Sometimes I want to be unreasonable

I’m writing an email to my care-coordinator. I’ve spent the last hour on it. I am writing and rewriting, going over every word as carefully as I can. I question whether I am coming off as too demanding and try to be careful to get the tone just right: considered, measured and unemotional.

I am trying to come across as reasonable.

I wasn’t always careful to be reasonable when interacting with mental health services. I sometimes wonder if that’s why I got the personality disorder label given to me in the first place. It is dangerous to be both assertive and a woman when under mental health services.

The first time I was sectioned I was certainly not reasonable. I screamed and cried and banged on the doors. I protested when they took my shoe laces. I made a scene at ward rounds when the doctors didn’t listen. I cried when the promise of leave from the ward never materialised.

It is of course entirely natural to have this reaction to your freedom and liberty being taken away. To suddenly be taken by police car to a locked hospital, where nurses wander the corridors or sit in their office but rarely take the time to talk to you. It is frightening to be transplanted from your home to this unfamiliar place.

But in my most recent experiences of being in hospital I have tried to remember to be reasonable. When a nurse gave me someone else’s medication and I stumbled around the ward until I blacked out, I did not complain. When there were no beds after I was sectioned at home and had to spend 24 hours in a 136 suite, my clothes taken from me, sat alone in the corner in a ‘suicide smock’, I did not complain. In the following months I spent in hospital I outwardly tried to remain as calm as possible, even as I felt the anger and hurt rise up inside me. Sometimes it did spill out but I always managed to catch myself. I remember: you must appear reasonable.

The cost of not appearing to be reasonable is great. Your emotion will be pathologised and documented. Mental health workers will come to see you as ‘difficult’ before even meeting you. You will be followed around by a paper trail that paints you as a troublemaker. This is why I try to be especially reasonable – aggressively reasonable even – when meeting mental health professionals for the first time. I feel like I have to ‘prove’ I’m not that difficult patient those mental health professionals wrote about. And this is the real injustice: mental health professional’s prejudice when working with people given the personality disorder label ends up hurting us twice. Once in our interactions with them and again in the medical records that follow us around.

The problem is that once you have a personality disorder label, you can almost feel mental health professionals holding you at arms length when they speak to you. I have, of course, had good experiences. When I think back over all the people I have seen in mental health services I think back with gratitude and fondness at many people who helped me. The ones who treated me like dirt on their shoe, however, were the ones who said it was me who was being difficult. Their deficiencies were deflected onto me. But I learnt very quickly that it would be a bad idea to complain about the poor care I received; it would only maintain the cycle of my status as the difficult patient.

And so, in the face of these injustices, sometimes I just want to be unreasonable.

One thought on “Sometimes I want to be unreasonable

  1. I can relate to everything you say in this article. The best thing I ever did regarding improving my mental health was having no more to do with mental health services. In fact two days ago, while looking for some paperwork, I found a lot of my old paperwork to do with CMHT. Simply put, they range from awful, callous people to well-meaning but completely ignorant of mental health. If it’s possible for you, you will find much more improvement from being rid of them.


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