LettersToEve: First, Do No Harm – No Action Is Doing Harm

woman-565104_1280“Do no harm,” that doesn’t mean do nothing at all. Mental health professionals: Making a choice to take no action at all, because you do not know what to do, is still doing harm.

I am a woman living in the Central Valley, and seeking mental healthcare has been a nightmarish experience. Just because I struggle with mental health does not mean I am crazy, incompetent, or delusional. It does not give mental health professionals a free ticket to dismiss my intellect or my experience. What it does mean is I need more help then I can muster myself, and that I am a person who has had to live and deal with experiences outside the scope of what a person experiences in a normal lifetime.

The way Mental Health Professionals in the Central Valley are treating patients — it seems that depression is the cure-all and be-all of mental health. I know I have been browbeaten about depression since I have lived in the Central Valley. My other mental illnesses (PTSD, fear of humankind, anxiety, and social stressors) seem to be ignored.  Isn’t there a doctor in the Central Valley that can do diagnostics for mental health?  I don’t know, but that’s why I am speaking out.

Every day is a battle of will and discipline to function, and more often than not, I lose and am stuck in bed or a chair because pain and anxiety rule my life. I’m scared to death to leave my house because how I have been treated throughout my life. I am disgusted by Fresno — a city that is a breeding ground for poor mental health, addiction and alcoholism. The system needs severe reform.

The stigma of mental health is so high people are afraid to seek treatment, often times because the treatment is worse than the cause. If a patient presents with PTSD and other mental struggles, how is treating only depression going to put feet on the path to recovery? It’s treating a symptom only and not the cause.

Recently, I participated in a telecare program that focuses on co-occurring disorders – mental health and substance use. I did this because last year I began using medical marijuana to manage my stress, anxiety, PTSD and chronic insomnia. I’ve participated in the program to the best of my abilities including weekly therapy sessions, reducing use of medicinal cannabis and taking prescribed Cymbalta.

Instead of feeling relief, I began feeling like a monster. My aggravation and frustration spiked horribly. Insomnia became unbearable, and even with the extreme effort to keep a schedule, I was getting less than 20-hours a week. I’ve been very clear and descriptive about my mood with my therapist and psychiatrist.  The response was to browbeat me with depression education and treatment to overcome substance use. My issues with insomnia and other mental challenges have gone without help.  I told my therapist, very clearly and repeatedly the issue — if I could sleep, it would make overcoming the use of marijuana possible. No action or change was taken with that communication.

The medication was horrendous, the lack of sleep compounded the issues, and I communicated about the issues again. Still no action or change in the treatment plan. Finally, I took myself off the medication and am feeling much more settled and stable – I’m not pondering cutting myself to see if I can still feel. I’m able to get healthy sleep again with the use of medicinal cannabis at night.

Inaction and indecision by professionals is more dangerous to mental health patients than making a choice, and risk, to help.  No answer is the wrong answer. If doctors and therapists don’t know how to help then send the patient to someone can help, or have patience and preservation to find the answer.

Mental health is a process akin to troubleshooting a machine. You have to listen, remain impartial and remove yourself from the equation — then you have unlocked half the process. First you have listen, then you can fix it. In the medical field, I believe this is referred to as diagnostics.  This is non-existent in the Valley. So instead of getting help, people get tossed around like broken toys. We’re treated for depression and other challenges untreated. This is a failure to the patients in the community. We are people, we all matter and no one should fall through the cracks period.


A Cry from the Dark


Note: If you would like to share your story, an experience or anything relating to mental health here, please email me at writefirstdaily@gmail.com, subject: Letters To Eve. Your identity is yours to share or remain anon.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Christine says:

    I am so sorry you can’t find a good diagnostician/therapist. I recommend advocating to find some one who has good training in cognitive behavioral therapy. Good training means they have had classes in graduate school & supervision in CBT as a practicum student/intern. If they got CBT training (via workshops), after licensure, it probably wasn’t enough, unless they had regular supervision. If you get care through private insurance, look for a therapist who has good training in CBT. If you get care thru the county, IDK what to tell you to do – except advocate that the county train their licensed professionals in CBT. There are experts in th Psych department at Fresno state who might be willing to provide the appropriate training & supervision (I know one of them very, very well 😉). BTW peer support in “in cognitive therapy” is great, but a true CBT practitioner is a diagnostician who can use expert knowledge to help you find an individualized approach to CBT.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much for your response to this letter. The issue really makes sense, finding appropriate treatment, understanding the lack of resources.

    My experience with CBT was at Stanford, and it was a life-changer. Would love to see that available in this area. After Stanford it was like being dropped back into the wild … the resources for the help I needed (and they looked) weren’t here. Love the idea of Fresno state folks might be able to provide appropriate training and supervision. Wonder if that can become a reality.

    I hope this sparks more conversations, advocacy and action. And more letters. There’s a saying, “Nothing about us without us,” that I feel doesn’t get applied to those with mental health challenges because of the stigma to stay quiet. May this be a authentic community outlet for discussion that makes a positive change. We’re all worthy of it.


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