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Medical Beandipping

Darren has finally resolved a lifelong question as to why he is so disorganized and has always done poorly in school. After a battery of psychological tests administered by a leading Psychologist in his city, he has been given a diagnosis of Adult Deficit Disorder, or ADD. Excited to finally share with his friends that the medication prescribed to him by the Psychiatrist he was referred to for treatment, several of his friends took it upon themselves to immediately criticize the medication he was taking, tell him his diagnosed disorder was non-existent, that all he needed was “more self-control,” and that the pharmaceutical companies were making billions of dollars from patients like himself.

Ruth has been hospitalized for six weeks at a psychiatric hospital and diagnosed as bipolar. She takes medication that stabilizes her condition, but encounters on a regular basis well-meaning individuals who inform her that her “Western Medicine” approach is incorrect, and that she should try a more natural way to treat her condition, such as fish oil, vitamins, exercise and amino acid therapy. The constant disapproval at times leads Ruth to abandon her Psychiatrist’s advice and attempt to do things in a more natural way, leading to severe relapses and distress.

My question revolves around the well-meaning friends and family who respond to illnesses of the mind/emotions with immediate advice and contradiction or out and out doubt of the validity of a diagnosis. Surely this is improper etiquette, is it not?   0723-11

My first thought is typically to frame the issue in regards to how an individual can best mitigate other people’s faux pas committed against them.   Darren probably should not have shared what medications he was taking as that is information best kept to oneself, one’s doctor and the pharmacy.   It’s really no one else’s business what you pop into your mouth.    It’s the kind of information, that if someone has a similar problem or an inquiry as to how efficacious a drug is, that can be shared if one chooses.  But broadcasting it just seems like a recipe to tempt people into expressing their opinion.

It’s somewhat ironic that we have HIPPAA laws to protect our medical privacy but people think nothing of exposing their private medical issues with an accompanying unrealistic expectation that while they were indiscreet, everyone else should be discreet in keeping their thoughts and opinions to themselves.    Regardless of how small the public arena is, once that information is “published”,  our culture views it as available for commentary.   For example, celebrities who reveal their own medical issues (thinking of Betty Ford’s addictions, painkiller addictions by athletes, etc.) undoubtedly know that public exposure carries an inherent risk of public negativity.   But in doing so, some forge ahead believing that educating people far outweighs the negative repercussions.

People should mind their own business and refrain from commenting on other people’s medical conditions and treatments, despite  how well-intentioned they may be.   But we know that busy bodies exist and if we are to thwart their behavior, the best route is to starve them of anything to be nosy about.    It’s one thing to tell friends and extended family what the medical diagnosis is, but any further detail is really not necessary.   If asked, simply say, “My doctor has it under control but thank you for your concern,” or, “My treatment is progressing very well so far, thank you for asking.”


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Elle August 2, 2011, 4:23 pm

    “So, one should “share the burden” of a diagnosis with friends even though one knows that some of them are opinionated and nosy thus increasing the patient’s burden even more?”

    Would this be a question if the people in question were suffering from leukemia or needed surgery? Or should only people suffering invisible mental ailments suck it up and not bother their friends?

    • admin August 2, 2011, 8:30 pm

      Elle, good question. When I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma 2 years ago, I made the decision to not tell my extended family, i.e. in-laws, my father, siblings. The reason was that my sister-in-law was dying of cancer and my father had terminal cancer. There was enough stress and anxiety in both families without me adding more until we knew for certain, after the lymph node biopsies, whether the melanoma had metastasized. I instead relied on close friends for support. I can tell you from experience that certain illnesses will refine your friendships. Get cancer and you’ll find out pretty quickly who your real friends are. After I went more public with my diagnosis to my church, people befriended me that I had not really had much of a relationship before because they had gone through something similar. But I did lose one friendship from a person who could not deal with being associated with a cancer patient and I have an older friend with stage four ovarian cancer whose son has abandoned her because he lost his wife to cancer and he cannot deal with it. I do not regret not telling my family until we had good news to share and overall, the positives outweighed the negatives.

  • Melly August 2, 2011, 4:37 pm

    People wouldn’t think of telling a diabetic to stop using insulin because it’s a ploy by the big pharmaceutical companies and that the diabetes is all in their head. Why should mental illness be any different? I have a mental illness and those that didn’t understand or wanted to say it was all in my head got cut off pretty fast. I found out that you can’t tell beforehand with most people how they’re going to react. I knew how people of my parents’ generation were going to react but I was really unsure about people in my generation.

