Mental health professionals and the value of honesty

I’ve been watching my mental health watch later playlist recently and on it is a series of videos from HSE Ireland about a course they run for the loved ones of those with BPD. I have included the first video below as that’s the one I want to talk about.

The videos were recommended to me as an extra layer to my own recovery, to be combined with my DBT workbooks, DBT videos and peer support. So the first video started playing, an introduction video, no great revelations about BPD or the course itself in it, but just over 10 minutes in to the video an expert in borderline personality disorder, Alan Fruzzetti, uttered a short sentence that made me cry.

we don’t know that much, we aren’t as able to help as we wish we could

Those words hit me so hard because it was the first time any mental health professional I have met or heard speak has admitted that truth that I, eventually, learned many years after putting my faith in them.

That simple admission was so hugely important to me because, after decades of hearing that reaching out is the hardest bit, that taking this will help, that doing that will help, that you will feel better because now you have a psychiatrist, that they know what they’re doing & they can help you, suddenly it was vocalised by one of those very people who can help you that actually, not getting better with their help was not my fault.

I wasn’t not trying hard enough.

I wasn’t just not open to treatment.

I wasn’t pretending that I wasn’t getting better.

I wasn’t beyond saving.

I wasn’t not putting the work in.

I wasn’t not taking the pills properly.

I wasn’t too far gone.

I wasn’t any of those things. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t that I was inherently flawed or too broken, it was that they don’t know everything.

So why, in nearly 20 years of seeing mental health professionals, had none of them ever told me that? Instead they fed me false promises of feeling better and, at best, implied that it was my fault when I didn’t. An endless roller-coaster of false hope of failure that reinforced my own self-hating beliefs and fuelled the voice in my head that told me I wasn’t good enough and could never recover.

I will never understand why, instead of admitting that there is not that much knowledge about mental illness in general, let alone the more ‘complex’ ones and that they don’t have reliable treatment options, they decided that preserving their own ego was more important than helping people.

Dear Mental Health professionals

I don’t want you to have all the answers, I want you to listen to me. I want you to hear me when I speak about my experience. I want you to be honest with me because the damage from hearing that you just don’t know would have been nothing compared to the damage you did by letting me believe that I was beyond help.

Did you know that, even now, I cannot hope? I am so terrified of hope, in and of itself, because of the damage it did to me when you offered it. Even now, in recovery, I have to so carefully avoid any kind of hope that things could be getting better because now, for me, hope and failure are one and the same.

Admit that you don’t understand. Admit that you aren’t sure. Admit that you don’t know and then work with us to find something that helps.

Dear mental health professionals, admit that you don't understand. Admit that you aren't sure. Admit that you don't know and then work with us to find something that helps. Click To Tweet

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