Shock Damage Denial and Other Indignities


I recently had a check up with my neurologist. Working with him has been hard. He’s smart and friendly enough. The problem? He doesn’t believe me. He believes the standard line that shock damage is temporary. That my current cognitive struggles, pre-frontal cortical dementia, aren’t caused by the 42 electroconvulsive treatments I received, but my pre-existing learning disabilities and my “depression.”

I struggled with this disbelief– not just with him but with almost everyone. Getting anyone, friends, teachers, other doctors I have to work with, to 1.) believe that I have brain damage-you would not believe the resistance I get when I try– and for those I’ve disclosed to, 2.) electroshock is the cause. This leads to invalidation from people I interact with, people I care about, and also denial of services that might help me. It leads many to see me as a one or more of the following: delusional crazy person. A lazy unmotivated slacker. An antisocial freak. A self absorbed drama queen who thinks her problems that don’t sound much different from what everyone else on the planet deals with from time to time, are some how more special.

I was upset  and frustrated when his thoughts about my situation and beliefs about what electroshock does and doesn’t do, became clear. As I mentioned earlier, any declaration of my reality, I have “brain damage,” or “shock damaged my brain,” is met with fierce denial and resistance from just about everyone, save a few trusted allies.

In spite of experiencing this disbelief over and over, knowing what kind of lies doctors a fed about shock and the odds of anyone believing me, deep down I still long to be heard and believed–to hear someone say “I know what’s wrong and I know how to help you.”

It was hard but I got to a place of accepting the situation for what it was, that I’m not going to hear anything like that from him, or any other physician. I struggled and switched into the mindset that I can figure out this situation with or without him believing me. That depending on others just upsets me and listening to them could hold me back from finding answers.

However I often lose my grip and vacillate between accepting denial is common and focusing on finding solutions independently to desperately wanting the validation from him and others.

This appointment was no exception. Nothing different or surprising. But several days after certain aspects of it are still niggling at me.

The topic of my school withdrawal came up because earlier that month, I asked him to write me a letter that would give me medical leave from college.

Early that semester I had a painful tooth extraction. The lengthy recovery put me behind in my school work. On top of that, six members of my extended family and two friends passed away in a time span of 5 months.

I was also super burned out from previous the semester and had resolved to leave college after the fall, but with the deaths and the amount of missed work I had to make up, my brain was fried–I couldn’t even hold ideas in my head long enough to write them down–I needed out of college early.

Because of my colorful mental history chock full of labels, he always gravitates towards the topic of depression. Not depression based in reality, mind you, but in the fantasy model of the DSM. The magical kind of depression not caused by internal or external circumstances, physical health, or environmental factors, but of a mythical biological condition some are predisposed to and can supposedly cause mental impairments.

And so my neurologist poked and prodded me with questions that would reveal whether or not I had become “depressed” during my ordeals with school and lost loved ones that may subsequently have interfered with my cognitive abilities, because ECT can’t be a factor. My statements, that in spite of such a horrific semester, I’m not depressed. That, actually, I’m doing pretty damn good considering my severe burn out, a crap ton of people I cared about dying in close proximity and my daily coping with dementia age 31.

I go gym several times a week, am taking online courses and volunteering for a local organization. I’m also planning my search for part time work as soon as I recuperate. Meanwhile, I’m looking into career options that are feasible with my disability. I also keep in touch with my friends and family. I’ve had a rough ride this last semester but I’m optimistic things will get better.

Tell me, are these the actions or attitudes of a clinically depressed individual?

But my neurologist’s understanding of mental health exists in the realm of the DSM. He also has files and assessments from previous doctors, But because I have a colorful mental health history, and the multiple choice test I took as part of my neuro-testing. It indicated I was “depressed,” but its validity deserves doubt because its an arbitrary assessment that disregards life context of  and  bs-ed it by randomly answering the questions.

Because he sees me through the lens of the DSM and other information painting me as mentally ill, what I say can’t be trusted, so he turns and asks my father to confirm what I say (post shock I process information too slowly to process effectively during my appointments. Because of this, my needs rarely get addressed. Also, because of my brain damage, I communicate atypically. These two things leads to doctors who can’t bear to to spend more than 5 minutes per client, start acting like impatient assholes, so I bring my dad along to help make sure everything I need to say gets said and considered. Doctors also tend to be better behaved with another man in the room.

This double check with another source regarding my emotional state reiterates that he believes I can’t be trusted to know my own mind.
My words are meaningless. That annoyingly hopeful part of me still desperately wishes they meant something–to him and every other person I have to deal with.

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