thank you for you pity, you are too kind…

I had a bout of ill health last week & once again found myself lying on a gurney in A&E in considerable pain. This has become a feature of life, one that I have reluctantly come to terms with. With the exception of one thing, I cannot bring myself to accept the constant focus on my self harm. No matter what I present with or how much pain I am, there are always the questions. I am quizzed about my scars by nurses, Drs & auxiliaries alike. The same questions over and over,
Does it hurt?
Why?
How?
How long?
And with the questions come the judgements. I’m told I’m making it harder for anyone to love me, I’m ruining myself, I’m smarter than this, It’s dangerous. My body somehow becomes their property. The paw my scars. Yes, the touch me and are chagrined if I object. The scars blind them. They no longer see a patient. They see a crazy woman. Everything I say is now doubted. Despite my long and well documented medical history, Regardless of the fact I am mostly presenting due to a flare up of an already diagnosed condition, my mental health is called into question. I am asked humiliating question. Have I poisoned myself or hurt myself? How is my mood? Do I need them to call a carer?
I am no longer me. My symptoms are not simply diagnosed and treated. First they must discover if I am just crazy. All the while, I am suffering. The conversation is repeated with each new dry and nurse. Sometimes the cleaners and auxiliaries give their opinions too.
Mostly they branch into two camps. Firstly, the people who pity me. Who think I am some pathetic little girl. They pet me and treat me like a 5yr old. They offer platitudes & some frankly stupid advice. They are desperate to call someone to be responsible for me. They do a lot of touching & exclaiming. They can’t conceive that I am a strong, intelligent adult who is capable of looking after herself. So, they reduce everything I am into sad little bundle & except me to be grateful for their characterisation.
Now, we come to the haters. They think I am a waste of their time. I am stupid, self-indulgent, and stubborn. They grudge treating me, they especially dislike administering pain relief. Obviously if I have self-harmed, I must also a drug seeker. I’ve waited in A&E for hours with pancreatitis with nothing more than paracetamol because some dr objected to me having a history of mental illness. This group can’t separate the psychological from the physical. One must always be in some way linked to other. I have caused this. I am definitely to blame & they spare no time in telling me so. They believe nothing I tell them & never apologise when my records show that everything I have said is accurate. They have indiscrete & unflattering conversation about me. Meaning that other patients can now join in this judgy little game. They say ugly things & when they finally grudgingly have to offer some treatment, they make sure I know that I don’t deserve it.
Occasionally I come across someone who treats with compassion & respect. I am so utterly grateful. I shouldn’t have to be.

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11 Responses to “thank you for you pity, you are too kind…”

  1. jenna Says:

    oh, this makes me so angry! i wish someone would take this up as their cause – all hospital employees should be receiving training in how to handle this!! this is appalling. i wish you didn’t have to go to the hospital alone. you should have you mum or someone go with you and be your advocate. not that you should have to do that, but who cares, when you are in pain and exhausted, someone should be there advocating for you and getting you the care you deserve as soon as possible!! love you.

    • doyourememberthattime Says:

      there are guidelines for treating someone whp presents with self harm injuries. the first of which is they should treated exactly the same as any other patient. in my experience this is ignored about 70% of the time. there aren’t aren’t any specific guidelines for treating someone with scars, but i would have thought common sense would suffice. sadly, not. i have complained, but always get the same reply, we’re sorry you felt tha way, it wasn’t intended. more training is needed. it’s such an exhasuting & humialiting experience. always happens when i am least prepared to deal with it.
      most of the time i take someone with me, but i don’t want to constantly interrupting their lives. so if everyone is at work or ti’s the middle of the night i just go along myself & tell at a suitable time.

  2. I had to leave a comment because I can resonate with this post so much. As a 31 year old woman who has been self harming for 18 years and who lives in a pretty rural location where everyone knows everyone I can pretty much guarantee that if I went to A&E with, for example, a severe pain in my leg, they would first establish (a) that I am a mental (b) how mental I currently am (c) if they need to let my mental health team know I’m there (d) what mental meds I take … etc… etc…

    They always need to get all that stuff out of the way before moving on to why I’m actually there. And I get all the sighs and little breaths of shock and surprise when they see my pretty extensive scarring, they ask me the same things you mentioned… how? why? how long? what do you use? Always the same… I’m just sorry someone else has to experience it all… however you wrote it so well that I had to hit the ‘like’ button…

    I don’t like one bit what they do and what they put us through but I do like how you described it and how with every word I was nodding my head saying ‘yep’ ‘yep’ ‘yep’… it shouldn’t be the case but part of me sadly thinks it’s just the way it will always be no matter how many mental health stigma adverts they show on TV or courses they send NHS staff on, the majority of staff still just ‘don’t get it’ and I don’t know if that will ever change. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack when you finally come across one nursing staff member who genuinely seems to both ‘get it’ and also care about it … Take care xx

    • doyourememberthattime Says:

      i’m sorry you can relate. it’s exhausting & can be distessing. i have tried complaining, but i never get a proper response, always just ‘we’re sorry you felt that way’. i honestly don’t know what we can do. my psychologist suggested priting out a set of N.I.C.E guidelines & taking them with me anytime i have to go to hopsital. it’s something i’m considering.

  3. This is so sickening yet painfully sad. I am so sorry that this goes on. Being a health care professional myself, I am appalled and cannot fathom people acting this way!

    …yet obviously they do.

