Warning – Post contains information relating to self injury and abuse…
SBS Insight is considering doing a program on Self Injury. I really hope they do, and I really hope they cover the following issue of abuse from medical professionals. If Self Injury is hidden, then the abuse some people suffer from the very medical professionals who are supposed to help them is even more so!
I used to Self Injure. I’m not proud of it, but I don’t hide it either – it’s a part of my past. It’s a part of my journey. It just is what it is.
On one occasion, I cut badly enough to require stitches. Actually, this used to happen fairly regularly, but on this one occasion, I saw a doctor at emergency who had a real problem with it. First of all, she didn’t wait for the anesthetic to work. Actually, the anesthetic didn’t work at all… I said something and the nurse asked if we should wait, or if I should be given more, and the doctor shook her head and said “no, she doesn’t feel pain”. I felt every stitch. Worse – I saw the gleam in the eyes of the doctor. She was enjoying it. She was enjoying inflicting pain on me and it soon became obvious why. As she was cleaning up, she began a tirade. She told me that I had nothing to be unhappy about while there were children dying of AIDS in Africa. She knew nothing of my history, nothing of what I had been through (child sexual abuse, physical abuse, attempted murder). She called me selfish among other things. I sat there and didn’t say a word. I couldn’t say a word. I Self Injured because I couldn’t deal with the abuse I had gone through and when I went to get help, I was abused again.
On another occasion, I was sent to a room by myself while waiting for a doctor to give me stitches. After a couple of hours, two nurses met up at the doorway, and one of them noticed that I was still there. “Oh is she still here?” she said. “I better go tell someone”. “No,” the other one said. “She can wait. Let’s go home.” And go home they did. I waited for a little longer, and then from a chart on the wall, worked out which stitches I needed, took a packet, and left to go home and do it myself. When I told my psychiatrist what had happened, she abused me for stealing, completely ignoring any emotional distress I felt from being treated in such a cavalier manner.
I always did my own first aid from then on. Still now, I hate hospitals. I have many more stories of verbal abuse from psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, however these are the two that stick out and that involve only me. Others involve other people and I won’t speak to that out of respect for their privacy.
Self Injury is so misunderstood (and so complex), it is hard to know where to start trying to educate people so that they understand, and can find compassion instead of derision. First of all however, I would at least like to stop the physical and emotional abuse. You don’t need to understand something in order to not physically or emotionally abuse someone. For that, you just need to have a heart. You just need to know that we are human too, and doing the best we can given trying circumstances.
I have PTSD from the abuse I have suffered from so called medical professionals. Actually, it feels a little surreal – the abuse that caused me to Self Injure in the first place has largely been resolved in my psyche, and I am about as at peace with it as I will ever be – but the abuse I suffered from medical professionals in relation to the Self Injury is still raw and ever present. It took me a day to work out why I felt so agitated and distressed and why I felt so sick at the thought of SBS doing this story. It’s not because of the fact that I Self Injured – I have made my peace with that and can talk about it freely. It is because I am scared of speaking out publicly, in case I am abused again. I’m terrified.
That said – I will still do anything I can to help them with this story, including standing up publicly and speaking. Because that is how I roll, and that is how I can help those who come after.
The abuse has to STOP!!!