October 13, 2012

Several weeks ago, I scheduled an appointment to speak with a psychiatrist.  The appointment happened to be this week, yesterday.

That was helpful because when I had the meeting with the social worker and a staffperson at the shelter on Wednesday, I could say that I already had an appointment scheduled.  The Memo that I had gotten from the shelter on October 9th said that I had to be evaluated by the mental health worker for the police department “and/or” give them the results of a psychiatric evaluation to be able to stay at the shelter. 

When I told the social worker that I had made the appointment to get my diagnosis changed, she said “You must have lied on the form that you had to fill out when you first got here, when you were asked if you had a mental health diagnosis and you wrote ‘no.’”  She had lied almost the entire way through the meeting; it had obviously been her plan to portray me to myself and others as if everything that’s going on is not happening, and that I freak out all the time over nothing, that being given “No Trespass” notices from places where I’ve been mercilessly harassed and the fact the police were called at times when I had been threatened and/or assaulted on the bus and everything else that has happened only happened because I have a mental illness which makes me imagine that I’m being insulted, bullied and stalked and that human rights abuses are being promoted by the same people who are encouraging what’s happening to me to happen. 

By the time she said that I must have lied on the form, I had confronted her every time that she lied to me about the overall situation.  I had confronted her by saying things such as “I know that you know what’s going on.”  She jumped at the fact that I had lied about having a mental health diagnosis, saying that the fact that I had lied about having one when I first got to the shelter was reason for me to be made to leave. 

When people know that you have a mental health history, it makes you vulnerable to all but the most savvy, mature and self-disciplined people.  Blaming everything, every conflict, every misunderstanding, every disagreement, even being tired and in a bad mood yourself, on someone whom you know has a diagnosis or a therapist, or who takes medication, is too convenient and socially accepted for most people to resist doing.  I knew before I first got to the shelter several weeks ago that there would be abuse there; there had been at every shelter where I’d already been.  The only thing that I didn’t know was what the extent of it would be.   Since denial of the abuse and of everything else that’s going on has also happened at every shelter where I’ve been, I knew that the abuse of me would be worse right away if I said “Yes, I have a mental health diagnosis,” and everyone who knows what it’s like to have one knows that I’m telling the truth about that.  I told the social worker what I knew that she already knew,  which is that telling people about your mental health status makes you more vulnerable.

She said “You signed your name to that form, saying that what was on it was truthful.”   I said “I have to be totally honest with you but there’s nothing that you have to sign that says that you have to be honest with the people who stay here at the shelter?  You expect total honesty from your clients but there’s nothing in your job description that says that you have to be honest with your clients; is that what you’re saying?”  She finally said “We’re supposed to be respectful.”  I said “Good.”  My feeling is that harmless lies that protect you in a situation in which you know that you’re going to be abused no matter what are understandable; self-preservation in a bad situation isn’t disrespectful of other people.  There are other types of lies that are disrespectful, and she had been trying to tell me a lot of those.

When I went to talk to her the next day, she made it clear to me that my being able to stay at the shelter at all was contingent on my telling her what the diagnosis was, before her meeting with other people who work for the shelter about whether or not I could stay there.  I finally told her that it was schizoaffective disorder.

When I went to see the psychiatrist yesterday, she obviously knew who I was and had been planning to thwart me as someone trying to work the mental health care system.  I told her that I had applied and gotten approved as a client of the Department of Mental Health months ago, and that I had done so because I had finally conceded that I hadn’t reached my goals of working and finding housing since I’d been in Boston last year, and that, although I wasn’t happy about it, I would pay the price of and try to cope with the added vulnerability of the label so that I could access more safe and stable transitional housing, like the homeless shelters that the Department of Mental Health runs.  It’s very difficult to find work when you can’t count on your living situation.   I said “It’s too bad that the system says that you have to have a diagnosis, but it does.  I don’t think that a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder is going to help me; I think it’s going to make things more difficult for me, because it puts the attention of treatment and people who find out about it on the idea that I’m delusional.  I think that bipolar disorder would be a more helpful diagnosis.”   

She rubbed her nose several times throughout the meeting, from the beginning.   There was a window behind her, and she put her right hand to her forehead with two fingers touching her forehead, so that people whom I’m sure she knew were watching through the window could see her. 

She told me “From what you’ve been telling me, you sound healthy.  I think that the most I could diagnose you with is adjustment disorder.” 

Adjustment disorder is what a therapist or psychiatrist will diagnose you with if there’s nothing psychiatrically wrong with you but you want to go to counseling.   The insurance companies insist that people have a diagnosis or they won’t pay for treatment.

There were the decision-makers for the shelter trying to make everything seem like it was a result of a serious mental illness that I have, and insisting that I give them the results of a psychiatric evaluation, and when the social worker calls the psychiatrist, the psychiatrist who knows that I’m being persecuted and who demonstrated her interest in thwarting me from the goals that I outlined for her is going to tell her that there’s nothing wrong with me.

That WAS something that made laugh yesterday.  It demonstrated something that is invariably true of the mental health care system and the way that the question of help gets addressed by most people most of the time; if you want the help and ask for it, you can’t get it.  It’s only when you don’t want what the people trying to force it on you are calling “help” that they insist that you take it.

Last night, I did what I have been doing at that shelter since I got there, which was to turn off the lights in the bathroom if I had to use the toilet and when I was going to take a shower.  The staffperson who was working last night kept pounding on the door, insisting that I turn the lights on.  She said “it’s a safety issue; I don’t want you to slip.”   After she’d hassled me every few minutes while I was taking the shower, in clothes that I’d bought for the purpose of wearing them in the shower, she said from the other side of the door “You’ve been in there for 20 minutes, and everyone only gets 15 minutes in the bathroom.”  I had refused to turn the lights on, telling her “You can’t make me.”  I then told her “You’ve been at the door every few minutes that I’ve been in here.”

She then told me that she wanted to speak with me.  I called the other number for the shelter and left a message for the director saying that this staffperson is someone with whom there have been times when I’ve found her difficult to talk to, and that I didn’t want to talk to her.  The person whom I spoke to said “The staffperson can make you leave the shelter if she tells you that you want to talk to her and you refuse to do it.”  I said “I’ll talk to her, but I want there to be a record that says that I can often talk to other staff but that I frequently find her difficult to talk to, and that I tried to stay out of talking to her this time because I didn’t want to say something that I would regret.”

I had the meeting with her; she said “It’s my job to help people, not to hurt them.  I’m just doing my job.”  I said “It is your job to help people, not to hurt them.”

I would bet that this is going to be made an issue; they’re going to say that I have to leave the light on in the bathroom, where I think there probably have been cameras the entire time that I’ve been there.  They’ll say that I have to leave the lights on or that I have to leave the shelter, and they’ll probably also try to say that I’m paranoid and that paranoia is making me want to turn the lights off.

I was also told by the staffperson who seems to manage the shelter when she’s there that she had heard that I had been writing about people from the shelter on the Internet, and that she wanted me to stop doing that. 

Today, one of the women from the shelter coughed at me on the bus.  I was also harassed by a couple of people on the bus last night on the way to Waltham, one of whom said I belonged at Mass. Mental.


Copyright L. Kochman, October 13, 2012 @ 2:57 p.m.