It is a sad fact that for many, discrimination is something they regularly have to endure. I was on a secure ward at my local hospital in April. Whilst there, due to an increase in pain medication, I found myself unable to wee. Trust me, it is horrific. Especially as by the time I got sent to the ultrasound to check what was going on, I was already desperate for the loo, and I still had to wait an hour after that before the catheter was inserted. If any of you have had to hold it in the past, you can imagine how bad it was! There was about 1200ml, and they said there was a lot at the ultrasound when it was only 800ml.
Moving on to the point of the story, policy dictated that I was unable to remain on the psychiatric ward whilst wearing the catheter. The urologist came up and was talking with staff, who wanted to move me to his ward. Whilst they were talking (just outside my cubicle so I could hear it all), he said ‘I don’t want one of ‘them’ patients on my ward’. The ward manager did give him a good bollocking, but I was shocked that a medical professional, no less, would behave like that.
I ended up on the surgery ward as that was the only place they had space! Even worse than that, he refused to see me, and when I was discharged I was sent home wearing the catheter with no appointment to have it out or investigate the cause.
Compared to the stories I have heard, what I experienced is minor. But it does go to show that discrimination can come from anywhere, at any time. It is not unusual to be scared of something you don’t understand. I get that. But the onus is on you to research it so you DO understand, not make life harder for people that already have a difficult life.
One of the more prominent cases of mass discrimination has come from the Department of Work and Pensions, by way of the medical examinations required to receive Employment and Support Allowance. Again, this is largely due to ignorance. It is easier to assess, for example, a broken leg or a wheelchair user than an illness that you cannot see. That has led to thousands of people being declared fit for work, when in fact they are not able.
This is a double edged sword because the stress of being rejected and then appealing can make mental health problems worse. The very people we should be protecting are forced into a state of panic, with very little help to help them appeal, and no support to cope with the news. Let us not forget that when declared fit for work, benefits are stopped immediately (including housing benefit and council tax benefit) with no notice. That means, on top of everything else, they have to find food, deal with rent arrears letters from their landlords, gas and electric companies, water companies, the council etc. Which is tremendous pressure to try and deal with.
They do start paying you a reduced allowance while you are in the process of appealing, but it can still leave you with no money for 6 weeks while they set your appeal up. And because you are technically not on any benefits during that period, it cuts them off from things like crisis loans that they could normally apply for.
When I get my appointment letter for my assessment, my doctor has to up my anxiety medication in the lead up to the appointment just so I can cope. Which is an absolutely ridiculous state of affairs.
Whether people run away when you inform them you have mental health problems, stare because you were burnt in a fire as a child, or point because you are short, it leaves more mental scars for you to deal with. It is about time we started calling out these ignorant fools and force them to confront the things they are so afraid of. Why does it matter what people look like, sound like, or what conditions you have? Why does it matter if you are not in that square people call ‘average’ or ‘normal’? I am damn proud to be crazy. I am not a sheep. I don’t try to conform to the standards of small minds.
I like to look at things from different angles. And it has occurred to me that we should love the ignorant people that point and laugh. We should love the people that try to fit neatly into boxes. We should adore the distinctly ordinary people. Because without the ordinary, how can we be the extraordinary people we are?