  • Angeldrac August 2, 2011, 4:40 pm

    I disagree with admin on this one.
    As someone who works in healthcare, I really do see the benefit that people have in being able tomdiscuss their conditions freely, especially with those conditions, such as mental health issues, that have had such stigma attached to them for such a long time (the same goes for the more embarrassing of medical problems such as women’s health issues, sexual health issues, infertility etc.).
    Mental health support serves are focussing SO MUCH on bringing about free and open discourse in the public area, that to suggest we should get all hush-hush and Victorian again is really quite counter-productive and offensive.
    I really believe that this etiquette problem really comes down to the responses of the family and friends, who should be being supportive in what the individual is finding works for them. Telling a person to steer away from medically prescribed treatment is irresponsible and dangerous and these people need to simply be told “thanks for your concern, but I’m finding my current management is really working”.
    I repeat, I DO NOT THINK THE ANSWER, HERE, IS REDUCING PUBLIC DISCUSSION. (And yes, I capital letters equates to a raised voice, because that’s how strongly I feel about this issue)

  • WhirlyBird August 2, 2011, 4:45 pm

    Many disabilities (such as ADD or mental illness) are hidden disabilities and therefore not seen as valid. Or those who have them are feared. Sometimes the only way for these – or any – disabilities or illnesses to become more “acceptable” or less fearful is for people to meet others who have the disease or disability. It wasn’t all that long ago that those with mental illness were locked up in wards, sterilized without consent, and generally treated quite badly. The only way to make sure that we don’t revert to treating others that way is education and experience. Additionally, research shows that social and spiritual support have a positive effect on outcomes and well being. I have a hard time seeing this as “sharing the burden” of a diagnosis.

    Patients are not educated about how to deal with others reactions whether its a mental illness or even regular illness, or how or when to share the information. It isn’t necessarily a good idea to share treatment information with others, and that is usually where the opinions are voiced. Personally I find it rude, unethical and dangerous that others would dispense medical advice without a proper license.

  • Jennifer August 2, 2011, 4:48 pm

    My sister in law does the same thing to her family that people have done to Ruth, mainly criticize and critique peoples health issues while extolling “better” remedies. My husband I both have been spoken to about hokey medicine/vitamins that don’t work. I have learned to just let her talk and move onto another subject. The reason the health issues were shared were a). My husband has been struggling for 30 years with his issue, causing problems while growing up and affecting his family, and was happy to finally know what is wrong. b). She and I both have the same medical condition and had spent a little time discussing the problems we both had with a certain medicine. I think that Darren should explain what he has and if anyone says the same thing again just change the subject. I have had to deal with a person who has ADD and it is not a lack of self control period. Ironically enough I had a family member who has bipolar and she went off and on her meds all the time, it wasn’t about people leading her astray it was because she felt better and felt like she didn’t need the meds anymore.

  • Elizabeth August 2, 2011, 4:56 pm

    Not to insult any of the fine readers here, but in what dank, dark, San Francisco sewer are these people hanging out? I cannot STAND people who pull the whole, “You’re making it up,” or “It’s all in your head,” talking point. For one thing, you’re basically calling this person a liar, a fool, or a lying fool. For another, yes, it is the solemn duty of a friend to keep a person safe and look out for their best interests, but at least see whether or not they are actually in any danger! It’s easy: your friend just started taking Prozac for depression. Does he or she seem sadder, listless, less interested in the goings on around him or her, or is he or she looking happier, more energetic, and less like a corpse? Stop pulling conspiracy theory “facts” out of your bodily orifices, and actually consider what’s best for your friend.

    And I also disagree with the Admin about the sharing of medical issues. I’ve suffered from severe depression for my entire life. That’s not an exaggeration; I recall an instance in daycare where I was fantasizing about death. I’ve been on pills and off pills, most of the time getting worse. My life changed when I found a fantastic psychiatrist and started Zoloft last year. Heavens, do you know how good it feels to not want to die? It’s fantastic! I honestly don’t see how the topic is much different from a newly-engaged woman showing off her ring, except that a bride-to-be will tell pretty much anyone, whereas I only tell close friends (and anonymous people on the Internet, heh).

    But, that’s me, and I have a strong wish to expose formerly shameful things to the light of day, and bring sufferers out of the shadows. I like to be candid and up-front, because then people HAVE to think about it. Some will be disgusted, offended, or just made a little uncomfortable, most will probably forget it, but there will always be someone who wants to know, who NEEDS to know, and I want those people to benefit. Sharing is part of the human experience, and I treat this the same way I treat “offensive” Christmas decorations: being exposed to something you don’t like does not hurt you. If you’re bothered, read a book of your choice until you’ve forgotten the offense.

  • RayChee August 2, 2011, 6:28 pm

    If you’re that insecure about the choices you’re making, perhaps don’t tell everyone what you’re doing. I understand that it must be tiresome to constantly have to justify what you’re doing, as in the second example in the origianl post, so stop telling people! Really, people are allowed to have different opinions, so if it rocks your world so much, don’t mention it. And I agree (perhaps the first time ever) with Admin – practice saying firmly a phrase that indicates that you are happy with what you’re doing.

  • Lily G August 2, 2011, 6:31 pm

    Sometimes in the excitement of hope, you make really poor choices.

  • --Lia August 2, 2011, 6:35 pm

    Allow me to play Devil’s advocate for a moment. In general, I agree with the admin. In the scenarios described, I got the idea that the patient had finally found something that worked, found an explanation that put all the pieces together and was sharing the joy. When listeners gave contradicting advice, it wasn’t just a downer; it was dangerous. It was akin to telling someone to stop taking the life-saving medicine for heart disease or diabetes.

