This was one of my first posts, written in September 2014
to Sonoma County Supervisor, Shirlee Zane.
Supervisor Zane held a hearing that month to examine
the inadequacies of Kaiser’s Mental Health Services
I submitted this letter to her as my testimony.
To: Supervisor Shirlee Zane
Supervisor District 3
Dear Supervisor Zane,
Thank you for considering my story for your listening session to hear public comment about parity and mental healthcare.
And, thank you for your advocacy for people with serious life threatening mental illnesses.
For many of us the Behavioral Health System simply does not work.
To some of us it looks as if it does not want to.
In 2009, I was diagnosed with a severe dissociative disorder.
I see a psychotherapist twice a week and I realize that this is an achievement and yet I want to state that this should be the norm.
The idea that I should be grateful for receiving the only treatment
known to work for this illness is absurd and places me in a beggarly role.
My problem is that my illness now requires a more intensive structure as I begin to face the emotional reality of the abuse that caused it and the damage that I did to my life in my ignorance.
Treatment is painful and frightening.
My illness seems to affect that part of the brain that governs autonomic reactions.
The trauma response is instinctive and bypasses reason.
My “behaviors” are symptoms of “trigger” responses to memories
so painful my brain repeatedly banishes them from consciousness.
This means that parts of my psyche are subconsciously locked in moments of fear, pain, and dread.
They are locked in moments of abuse
I felt desperate when I met with my psychiatrist today.
I am overwhelmed by emotional pain and often feel trapped
When I leave my house, I have panic attacks in which I
freeze in traffic.
Yesterday I was nearly hit by a car.
I am constantly in a state of anxiety and the toll on my physical health and my relationships is terrible.
There were very real and commonsense reasons that psychiatry
once offered patients extended hospital stays.
Families are not trained therapists.
If anything, the families of patients need education and support.
I have discussed the idea of intensive case management with
my primary therapist.
I asked my prescribing psychiatrist, whom I see once every three months, for either a consulting psychotherapist experienced in dissociative disorders or an intensive case manager who can train the staff and co-ordinate my treatment when I need a critical intervention.
My psychiatrist told me that there are “financial constraints” and advised me to make the request as a grievance.
Why do I have to do battle to receive the recommended treatment for someone with a verified dissociative disorder?
There are no “real” financial constraints; certainly not in a nation will give the wealthy Dick Cheney a free heart transplant.
The recommended treatment as outlined by the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation is this:
- Intensive psychotherapy.
Access to a hospital or residential setting to ease the stress on my family and hasten the course of treatment.
Intensive and specialized trauma-focused work on symptom management and skill building.
And a treatment team that co-ordinates care.
I am only asking for those components that are essential for the
successful treatment of a life threatening illness.
When Mental Health became Behavioral Health, the focus shifted from Psychiatry to Substance Abuse.
This is why almost all Behavioral Systems look for any sign of substance use in a psychiatric patient’s history.
Substance use is automatically tagged on as a secondary diagnosis even if one only uses marijuana and only uses it occasionally
Strict Substance Abuse disorders respond well to behavioral interventions and supportive group therapy.
That’s why A.A. has an estimated membership of 1,867,212 people.
Patients with psychiatric disorders can use behavioral tools to help them tolerate distress but behavioral tools alone will not resolve the illness.
A physiologically traumatized brain cannot “fake it ’till it makes it’.
From ABC News 2012:
“About 11.4 million adult Americans suffered from severe mental illness in the past year and 8.7 million adults contemplated serious thoughts of suicide.”
This country has everything it needs to give us access to quality healthcare.
What stands in our way are misery merchants and their lust
for power and money.
These misery merchants arrogantly expect the American people
to accept the premise that we deserve death by exclusion.
I won’t accept it.
I do not agree to the proposition that I am worthless.