To have either a mental or physical illness is extremely difficult, to have both is immensely challenging. A few weeks ago my mother went to the hospital due to a physical illness, she also has a mental illness which seemed to prevent medical professionals from acting straightaway on her health before she ended up at the hospital. My mother described to professionals a considerable lack of energy feeling extremely fatigue among other symptoms. The professionals seemed to put this down to menopause and depression without any testing because this is already on my mother’s file as well as having borderline personality disorder; however, they seemed to ignore that she also has Crohn’s disease that is also on her record. My mother also experienced a fever for roughly 10 days where she eventually demanded that the doctors do some tests on her body because she knows her body better than anyone and can feel it is not depression (she has also experienced depression and is aware of what her physical symptoms feel like). She was right; there did seem to be some problems that lead to the doctor sending her to hospital straight away for more testing. Once at the hospital my mother was very persistent not to disclose to any medical staff at the hospital that she has a mental illness because she wanted her physical health to be taken seriously. She was actually whispering to me how she felt and how her anxiety was, making sure no one could hear her.
This absolutely frustrated me that my mother’s physical health was not taken seriously because of her mental illness. Instead of medical professionals listening to my mother and taking the time to understand what she was describing they straight away put it down to her mental illness because it must just be in her head. What was even worse was that my mother didn’t want to disclose anything about her mental health at the hospital in fear of not being taken seriously, people shouldn’t be in fear to discuss their mental health and not be taken seriously!
I wish I could say this was my mother’s only experience, but it wasn’t! A few years ago I had taken my mother to the hospital due to her self-harming and the wound being extremely deep requiring medical treatment (I wouldn’t usually take someone to hospital straightaway for self-harming however, in this case, it did need stitches etc., and it was 11 at night). When we got there, and they found out that it was self-harm she was treated entirely differently with a lack of respect from a lot of the staff (which may have lead me to tell a few people off for disrespecting my mother). Within the hospital they seemed just to want to immediately “fix” my mother’s mental health, however ignoring her physical, my mother tried to explain to the medical staff that she didn’t have feeling in some of her arm from where she self-harmed, many of them brushed this off as just being in her head. It took a lot of push from both my mother and myself to have her arm properly examined and what was found that it was not in her head, and she had in fact cut a nerve stopping some feeling in her arm, and actually required her to have surgery. If we had not pushed for the medical professionals to take my mother’s concerns about her arm seriously, she could have gone home and continued to have a lack of feeling and the potential for it to get worse.
I have also experienced similar situations, I went to see a doctor a few years ago because I was concerned my asthma was worsening I was struggling to breathe at times and having a lot of coughing episodes. Because I have anxiety on my file, but I also have asthma but let’s just ignore that, the doctor told me I must be having an anxiety attack but did not do any tests at all! I tried to explain to them that I know the difference between me having an anxiety and asthma attack and this did not feel like an anxiety attack; however, it seemed they didn’t want to listen because of course, they know my body better! I ended up going to another doctor where in fact it was my asthma that was playing up and not my anxiety!
It seems that as soon as someone has a mental illness, their physical health is not taken seriously, which is hugely concerning! If I had not gone to a different doctor I could have got worse, if my mother had not pushed to have tests done, she could have ended up extremely sick. The problem is that we shouldn’t have had to struggle so much and go out of our way to have professionals take our physical health seriously in the first place. People with mental illnesses need to be respected and treated like anyone else, yes they have a mental illness but they still know their body and when something is different and does not feel right. There does not seem to be a middle ground when it comes to mental and physical health treatment, which can lead to a lot of people slipping through the cracks and getting extremely sick! Things do need to change to make sure people’s mental and physical health are both being looked after and treated correctly.