    But what if it didn’t happen exactly like that? What if the listeners have heard the tale of woe, concluded that the doctors had prescribed something that wasn’t working, and were offering suggestions for something that would? It wouldn’t be the first time that someone has made a totally out of line comment that actually turned out to be helpful. In that case, the patient needs to say “thanks for your thoughts. I’ll look into it.” For the most part, I trust doctors, but they don’t know everything. Sometimes a home remedy helps.

    I’m going back and forth on this because, like I say, I mostly trust doctors. One thing I’ve noticed, the closer one is to the medical field, the less likely one is to offer advice out of context and for free. Good doctors take full histories before saying anything. The ones who fancy themselves natural healers are the ones who walk around making suggestions even in situations where they’ve only overheard something. They break in and say “have you tried cherry juice” at the merest suggestion of hearing about a symptom in someone they’ve never met.

    I’ve gotten to where I won’t even suggest moderate exercise, and that’s practically a sure bet for everyone. I figure that if my friend hasn’t heard of it, they probably don’t want to hear about it.

    As for whether you should share diagnoses, I think this one is a matter of levels of intimacy. Share your diagnosis with everyone? You practically deserve what you get. But I’d feel rebuffed if a close friend didn’t share what was wrong. Even if we’re only casual friends, I certainly don’t deserve to know, but if I care about someone, it helps to have an explanation for what’s the matter. I promise I won’t pour on treacly sympathy or unwanted advice. I will nod sagely and use the information to be more helpful.

  • Sarah Jane August 2, 2011, 6:53 pm

    Ista makes an interesting point. To anyone who suggests to me that the use of medication is “hooey”, and that I should seek God’s help, I suggest this: Some of us believe that God created the natural elements used to produce medications, and that He provided the innovation and technology necessary to develop those medications. For some of us, medication IS God’s help.

  • Lexie August 2, 2011, 7:28 pm

    Darren might just have been pleased that he was finally prescribed something for his conditional – I understand that relief and excitement that you’ve finally got something that you desperately need and want to share it with the people closest to you. Or, in my case, are happy to share to educate and de-stigmatize mental issues and diseases.

    I have dealt with so many people who judge me for being on anti-anxiety medications. Some people have asked me about my treatment, other times my mother has mentioned it to someone (she usually asks me first, so this isn’t a privacy issue) or someone LOOKS in my bag or my bedroom >:( And then they start lecturing me about it. Quite frankly, the kind of depression and anxiety that requires medication isn’t the sort of anxiety and depression that you can decide to ignore, like so many people have told me – ‘Oh I have depression too, but I just ignore it and keep going; but then I have to.’ It’s very hurtful and frustrating, and I know I’ve been made to feel weak and inferior because of it.

    I look forward to the day when people are once again simply supportive and encouraging rather than judgemental, if it ever comes.

  • siobhan August 2, 2011, 7:29 pm

    ” I could not agree more with the Admin on this one. Excellent advice.
    I don’t know why Darren was excited to share his prescription medication information with his friends,”

    Probably because he was so relieved to receive a diagnosis that explained some of his problems. Not excused them, but put them in a different light.
    When I found out (at 45) that I had ADHD, I finally realized that I wasn’t willfully stupid, disorganized, and absent minded. I tried very hard as a kid, never wanting anyone upset with me, but usually fell short. Darren was probably trying to share with with others, and get over the shame. He probably didn’t want opinions, just someone to listen. People sometimes over- share when they are looking for understanding.

  • siobhan August 2, 2011, 7:31 pm

    “I told my friends about the new medication I was on, how it would hopefully slow down progression, the crazy side effects, that sort of stuff. Sharing something that has tremendously effected your life with your good friends (who have watched the disruptions it causes to your life) is not wrong and should set you up for trouble. ”
    Excellent point- That’s exactly what I did.

  • semi-regular commenter remaining anon August 2, 2011, 7:58 pm

    My best friend has loads of mental illness disorders and I’ve shared my struggles with a couple of close friends of mine who don’t know her (for my own sanity in dealing and my bestie remains anonymous). My Mum has also recently started taking antidepressants and is feeling better than she has in a long long time.

    It frustrates me to NO end that my MIL thinks that my bestie should start taking this natural remedy of acids-something and that my Mum should just trust God more.

    You have NO IDEA what you are talking about WOMAN!! Maybe if you’d spent the better part of a year in a locked psychiatric unit trying to kill yourself, you wouldn’t give such ignorant advice!! *ragey rage*. Maybe if you were sick and tired of feeling sad ALL THE FREAKING TIME you wouldn’t suggest Mum just needs more prayer and faith!!

    I’m not that angry. I know my MIL cares and that’s why she wants to help. I’m glad that I’m getting this advice and not my friend or Mum, as it might be quite harmful/depressing to hear it. When she suggested this new drug that my friend should take, I got a bit of (perverse) delight in informing her how traumatic drug changes are, as well as side effects that she has lived through and the consequences of changing.

    Doctors mostly know what they’re doing and I’m very thankful that they’ve positively influenced the well being of my best friend and Mum! Thank God for giving Doctors the smarts into that kinda stuff!

