Declined

M, yeah, not much I can do with this, sorry.

Aren’t discriminatory doctors the absolute worst?

They see me as three letters, as my abbreviation; they see me as the negative adjectives in my notes, in the words “aggressive” and “sedated” and “self-inflicted”.

They don’t see me for what I am: hurting, and in need of help.

This is not true of all doctors, but sadly, it is very true to some. I had a rough night yesterday (Thursday). I contemplated whether or not I needed to go to hospital for my cuts, because I didn’t want to wait and wait and wait only to be turned away and told there was nothing the doctor could do about them. I spoke to a friend who is studying medicine. I spoke to a friend’s mum who is a doctor. I used my own very limited knowledge of wound care and The Internet to figure out that yeah, it was pretty deep, and yeah, it probably wouldn’t heal nicely without stitches.

That’ll heal on it’s own.

Look, I get that I put these wounds on my body, I get that I did this to myself, but do you think I like the scars? Do you honestly believe that in one, two, five or ten years, that ragged wound that you left hanging open will have healed nicely?

I don’t think so.

I think that you’ve been caught in stigma without even realising. I think I’ve been unlucky this night. I think you, the doctor delegated to me, doesn’t understand my condition very well – if at all – and I think your punishing me for punishing myself. You just poked and prodded me, turned my wrist over, checked both arms just in case, then dropped it back at my side. You didn’t even clean it. You didn’t even dress it. You just sent me away again.

This is one of the reasons, the strongest reason, why I wanted to study medicine. Because what happened to me in the emergency department is not okay. It is not okay to treat me as a diagnosis, and not as a patient. It is not okay to fail to offer me adequate care just because my wounds are self-inflicted.

I don’t care what you say; what you did was not okay.

And every time a doctor like you succumbs to the stigma, it makes going to the hospital that much harder. It makes seeking help that much harder. It makes the lives of people like me, of us borderlines, but also of everybody else suffering from a mental illness who needs medical attention, that much harder.

We don’t need that. We don’t need to be rejected more than we have been by our friends, family and colleagues. We don’t need our traumas regurgitated by your invalidation and stigmatisation. We don’t need to be afraid of going to hospital, when the hospital is supposed to be there to care for us, no matter what condition has brought us there. We don’t need any more difficulties piled on top of all the other ones we face, every single fucking day. We don’t need you.

We need your compassion. Your care. Your empathy.

We need to be treated like people, not like letters. We need to be treated like any other patient. And maybe if you got talking to me, like other doctors and nurses sometimes have, then maybe, just maybe, you’ll see we aren’t the Big Bad Borderlines you’ve let yourself believe we are.

She’s a deep one

In one of the many stories I have written, I describe how a character stitches her own foot close, and the black thread that wobbles across her heel like a tree branch, because she couldn’t stop her hands from shaking as she sewed herself back together again. It’s a chilling detail, but recently I imagined myself doing this. Would it hurt? Would alcohol help? Would it be like in a movie, where the person who stitches themselves back together again are hardcore and had a lot of practice at such a task?

It’s Thursday night as I write, but forty-eight hours ago, I cut. And badly. I went all out. Fat bubbled up from under the skin immediately, and I knew, I just knew, that I’d gone too deep. I poked at it a bit, tried to squish it together with some steri-strips and tape and it popped right back open, more globules of yellow gelatinous tissue spilling from the edges of the wounds. The bleeding was slowing, but nowhere near stopped.

Bugger.

I considered stitching it closed myself, with a needle and thread and no anaesthetic and some vodka to control the shaking.

I was seriously considering it. I don’t do well in emergency departments. The noise – sirens, shouts, moans, alarms – is too much for my hypersensitive soul, and time always dissolves away into a vacuum of dissociation as dark thoughts are compounded by a long wait. I looked at my sewing kit. I looked in the pantry, top shelf, for alcohol – nothing. I looked at the sewing kit again, sighed, and didn’t do it. I exhausted my list of friends to call who could drive me. Eventually one answered. [I probably could have driven myself, but that would have been dangerous, considering I drive manual (aka stick shift) and need both hands.]

It always rains when I go to the emergency department.

Breaths bubbled in my chest, caught between my ribs, as doctors and nurses pass who’ve previously had their hands on me. And then it is my time, and apart from my anaesthetised arm, the rest of my body trembles with anxiety, as the doctor speaks in soothing tones to keep me calm. As always with stitches and blood tests and the like, I watch. I see that crooked branch of black thread form, fascinated by the process. It twists and turns but I’m grateful for their neatness and their smallness. Finally, she pauses between sutures, and asks,

do you want to talk about it?

I say no, but I mean yes, and then the words are bubbling out and she listens intently even as she continues to wipe blood away and jabs more anaesthetic in me (ouch) and then more adrenaline to stop the bleeding and then pulls and pokes and prods with more stitches. I can’t help it. I’m so emotionally exhausted that I lose all control over my feelings. I’m at peak anxiety levels, but this doctor still tries to soothe me. I’m a helpless mess, but this doctor is helping me. I’m a waste of time here, but this doctor took the time to fix me.

She pauses again, and inspects her work,

that shouldn’t scar too badly.

I smile, and weakly remind her of the other scars that traverse the rest of my body, the ones that were never stitched, the ugly, jagged, raised scars – some pink, some white, some grey. A compulsive burst of laughter bubbles out of me, and then tears fall. One after the other. Drops collect on the white sheets beneath me as I fall silent. Not all doctors have treated me with such kindness, not with a notes list full of scary terms like “BPD” and “verbally aggressive” and “sedated” and “self harm”.

Are you certain? she asks. I’m happy to listen.

My heart blooms but my head shakes despite her generosity, and off I go, all stitched up, into the cold, wet night.