A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

See caption.
Regrowth in the Grampians after bushfire. The resilience of the wildlife is truly remarkable. Credit: Georgie Sharp

While working on my NDIS application, it occurred to me that all of the mental health issues I now experience are the direct result of ill-advised medical intervention. That had I not been hospitalised and abused by staff, I would not now experience debilitating trauma and compulsions. That if I had died in my bed (that fate itself a result of damaging medical “treatment”) instead of being forced into a mental health ward without a mental illness, I would have died in peace.

What more can we expect from women who are mistreated by the medical system? When we tell them over and over and over again that they are mad, that their pain is all in their head, why are we surprised when it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Perhaps it is deliberate. Years of abuse and disbelief can only have one outcome – trauma and damage, so often in the form of acquired mental illness. Illness compounds illness, and the burden of disbelief placed on the patient means their original health concerns are magnified and multiplied. A weak patient is non-resistant, no longer a bother, a complaint member of society.

 

The description of Victorian asylums as a “place where insanity is made” is particularly apt, and not irrelevant today.

 

In The Madness of Women, Jane M. Ussher* suggests it is too easy to slap labels such as “depression” and “anxiety” on women’s distress resulting from disempowering life experiences. These mental states are extremely real and valid, but too often women are placed in the mental illness “box” as a way to dismiss their concerns as intrinsically motivated and therefore invalid, instead of placing the onus on societal factors which may be a significant contributing factor. Once that label is applied, the expectation is on the patient to “recover”, while external stressors, such as medical abuse or societal blame, are buried.

After years of telling chronically ill women they are crazymalingeringattention-seeking, it’s no wonder they start to believe it.

 

Michelle wrote a post called “YOU” about the ways we are disabled by society. I would encourage you to read it in full, but here is my contribution:

YOU.

You who call us mad, hypochondriacs, hysterical**

You who say, “she must be faking it”

You who label us “attention seekers”

You who snarl “just think positive”, as we writhe on the floor, screaming in agony

As if we have any control over this illness poisoning our bodies

As if this was a choice

 

You who say, perhaps she just needs to see a counsellor

You who suggest meditation apps

She’s been sick for too long – it must be psychological

You who refuse to acknowledge your lack of knowledge

And would project your own limits of understanding onto those who come to you for help

 

You who look down at us in your offices, with contempt you assume we cannot see

You who tell us, “don’t waste my time”

You who would deny us medical treatment for the crime of being young women

You who would rather strip us of our rights and lock us in secure wards, secure prisons***

Because it is easier to say “she’s crazy” than “I don’t know”

 

I am disabled by your abuse

I am disabled by your disbelief

I am disabled by your conscious refusal to see me

 

I am disabled by YOU

 

 

*Thanks to Naomi for the recommendation. This book is a gem.

**45% of those with autoimmune diseases were initially labelled as hypochondriacs or “chronic complainers”.

***There is a long history of enforceably hospitalising dissenting women, including those with chronic illnesses. Ussher writes of women who were forced into psychiatric institutions for behaviours such as drinking and having sex with men, or having abusive husbands; where they would be “reformed” with mind-numbing drugs, abuse or ECT. This practice continues today, including a case of one woman who as of 2007 was forcibly subjected to 230 ECT sessions, and others who only underwent ECT under threat of incarceration or losing their children. ME patients are particularly at risk, with up to 125 UK families being investigated by child protection authorities for refusing to comply with a psychiatric model of the illness. One woman, Sophia Mirza, died after being sectioned.

Author: Siobhan S

20 something, living in country Australia. Spoonie profile: ME/CFS, dysautonomia, anxiety. All about sewing, knitting and food. Unapologetic feminist and disability advocate.

13 thoughts on “A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy”

  1. This. This is why I follow your blog.

    You’re absolutely right, medical abuse often leads to mental health issues, which they then flip into the original cause (“See, I told you that you were depressed!”) in a debauchery of obfuscation.

    It is obscene that they’d rather label us crazy than admit they may not know what’s wrong or how to fix it.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. “Debauchery of obfuscation” is so perfect. You are right – in this society, in this authoritarian medical system, it works. Because the patient holds no power, and women are denied an authoritative voice. We are always considered unreliable narrators of our own experiences, even more so after a mental illness diagnosis.

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  2. I’m fortunate not to suffer chronic illness but I imagine the the lack of respect from most of the medical community would be so hard to bear.

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  3. Please do some research, if you haven’t already, on EFT…..Emotional Freeing Technique (or Emotion Freeing Technique…sorry) Or look up Nick Ortner. EFT is a simple method to help free a person’s emotional trauma from past events and even present events that cause deep pain. The EFT blog/web site has so much information that helps a person deal with pain and suffering. I know from reading your blog that you are deep into research and you read, read, read. So I am sure you would benefit from reading about this technique, even if you decide it is not something you would want to consider. BTW, I am not in any way a spokesperson for EFT or benefit in any way from telling you about it. It is just a technique I am using at present for losing weight, and I am waiting for delivery of Nick Ortner’s book on using EFT for pain relief! You have so much emotional pain that comes through in your blog, as well as all you suffer physically, that I just feel I wish I could help you in some way.

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  4. Thank you for writing this, for putting it out there, for bringing attention to something that literally pulls on my heart strings so frequently. The mistreatment and misdiagnosis of women spans generations in my family. I sometimes want look at Drs during the appointments and say, “YOU are why I go to therapy. ” I don’t believe CBT cures CFS/ME but I do believe it helps make the mistreatment and abuse by the medical community tolerable. I’m now so nervous before each appointment that I dread them… And social media use being used as a barometer of working ability is 100% ridiculous. The energy it takes me to get ready to leave the house is all I have, that’s not with a shower. A shower day is what I will do that day, that’s it. The energy it takes to look at my phone for connecting to the outside world is of no comparison. 😕 I don’t wish I’ll will but I do wish that we were able to transfer our experiences over so that we’d truly be understood and respected. Thank you again and I’m sending you peaceful and soothing wishes.🌸

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      1. No don’t apologise, I always appreciate it when my piece starts a conversation. Regulation of “acceptable” activity is just another way to judge people with chronic illness. And it can happen in the drs office too, you look fine, you seem to do X activity, therefore there is nothing wrong with you. When the reality is we are just very good at pretending. What other choice do we have?

        I really wish I could transfer my experience to others, even if just for a second. Be much easier than trying to explain it!

        Liked by 1 person

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