  • Angela August 2, 2011, 8:15 pm

    Well, people will sometimes respond in ways you didn’t expect, and sometimes they find out through a third party or another way. While a person with a mental illness should be cautious about oversharing, saying that Darren and Ruth should have known better has a blame-the-victim aspect to it. Darren and Ruth may not have used the best judgement but the people telling them not to take their meds are being nosy, rude and potentially dangerous.

  • Jared Bascomb August 2, 2011, 8:59 pm

    Elizabeth wrote: “. . . in what dank, dark, San Francisco sewer are these people hanging out?”

    Excuse me, dear, but are you suggesting that San Francisco is a sewer? If so, I can pretty much tell where you’re coming from, and can only say that you are a bigot.

    Several posts ago, an OP tried to stereotype all people from Florida as boorish and all people from Texas as ultra-polite and got called on it by almost every commenter. And I’m calling you out for this comment.

    • The Other Elizabeth June 3, 2015, 3:49 pm

      I know this is YEARS later, but I was bored at work just now and reading old posts and saw this response:

      Not in the least was I trying to bash on San Francisco! This excuse will seem lame, but the reason I mentioned San Francisco is because I’m a big fan of Cities of the Underworld and other out-of-the-light-of-day or behind-the-scenes shows, and I’ve seen a bunch of bits about the SF drainage and sewer system. It’s long, dark, and incredibly complex, especially considering its great age, and this was my attempt to be . . . something. Cool? Historically savvy? I don’t know, I just know that I was referring to those aged canals that will sooner-rather-than-later fail and plunge the fine city into intolerable stench. Yes, I remember random things like this (but can never recall what I ate for dinner the night before).

      I’d be upset that you jumped onto the “bigot!” train like that, but I suppose it’s easy to see that as rude. Apologies. I meant no offense, not even jokingly.

      • The Other Elizabeth June 3, 2015, 3:52 pm

        And I also can’t remember that I already explained myself when this was first posted (Darn it, Elizabeth, all you had to do was scroll down a bit!). I can remember movie quotes verbatim though, even if I’ve seen the film once and years ago! ^_^

  • Jennifer August 2, 2011, 9:07 pm

    Someone once convinced my cousin she didn’t need her bipolar meds. She ended up in the hospital. People need to stop their phobia of western medicine and not contradict doctors. If you didn’t go to medical school, don’t play doctor.

    I have to disagree with the Admin’s advice. People need support, especially in those kinds of situations. When you have mental illness it’s a good idea to tell close friends because they can watch out for the signs that you are in trouble, they are your first safety net.

  • Raven August 2, 2011, 9:29 pm

    Disclose, don’t disclose … there’s no hard and fast rule here, I don’t think. If your family and friends are supportive people who have your best interests at heart and will hear you out, disclose. If they aren’t that supportive and probably won’t hear you out, don’t disclose. Or, don’t fully disclose – that’s what usually works for me with the “outisde friends and family.” Instead of saying, “I have ______ (health condition) and …. details …. details … details….” I usually say, “I’m feeling under the weather.” If people push, saying, “I’m ok, I’m used to it” and changing the subject usually does the trick.

    The difficult part, in my experience, is in the work field. If you disclose about a health condition (whether mental or physical) you are putting yourself at risk for discrimination. If you don’t disclose and something happens, you are putting your professional reputation at risk. Either way, a tricky choice.

    It would be nice to be more open, because I think a lot of people’s fears and assumptions are rooted in a lack of information. However, you have to look after YOUR best interests, and that may mean keeping quiet.

  • AM in AL August 2, 2011, 9:48 pm

    My ADD is like my diabetes – a fact that may come up at some point. I did not announce either at my job interview. I joke about either one, but you do not need to know what medicine I take. Should you offer an opinion about any of my treatment plans, I’ll inform you that it’s between me and my doctors. Should you offer your opinion that either diagnosis is imaginary, I will ever-so-politely point out that you are making yourself look foolish.

  • KitKat August 2, 2011, 9:50 pm

    In what will eventually be my line of work (speech pathologist), we are REQUIRED to ask what medicines people are on (and when reevaluated, if there has been any change in meds) in case something should happen in the therapy room. HIPAA laws apply to us even in school settings. And medical diagnoses help us to write goals (different levels of functioning). That being said, I would share the information about meds I was if it was pertinent to what was going on.

  • Chicken August 2, 2011, 10:56 pm

    I get kind of nuts whenever I hear someone tell a person with bipolar disorder they should stop taking their meds. I don’t care if they’re dangerous (and yes some of them are when taken for extended periods) or not “natural”. They keep otherwise unbalanced people alive. I’ve often felt like anyone telling a bipolar patient to stop taking their meds should be charged with assault if that person does it and hurts themselves.

    As for ADD, ADHD, and all the rest. They are real conditions and if you spend more than 15 minutes really paying attention to a person suffering from any of them it becomes painfully obvious the problem is not a lack of self control.

