Advocacy, Chronic Illness, Chronic Pain, Mental Health

Advocating For Yourself

When it comes to having a mental health condition/ chronic illness, it can become a challenge to have medical professionals take you seriously. Especially if you have an invisible illness. Unfortunately there are many medical professionals out there who don’t listen, and see themselves as having too much power that they belittle the client. I live in Western Australia, and the things that I’ve personally experienced, or have heard about is absolutely disgusting. Its time for us to advocate for ourselves, not let medical professionals be the boss of us, and not let them take advantage of us.

The doctors duty is to guide us, not take advantage of us. We make the final decisions for our health and body.

In no way am I telling you to not see a medical professional for your health and wellbeing. In fact I encourage it. Its important to get medical help for any symptoms you are having, to make sure there is nothing serious going on. I am simply saying you need to advocate for yourself when you need to.

An example of clients being mistreated is when doctors assume that whatever you are experiencing is due to something they can physically see. For example, its very common for someone who is plus sized to be treated poorly and not get the care they deserve, simply because of their weight. Or a client may not be taken seriously because its an assumption that the symptoms they have are because of their mental health, simply because they have self harm scars.

I know a story that was taken place here in WA, where a patient who had been diagnosed with Chronic Migraine by a Neurologist, went to a new General Practitioner (GP) because the pain was getting unbearable, and it was too long of a wait to see the Neurologist. Instead of the GP assessing the symptoms and suggesting treatments and ways to cope, she assumed that it was because of their mental health, all because of their self harm scars. This GP also laughed in their face, because they didn’t believe that they were diagnosed with Chronic Migraine, because they ‘didn’t appear sick’ and they didn’t have bad enough symptoms. The treatment that was prescribed to them was a pamphlet of mental health websites.

The way this patient was treated is unfortunately very common in the invisible illness community. There are many things wrong with this story. Firstly, the GP should NEVER laugh at a patient, ALWAYS take them seriously, and never assume.

Some ways you can advocate for yourself in situations like this is to confront the person making assumptions or not taking you seriously. Tell them why its not okay to say that or laugh. Explain to them why its not okay to make assumptions based on your physical appearance. Tell them to phone the specialist right then and there if they don’t believe you.

Stick up for yourself, because your health matters, and it should always be taken seriously by medical professionals.

Disclaimer: This post is meant for educational and advocacy purposes. Please speak with your own medical professionals if you wish to change something with your treatment plan. This should not be substituted for medical advice.

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