Editor’s note: This post was written as the third installment of NeuroClastic and BLM757’s campaign for suicide prevention, #NoDejahVu and #SelfieForSuicidePrevention. To learn more, please click here.
“That’s not possible.”
“But you’re too ______.”
“It must not be that bad.”
Adults with invisible disabilities aren’t strangers to the extra stress and anxiety caused by their experiences within the medical system. The lack of acknowledgement of and regard for hidden conditions is not uncommon, and even when validated, physicians frequently deny patients their formal diagnoses.
The Journey to Diagnosis
Many chronically ill people are familiar with some variation of the journey to medical acceptance and the accompanying depression that sneaks in along the way:
- Not diagnosed: You’ve just started experiencing symptoms. Doctors might find it to be “nothing to worry about” or an “incidental finding,” and you may not recognize any triggers or patterns yourself, so you attempt to maintain your current lifestyle.
- Self-diagnosed: You’ve connected the dots yourself, or enough to realize that you really need a doctor to listen to you. This is where the gaslighting begins. You conduct further research, add more or new appointments with more or new physicians and hit other obstacles along the way. Your stress is heightened and you find yourself gradually shifting from incessant and motivated to discouraged or dubious of yourself or your doctors.
- Misdiagnosed and/or refused diagnosis: You’re back at square one, but worse. You’ve been neglected, rejected, told every reason your self-diagnosis isn’t valid or received an incorrect diagnosis and potentially the wrong meds for months or years. Hopefully, this step is skipped.
- Finally (but not always), diagnosed: Congratulations! Sometimes you’ll be taken seriously, but you may have a different doctor in a few years who doesn’t agree with the diagnosis you’ve fought years to confirm, suspects you of over-exaggerating or sees your disability as making you inferior to others.
A Steeper Uphill Battle for Women and Nonbinary People of Color
Able-bodied, minority, female and non-bindary adults with invisible conditions sometimes spend decades ceaselessly fighting the same battle for recognition while doing all they can to support themselves.
They attempt to juggle work or school, ambitions, appointments ,and social or love lives and expectations while being subjected to medical discrimination, dated research, or withheld support because of physical impressions or ability to maintain some standard deemed “acceptable”–even if unsustainable.
Depression Diagnoses when Depression is a Symptom
For many, depression is acknowledged long before the condition for which a diagnosis is being sought, or even worse, the depression is instead blamed for the health struggles that continue to be discounted.
However, in cases like these, it’s frequently not the actual conditions that lead to the depression, but the sacrifices required, stress undergone, and trials faced just to be recognized in the medical system as symptoms become more difficult to manage.
Depression has become such a critical focus in the past few years, but depression is often a direct result of not being understood. And while it’s known that substances, genetics, environment, stress, and medical conditions can all be contributing factors, isn’t it about time for medical professionals to address and confess to the roles they play in mental health as well?