    I believe mental illness is serious, and many people suffer undiagnosed all due to the stigma associated with it. So I’m sorry but I disagree with the admin here, people suffering from mental illness should share as often as they feel like it. I was so happy when Catherine Zeta-Jones came out as having bipolar disorder. If a popular celebrity who has had a successful career can be seen doing what she needs to do to take carer of her overall wellbeing then maybe it’ll keep just one more person from going off their meds.

  • MidoriBird August 2, 2011, 10:57 pm

    Dealing with Asperger’s, I can say that I do my level best to not tell people around me that I do not trust, and sure as hell do not tell my superiors at work. I have enough problems without them realizing that perhaps the root cause of some of my differences is because of a mild form of autism. Besides my mother (who also works there) the only other one whom I disclosed that information to was a former nurse who told me she’d suspected as much for quite some time, although she, like me, realizes that I deal with it well enough that people generally don’t suspect how different I am until, and if, they ever manage to slip past the front I do my best to put up to seem as normal as possible.

    It is ironic that I deal with customers as one of the biggest clues to asperger’s is social awkwardness, but after thirteen years of dealing with people in this fashion, at least I can assume it has helped me a great deal when I must deal with others….when I’m alone, I prefer to be left alone.

  • --Lia August 2, 2011, 11:22 pm

    Melly– “People wouldn’t think of telling a diabetic to stop using insulin because it’s a ploy by the big pharmaceutical companies and that the diabetes is all in their head.” Actually, it happens all the time, and the results can be as disastrous as untreated mental illness.

  • Hollanda, UK August 3, 2011, 4:01 am

    I have learnt just not to disclose anything unless I absolutely have to. I am sick of being judged on my previous lifestyle and I am now too paranoid to actually tell anyone (esp at work) what I am doing that weekend or where DF and I are going. I know it will result in a snide comment from SS if I say anything so I just keep it to myself. Anyone who is a proper friend will not jump to conclusions or make negative comments as to what we choose to eat for our dinner that night!

    However, I am guilty of over disclosure when I am upset or excited about something. It’s as though my mouth won’t stop talking!! 🙁 I look back sometines and think “No wonder people judge me!”

  • MellowedOne August 3, 2011, 7:06 am

    Elle said,
    “Would this be a question if the people in question were suffering from leukemia or needed surgery? Or should only people suffering invisible mental ailments suck it up and not bother their friends?”

    THANK YOU! Disabilities of the mind are often seldom understood by the general public, even ones who know the ‘catchphrase’ terms of the illness. Thus, many of us (at least I do), when sharing details of my 30+ year battle with Epilepsy (with friends), I may receive suggestions of alternative therapies. These suggestions are made out of genuine concern, albeit in medical ignorance. I accept them for what they are, educate them in a kind but definitive way, leaving no room for debate.

  • Invalidcharactr August 3, 2011, 9:11 am

    I don’t have a problem with people offering advice; I just don’t like it when they insist repeatedly that I follow it. For example, if I say that I have a headache, and someone suggests a cup of coffee (which does help several kinds of headache), and I refuse on the grounds that I don’t feel like drinking caffeine, then I expect that to be the end of the conversation, and I appreciate the suggestion (since it was just an attempt to be helpful, right?)

    I especially hate when people suggest prayers or rituals for medical problems. One time I mentioned in passing that I was having a bit of trouble sleeping for a few weeks and I was told to read bible passages and pray. I’m a rationalist (I don’t like the term Atheist for semantic reasons. I don’t define myself by what I’m not), and to me, that suggestion was as out of place as if someone had suggested making an offering of chicken blood to Shakpana in the hopes of curing Strep throat. (Taken from another equally-valid religious tradition, but also something I would not consider doing.)

  • Ruth August 3, 2011, 10:31 am

    I think if it’s appropriate to say “I’ve just started treatment for my cancer,” then it’s appropriate to say “I’ve just started treatment for my bipolar disorder.” Invisible illnesses will continue to carry a stigma as long as people think they’re something to be hidden. Sharing with your friends that you’re finally getting better should be a joy.

    Incidentally, saying that you’re getting chemo will also bring out these same sorts of people, who think that vitamins will cure your cancer. But in most cases, because the people aren’t mentally ill to begin with, it seems to have less of an effect of shaming the patient into stopping treatment.

  • Enna August 3, 2011, 10:42 am

    @ Stace, I’m so sorry to hear Aunty is having a tough time – that is shocking! How could anyone do that to someone so vulnable? To make complaints like that until she looses her job. As for those people who wouldn’t employ her – she’s too good for them. Just goes to shown people with mental health problems suffer such sickening discrimination in the work place.

    As for admin’s post: if the person who has the condition discloses it then I think it’s different. Someone saying that they have XYZ espcially a famous person helps to promote the issue and brings into public discusion. When Kylie Monogue said she had breast cancer more women got screened. Unless a Dr makes a mis-diagnoses or goes before a medical board for dodgy pratice it has to be said his or her diagnoses is correct.

    As for drugs such as anti-depressants they do help with the syptomns – for some this allows the person to cope, either to identify the cause of the problem and go to counselling or if drug therapy works for that person to carry on with life. Lots of famous people have had mental health problems, e.g. scientists, artists, intelliagnt people etc.




