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Dear Dr. Romance: Even after several years, I still feel stigmatized

Posted Sep 12 2011 12:00am

Dear Dr. Romance :

I enjoy reading your "Happiness Tips Newsletter" I actually want to ask you some questions. I know you are a psychotherapist, So i thought you might to explain the difference between the mental health unit of an hospital and a psych ward? Why would one feel ashamed to have stepped in there for one reason or another?

A couple of years ago I was having symptoms of loss of appetite, insomnia, and a low energy level. I was in my early twenties. My father took me to a doctor who told me that I have typical depression symptoms. I took some classes in psychology before and I was sure it was not clinical depression. Weeks after that due to my low-appetite I was dehydrated, fainted and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. The doctor i saw advised my parents to let me be assessed by a psychiatrist because there was nothing physiologically wrong and maybe it is all in my head. 

I was scared because I thought the psych ward is for people with mental issues. The doctor implied that I may be of harm to myself since I was not eating well. I was shocked and angry but my parents said I should go. I stayed in the hospital overnight,  the psychiatrist asked me a couple of questions and few hours later I was discharged.  A week later, I had a high feverand found out that i had a UTI which explained all my earlier symptoms. After a week of antibiotics treatment i was back to good health!

Even after several years, I still am embarassed and feel stigmatized that I was in a  mental hospital. I can not help but feel embarrassed or even ashamed when I recall the whole exprience or when one of my parent talks about it. It is almost annoying to remember the experience and I try to just put it away and not think of it.

Why do I have this feeling of shame and embarassment? How do I overcome my feelings of bitterness and humiliation?

Dear Reader:

I'm glad you're enjoying the newsletter. You're putting too much negative energy on your experience.  I realize it was not pleasant, but the doctors were checking out your symptoms to find out what was wrong.  If they set you upon a heart monitor, and it turned out your heart was fine, would you be embarassed to have been on the heart monitor?  This is a similar thing.  You were showing symptoms that wereinconclusive, and could have indicated a mental problem, so they checked you out overnight, and you checked out fine.  That indicated your symptoms meant something else was going on. It's standard mental procedure. You might want ask yourself why you are so worried about being stigmatized by mental illness.  Was someone close to you once hospitalized?  You might have some left-over worries that you have a problem, too.  Even if you had had depression, it wouldn't be a reason to feel bad about yourself -- it's just a problem to solve.  

Read "Emotional Hygiene"  for help on clearing up leftover feelings from your experience.    It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction  can help you with issues that might be left over from childhood. 

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