of money, in the hope that generosity would make me feel better, and also somewhere the hidden thought that I really won’t need it much more, that nothing matters.

This all happened so fast and unrelated to anything that it has to be a medication effect. That has been the one thread I have been holding onto, the objective knowledge that this is some freak thing, not really me. Real despair starts much more insidiously, doesn’t just appear overnight.

So, I have twelve days until we travel. I will give these drugs a two day washout, and then go back to my old med. I think I have about a month’s supply, if I scrounge through all the drawers. I just don’t think my soul could take another turning of something golden into shit. I need this week to be nice, not a week of me curled up in bed, hiding. If need be and it makes me too eager, I’ll toss in a little lithium.

I probably will cancel the appointment after with the new shrink. I don’t want to go there and immediately, first visit, have dumped the med he gave me and all. I don’t want to go down that road again, to be that patient. I don’t want to annoy anyone else or cause anyone any more trouble.

* * *

There is a post up at Shrink Rap with some fascinating comments. Seems like a lot of people have been through the same shit as me with shrinks. A lot of them do manage, in the end, to get ahold of their records. I called a patients’ rights group, and they said that I have every right, but they also said that to push it, it essentially goes to a government agency that gets on his ass, and there is no privacy. They recommended to start by sending a registered letter with a formal, documented request, to get a formal, documented refusal.

But I know that without a lawyer or some agency, that will get me nowhere. And right now, I’m so broke that I don’t have money to get a lawyer to write a letter that will serve as a reminder of the law. That government overseeing agency will do it for a minimal fee, but then privacy is shot. A whole board of doctors sees it.

I still want those records, not even so much for what is in them as for the way that I was treated, like I don’t even exist, like a child – just refused with no regard to the law or anything. I’m just a psych patient, so he can refuse and there’s nothing I can do about any of it.

And there’s also the element of full disclosure. In medical school, they drilled into us that the ethical thing to do when something goes wrong with care is to open all files, be brutally honest. It is better for the patient to know the truth, and it is dishonest for the doctor to try to cover up. I just want to know the truth, what happened, why I ended up so hurt by the whole thing. Something went wrong, not unlike a botched surgery. I just want to know. To understand. To be able to leave behind.

Anyway – thoughts? Did anyone finally get records in an unusual or creative way? Or even a standard way without involving lawyers or courts?

* * *

So much for my resolution to stay away from thinking about how crazy I am. I hope this med wears off soon.

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