  • Maitri August 3, 2011, 11:50 am

    I suffer from anxiety and take Zoloft daily. The medication keeps my emotions very smooth and even, and so I lose any sense of urgency that I might need in the workplace, depending on what projects I have going on; it is difficult to get me excited about anything. So I make sure my bosses know that just because I don’t seem like I have that urgency, I am working hard towards the goal. But otherwise, I don’t think anyone needs to know what medications I take.

  • Natalie August 3, 2011, 12:18 pm


    What a shame for your aunt. Do you know if she looked into taking action under the ADA?

    For everyone else here who lives with a mental disorder and is concerned about work, be aware that the Americans with Disabilities Act protects mental illnesses and conditions in the same way it protects physical conditions. Obviously the law is not a magic shield, but it may help. You do, however, have to disclose your illness to your employer to be protected.

  • Elizabeth August 3, 2011, 1:39 pm

    Jared Bascomb:

    You have misunderstood. I’m saying the sewers OF San Francisco, and I’m fairly sure that is clear. If you are offended by the interpreted statement that San Francisco just sucks, and not my implication that San Francisco is often a bastion of pseudo-Eastern thinking, then I must call you out for jumping to conclusions before you’ve finished the sentence. However, if I am erroneous in my belief that the meaning was clear, then I am sorry.

    Mind you, I was not fair to the SF sewer system; the original brick structures have been around for 100-150 years, despite all those earthquakes. They deserve our respect. People who are so “attuned” to Eastern belief systems that they reject anything that even seems Western, to the harm of themselves or other, well, they deserve something more along the lines of a sad smile and shake of the head.

  • Dana August 3, 2011, 4:54 pm

    Ugh, I’ve suffered from anxiety/depression/OCD most of my life and it took years of therapy and the right combination of medications to get it all under control! Still people take it upon themselves to remind me that as a Christian, God can take it all away…

  • Andrea B. August 3, 2011, 7:00 pm

    I recently had a physical ailment which required a trip to the ER, all kinds of medication, and a few more tests. I stayed with my parents during this time, as they lived near the hospital and I couldn’t drive (and lived alone). They had a party on a Sunday with a bunch of my relatives. I spent some time outside in a reclining beach chair, as that lessened the pain and didn’t make me dizzy. (Some of that medication…OH, BOY!)

    I was on the receiving end of comments and advice from armchair M.D.s who kept repeating myths about my condition, such as “You didn’t do X! That’s why you have this condition!” or “You ate Y! That’s why you have it!” (Nope. Wrong on all accounts. Nothing I did or did not do contributed to this condition.) Then I received this rude comment from an uncle: “That’s what happens when you don’t take care of yourself!” I didn’t dignify that stupid comment with a response, as I do take care of myself and this ailment I had can happen to anyone at anytime. I did think to myself, “Keep on making ridiculous comments! That’s what happens when you don’t have any clue what you are talking about!”

  • lkb August 4, 2011, 6:22 am

    I realize this thread is mainly about mental health issues and the more serious and/or chronic issues (cancer, diabetes etc.), but it also applies to the less serious ones as well.

    I admit I could stand to lose a few pounds and I’m trying. Also living where I do in Michigan — in which just about everyone I know suffers from allergies/sinus trouble etc. from our hot, humid summers.
    I also admit that Diet Coke is my addiction.

    Every so often someone feels they have the right to comment on my Diet Coke (usually while they are drinking coffee, which IMHO is not the best option either now, is it?).
    I was walking into a seminar with my Big Gulp of Diet Coke and commented to my companion, in response to the predictable comment about the weather, “yes, my sinuses are acting up as usual — you too?”…

    when someone not of our party came up on the other side and butted in with, “You know why, don’t you? It’s all that high fructose corn syrup in pop and junk food etc.” Then gave me a knowing look and moved on.

    I didn’t ask her opinion nor anyone else’s. I found myself very annoyed and thinking quite unChristian thoughts about her the rest of this Christian seminar.

    Why is it that people feel the right to comment on my choices? Grrr.

  • Rachel August 4, 2011, 11:51 am

    For several years I was a case manager for people with mental health issues. Several ran into a different problem when they shared with people what medications they were taking. People would steal them! One woman, in particular, felt that many of her friends, family, and neighbors were stealing her ADD and anti-anxiety meds. (These have a street value.) I think discretion is the best bet — mental illness no longer needs to be kept a deep, dark secret, but it’s best to only tell people what medication you take if you can really trust them, for so many reasons.

  • AS August 4, 2011, 3:13 pm

    @ Andrea B. – you story reminds me of a time I was extremely ill when I was around 25 years old. A friend of mine said that I am a papmered child of my parents, and that’s why I fell ill. Go figure! (I am the only child, but though I am pampered, they have taught me how to take care of myself. I recovered in record time too).

  • Stace August 4, 2011, 3:56 pm

    My Aunt had no options under ADA when she was fired because she failed to disclose. Proving discrimination during hiring, especially in a climate like this in which there may be 100+ candidates per job opening, is impossible unless you happen to be luck enough to get it on record that the reason you aren’t be considered is your disability AND you can demonstrate that the accommodation you require is something the company should consider to be reasonable.