    Although I self harm, I have not had the misfortune of having to go to the hospital for any reason and expose my wounds. I do recall one time when I had fresh cuts (on both wrists), and I would not allow the nurse at my OB/GYN to take my blood pressure. They consequently refused to write my prescription for my birth control.

    I did not allow them to see my cuts for fear of this same type of reaction. I did not want their pity, their questions, their offer for help or counseling, or their “we-have-to-tell-somebody” attitude. You just want to tell them, “I’m already seeing someone about this issue. Can we move on to what I came here for?”

    I am sorry…hugs from my heart to yours.

    • doyourememberthattime Says:

      thanks for the support.
      it is endlessly frustrating. the problem is it always happens when i am least able to stand up for myself. xx

  4. I am sorry for the responses you get and the demeaning way you are treated. You don’t deserve that.

    I once took my then 17 year old daughter for an out-patient procedure. The nurse prepping her for surgery saw her scars and said some things that struck me as odd. I believe one of them was, “Why did you do that?” I wanted to tell her that if there was an easy answer for that we wouldn’t have spent all the money we had trying to figure things out!!! Plus I wanted to tell her to shut up because I – the MOTHER – was sitting right there and it was MY job to address these things with my daughter, not hers.

    But I do have an honest question for you that I hope isn’t offensive:
    How would you like someone to react when they see your scars? I understand that when you are in an emergency situation you just want the emergency need tended to – and you should have exactly that. But what would constitute an appropriate response to you regarding your self harm scars?

    I ask because when I see someone with scars, my heart pretty much breaks open. I know what my daughter (and our family) went through and I believe that there is deep and abiding pain behind the visible scars.

    I don’t want to offend someone by sounding like I pity them and think they are “poor, incapable, broken” little things. But I also don’t always necessarily want to pretend like I don’t see the scars because to me that seems it would feel very dismissive and invalidating.

    I am not a healthcare worker (beyond being a mom!), but if I was I imagine I would say something like: “I see your scars. I’m so sorry. I just need to know that have or are addressing this with someone” and then move along and continue to treat the emergency at hand. (And that comment could well wait until after treating the emergency, I suppose, though I don’t know all the legalities and liabilities involved for the emergency personnel and facilities.)

    Come to think of it, I may say something very similar to someone I happen to know or meet, not just in an emergency setting but in life in general.

    I know everyone is different. Some people want their scars always hidden and are ashamed. Some are proud. Many are, I think, somewhere in between. An acknowledgement could either send someone to take drastic unsafe action, or may just show someone (my kids’ friends, for example) that someone is concerned and truly cares whether or not they are safe.

    This is something I’ve wondered about. Again, I hope I am not offending you. I would truly love to hear your thoughts.

    Thanks so much,

    Monica

    • doyourememberthattime Says:

      i can totally understand your anger at someone asking your duaghter thise stupid questions. if we knew why, we probably be a lot closer to stopping.
      as for what i’d like medical staff to say, nothing. if it is not relevant to why i am there, there is no reason for them to comment at all. this goes for stranger too. it’s none of their business. although i know you mean well when saying you would ask someone if they were getting help etc, i wouldn’t appreciate that from a stranger. would you like a complete stranger to tackle you on private areas of your life in public ? i’d assume no. self harmers feel the same. it’s our business, we don’t want strangers butting in.
      if you suspect self harm in someone you know, then would be the time to offer a support/a comforting word. that is helpful.

      • Thanks for your reply! It makes a lot of sense. I imagine there is an aspect of ‘covering their butts legally’ that could make emergency workers ask questions, but it sounds like what you have received is far beyond that, and far beyond caring and appropriate. It might be one thing if they exhausted all other medical possibilities without results and THEN addressed a possible mental health issue, I guess. But to go straight to that and use it to be dismissive, that’s got to be very painful and frustrating.

        As far as responding outside of a medical situation, I think I made it sound like I would say something to a stranger on the street or someone I was just introduced to or something. That’s not what I meant, so I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear. I meant more in the sense of someone I have some type of relationship with, even if it’s a friend of one of my kids (because I know a number of young adults through my own young adult kids). Even then, I’d likely talk with my son or daughter first and see if they felt my concerns were off-base, and I may well just decide it’s not my place to say anything. In fact, I am about as non-confrontational as they come, so I wd probably not speak up unless I felt someone was in imminent danger. Each situation would be unique.

        You’re right; we don’t want strangers telling us what we should do. (I don’t even want my mother doing that!!) 😉 That is a fantastic grid through which to view this issue, and I will keep that in mind.

        Sometimes I wonder if the reason people react strangely (not necessarily the emergency people you’ve encountered, but maybe the nurse who spoke to my daughter) is because they just don’t understand self harm. For old people like me (!), it’s something we never knew about or did, and it can be scary and confusing when we see a younger generation doing it.

        Thanks for listening to my thoughts and answering my questions. I appreciate your time.

        Take care,

        Monica

  5. allie heslop Says:

    This is the first thing I have read about this, that accurately says how I feel in any medical situation, oh yes and a couple of Times in educational setting. Thank you for posting this, I’d have sworn a lot more, but it brings me comfort knowing I’m not the only one who gets this kind of s**t from professionals xx

    • doyourememberthattime Says:

      hey,
      thanks for reading. I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with this bullshit too. it’s ridiculous that medical professionals aren’t better educated about self harm & mental illness. I’m glad you got something from reading. take care.

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