Having been diagnosed with MDD at a fairly young age, I learned quite a bit about mental illness and the importance of seeking help when needed, and early if possible. New England was fairly progressive in terms of how mental health was treated and viewed by the general populous. I never felt weird, singled out, stigmatized, or less than. I was sick. The same as someone who had a different chronic illness, such as diabetes. What causes diabetes? A disruption in hormone/chemical homeostasis. It could be insulin resistance that paved the way for type 2, or pancreatic insufficiency in type 1. Two different diseases, but when you zoom out, the basic problem is that there’s dysregulation of hormones and chemicals in the body. What causes mental illness? Dysregulation of hormones and chemicals in the body.
Same fucking thing, so why is it treated differently? Why is it so difficult to see it as an actual health problem? That the cause IS organic? It wasn’t until recent years that I had to start hiding my history of depression/anxiety because it compromised the care I was getting for my then undiagnosed Crohn’s. Depression shares many symptoms with the systemic symptoms of Crohn’s, such has fatigue, headaches, pain, diarrhea, and dysthymia from feeling like shit all of the time. Initially, no investigation was done because depression seemed to explain it all. I knew better. Having dealt with depression for nearly 2/3 of my life, I knew this was different, but no one would listen to me. This is called diagnostic overshadowing, which happens all too often to people with mental illness. Eventually my husband started showing up to appointments with me, and that’s when progress was made.
I still fight this with nearly every single doctor I encounter, and it delayed my diagnosis of kidney disease and neuropathy since someone was nice enough to put MDD and GAD into my permanent health record. If I find out who, I’d like to shake his hand and give him a bag of bees. It’s possible if my neuropathy was caused by the copper deficiency found and was caught sooner, and the burning/tingling I’d had for YEARS hadn’t been blamed on anxiety, I wouldn’t have lost my ability to shower standing up, walk through a dark room without falling, drive, or my ability to paint, draw, and even write. It makes me angry, but I can’t do anything about that now.
I deny a history of mental illness on all intake papers because if I’m in the ER for severe stomach pain, I don’t want to be treated for anxiety and then released without help. I know the difference between a panic attack and when I’m in metabolic acidosis now, but they’d see me as just another hypochondriac.
Any way you look at it, it’s completely stupid that I have to omit an important part of my medical history simply because of the way the healthcare system views it. Why do mental health and physical health have to be separated? I wish this would stop immediately, but as with many wishes, it’ll never happen because it’s not just doctors. A lot of society sees mental illness as a dirty thing, even with all of the awareness campaigns. Something the sufferer does by choice. Something not as worthy of respect as a disease of the body outside of the mind. Fuck that.