    People have a lot of misconceptions about mental illnesses, especially thanks to Hollywood.

    My Aunt, to be specific, is schizophrenic. People she discloses to are almost immediately convinced that she is hearing voices all the time telling her to kill them, kill them all, preferably in horrific fashion. That’s the discrimination she faces if she discloses. If she doesn’t disclose, she cannot get the accommodations she needs to do her job (such as something as simple as the ability to take her medication at work). She can’t disclose because it would be ‘indiscreet’ and thus apparently rude, but she has to disclose because it’s a safety issue.

    So indeed, her only option is ‘shut up and just be normal’, or else she’s rude and/or broken.

  • Melly August 4, 2011, 5:43 pm

    @ –Lia, I work in the medical field and this might only apply to where I work, but the first time someone goes without insulin and gets hospitalized they learn their lesson. For some reason, mental illness meds aren’t taken nearly seriously and the same people end up in the hospital day in and day out. You’d never see a Type I diabetic show up twice for not taking their insulin because ‘they don’t feel like it’. But you’ll see someone with a mental illness show up because they don’t feel like taking their meds and it’s completely acceptable.

  • --Lia August 5, 2011, 1:30 am

    Melly– Thanks for the correction. I was wrong. I suppose my larger point was only that unasked for advice comes from all corners. You’re not safe from it if you have a physical illness as opposed to a mental one. People with cancer get told to eat brown rice instead of getting chemotherapy. And it’s not limited to illness. There are people out there who will tell you how to invest your money, how to raise your children, what to wear, what to eat. The trick in all cases is to thank the advice givers for their concern. The first time graciously, the second time through clenched teeth.

  • Michelle P August 5, 2011, 9:47 am

    Stace, please give your aunt my sincere wishes for her health and situation.

    I agree with admin to a point; disclose when necessary and to nonjudgemental, close people. I hear from older generations especially that mental/emotional and even physical illnesses are nonexistent and “doctors wanting to get money from medicating.” We’ve come far in accepting emotional and mental illness, but still have a long way to go.

    Bless you admin and your struggle with melanoma, and all the posters here who have any illness.

  • Cat August 5, 2011, 8:43 pm

    I came home from college my senior year to find that my mother’s right arm was swollen to twice its normal size. When I asked about it, Mom informed me that her “doctor’ (diet doctor only as she weighted 300 lbs.) had told her it was arthritis and she had to learn to live with it.

    As the entire arm was involved, I told her that arthritis didn’t present like that and it had to be something else. I thought she should get a second opinion asap.

    Mom informed me that I was only going to be a teacher and that she’d take a doctor’s word for what was wrong with her. When I got my M.D., she’d talk to me.

    She died less than a year later. It was lymphatic cancer.

    Thirty years later, I had a similar argument with my boss. who was older than I. I was going for my first colonoscopy and, since she had never had one, I thought we could go together for moral support.

    Nope, too personal, too embarrassing, not having one didn’t mean one could die of colon cancer as I had suggested. We had a rather loud argument. One year and five days later, she was dead but not from colon cancer. She had a massive stroke after the doctor explained that her colon cancer was too far advanced for treatment and that there was no cure.

    Get a second opinion, get the required tests, and don’t yell at me when I tell you to ask the experts and remind you no one has ever died of embarrassment.

  • Enna August 6, 2011, 7:03 am

    @ Stace did you Aunty get help from ADA when she was fired after her collegues turned against her? It is important to disclose medical conditions, if I didn’t with the Diabetes I could get sacked. In your Aunty’s case it highlights the sick prejudice. In fact you are more likely to be attacked by somone who has no mental conditions. Stastically my parents and boyfirend indiviudally poses more of a threat to me then someone like your Aunty e.g. as a child I’m ten times more likely to be harmed by my parents then a stranger: as an adult one in four women and one in six men suffer domestic violence from their spouse/partner gf or bf. Hollywood has done a lot of damage to many groups of people in encouraging urban myths.

    With diabetes some people think the cause is eating too much sugar or salt (what on earth?) or that one type is too much sugar the other type is too little. However no-one has told me to stop taking insulin. I have been on anti-depresants but I decided to come off them myself, I had a little engouragement from friends but that’s all it was and there was no “it’s in your mind” or “it’s your diet” rubbish. The main reason why I came off them is that a month previously a source of the stress had disappeared (fantastic) and I wanted to enjoy myself and I was feeling happy. I was also with firends who I knew I could trust too.

    One firend said she had had a cousin who had committed sucicide using anti-drepressants: to me that was a geninue concern but I reassured her that I had no such thoughts and that anti-drepressants are unlikely to make someone feel that way. She said because of that she would never go on anti-depressants but that’s a bit different.

    With some mental conditions they can be casued by chemical and/or hormonal imbalnces in the brain so drug thereapies can be the best way for the individual to take control of the condition. In this respect using drugs to treat and control a condition is no different from me injecting insulin for my diabetes.

  • Enna August 6, 2011, 7:09 am

    @ Cat, there is nothing wrong with getting a second opinion, as Doctors can get it wrong. But what was different here is that you were saying go to a Doctor. I’m so sorry for what has happened.

