This I Believe

Sarah - Baltimore, Maryland
Entered on January 13, 2009

I believe that all people who suffer from mental illness can be helped, can be made better. I can’t say that everyone would be made perfectly normal, and those who willfully won’t take medication that would make them better don’t exactly count in this. But I believe that these people can be made better, and, what’s more, they deserve to be better. They warrant the efforts of doctors, nurses, therapists, and support staff who band together on a daily basis to work towards this goal.

It’s probably a good thing that I believe in this, because I admit patients to inpatient psychiatry services. Most people who work in the mental health field can tell you about all the obstacles that need to be overcome to connect those who need mental health treatment with the appropriate services. People who have no insurance or the wrong insurance. Patients who don’t fit rigid criteria established by insurance companies. Patients who won’t come to appointments or who won’t take medications. People who have learned to use or abuse the system, making providers wary of the next person asking for help. I, and most people I know working in this field, have to remember the successes so that it’s possible to show up for work some days, but the underlying hope, at least for me, is always there.

There is only one patient that I know of that I don’t believe in; that, as far as I’m concerned, doesn’t deserve the efforts of any doctor, nurse, professional, family member, or friend. Who is this worthless, undeserving pseudopatient? Me.

I have experienced recurrent episodes of Major Depression. Most people think of depression as a state in which someone is extra sad. To some extent, this is true. But there’s more to depression than just sadness. I find that for me, as well as for some of the patients I’ve worked with, the worst part of depression is when you feel worthless and unworthy. Depression can make me feel that if I can’t make myself better, I certainly don’t deserve anyone else’s help. I’m wasting people’s time and energy if I ask for their help. I waste my family and friends’ time, and they’d be better off not having to worry about me.

A lot of the time now, I can recognize when my thinking becomes distorted like this. It’s still very strange to me, though, that when I talk to a patient who is having similar thoughts, I absolutely believe that these misconceptions are just that-misconceptions. I just hope that someday, somehow, I can begin to believe in myself, too.