  • Cat August 7, 2011, 6:03 pm

    I am sorry too. I lost my mother when I was twenty-two and my friend never lived to dance at her grandchildren’s weddings. And, if people won’t go to medical doctors when they need to, how much worse it must be to need psychological help and be ostracized for seeking it and for taking the required meds.

    I have a half-sister who is bi-polar. I don’t see that as a “mental problem” because so many people want to attach a stigma to it. It’s a chemical imbalance in the brain that presents in behavior rather than in tumors or spots. It’s the same with a lot of diseases that can be treated with medication.It’s a physical disease the same as cancer as far as I am concerned.

    The forty-five year old friend with a good job, great income who can’t buy a new car because her mother “won’t let her” is, to me, the one with a mental problem. Neither can she date because her mother has “attacks” just before the date arrives. There’s no medication to help her, but she tells herself that she is a good daughter for looking after her poor, old mother.That’s a mental problem.

  • allieiw August 9, 2011, 2:47 am

    Medical concerns are a particularly difficult issue when dealing with etiquette because it is a serious and incredibly personal issue. I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules here but I think there is a bit of a contradiction between wanting open discussion of medical issues and then condemning people for offering their thoughts. Certainly medical diagnosis and treatment plans should be left to professionals. However, in a casual situation if the topic/details have been brought up by the person in question I don’t think its rude to offer an anecdote or opinion. After all, discussing something extensively with someone is an invitation for a response. Intent is important and the opinion offered shouldnt be pushy or obnoxious (or degrading, obviously that is just beyond rude). Regardless of the opinions expressed the individual (with the aid of their doctor) will make an informed decision about what is best. Free discussion about personal issues in a supportive environment would be really lovely but medical concerns are so intricate and emotionally charged that the average acquaintance isn’t always equipped to know what might offend. I would suggest only sharing information that you are okay about receiving comments on. Very sensitive subjects are usually best confined to a trusted group of family/friends.

  • Annaham August 9, 2011, 8:37 pm

    I am of the opinion that a lot of to-disclose/not-to-disclose stuff can be pretty context-specific, particularly if it involves a work situation. The work/illness balancing act can be so complex!

    It would also be fantastic if the responses from know-it-alls, upon hearing of a friend’s diagnosis, weren’t so often “Oh, my best friend’s sister’s ex-boyfriend tried x, and it REALLY WORKED” or some malarkey, but unfortunately it happens more than many of us would like.

    I also think doubting the validity/realness/treatment regimen of a person’s diagnosis is pretty rude, even if it’s done by a “concerned” friend or family member–particularly if the person doing the doubting is NOT the diagnosee’s doctor. I have fibromyalgia, and have gotten the “But are you SURE you have it? You’re so young! Blah blah blah Big Pharma…you shouldn’t be taking those medications” thing too many times. A lot of heartache could be avoided if people would, you know, not leap ahead to get a word or advice in immediately upon hearing of a friend or family member’s new diagnosis, treatment plan, or how they are dealing with their health condition or illness.

  • Fraenzi August 11, 2011, 11:22 am

    I can totally understand Darren’s reaction… mine was simliar when I was diagnosed with ADD.
    The next few months I had to fight to convince my mother that I’m not crazy, that I’m able to lead a normal life and don’t have to be commited to a hospital, that I’m not just a lazy, stupid girl looking for excuses…
    Still, everytime I fail at something, the first thing she says is something along the lines of “maybe you’re just too stupid/lazy, maybe you should just stop trying”.
    Because, apparently, the IQ tests my psychiatrist made me take and the opinions of (almost) all the teachers I’ve ever had, can’t be right, I mean, I’ve got ADD, I -have- to be stupid and/or lazy.

  • Kira August 12, 2011, 4:15 am

    I get that sort of thing from family members. My favorite was from my mother saying that all illness is from negative emotions. Apparently I must be super negative as this manifested in utero. I still feel like I have to validate why I see certain doctors and that seeing them once a year is not too much. Though apparently I’m faking anyway. My step father was still doubting me even in ICU after my 2nd brain surgery. There is no win, I just take myself to brain surgery and everything as it’s more painful for people not to trust I know what I’m doing and haved looked into all options.

  • Hannafate August 26, 2011, 12:20 pm

    My Father doesn’t “believe in mental illness”, which led to my brother going undiagnosed (and accused of being “contrary”) for many years for epilepsy. (Yes, I know it’s not really a mental illness)

    So, yes, even people whose JOB it is to care about you can be incredibly dense about medical issues. You have to listen to your own body, and make your own decisions. If someone does try to hassle you about it, you can look at it as an opportunity to educate them.

    Also in this category is “They’re just doing it for attention”. Well, maybe they NEED attention!

  • SentWest September 26, 2011, 5:29 pm

    I’ve had to deal with this for years from my mother. I have OCD, and finally have a drug regimen that allows me to be as normal and functional as I’m going to get…

    And yet, every time I talk to her it’s a new diet, or cleanse, or yoga style that will “cure” me. Sigh. At least she means well…