Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Don't Call Me a Consumer

I rarely do this, but this is a post I originally published in 2008. The subject came up again the other day in my therapy group, so I thought it was time to run it again. I'd love to know what you think.

Consumer. Whose idea was that? When did patient become a four-letter word? And why is it only a four-letter word for me, a person with depression, but not for my neighbor with cancer? Please do not call me a consumer. When I am in line at Starbucks, I am a consumer. Shopping at Wal-mart I am a consumer. But while conversing with my doctor, I am a patient.

Who came up with this idea that we were not patients, not people with an illness, but consumers? While I stand in front of classrooms enlightening the charges that mental illness is no different than cancer, MS, or any other illness, someone somewhere decided that it would be too stigmatizing(?) to call us patients? In an effort to make us less different, we just rocketed ourselves into another plane of difference. How can we say we are the same, but please don’t call us the same? We have a biological, treatable illness, but the word patient is pejorative? Cancer patient, woman with MS, guy with heart disease; no problem, it is okay for them. But we are different. We, those of us with depression, schizophrenia, and eating disorders, have an illness just like they do, but please don’t refer to us in the same way. We are not patients. We are consumers. Huh?

Consumer? Talk about stigmatizing. I have a biological brain disease. When I am hospitalized, I am not there to choose between a green gown or a blue gown. I am there because my symptoms have gotten worse, and I need specialized medical care to manage my illness. This is true whether I have appendicitis, diabetes, or depression. All are illnesses that may lead to death if we do not allow ourselves to be treated, to be patients.

I am a person with a mental illness. While visiting my psychiatrist, I am her patient. While visiting my psychologist, I am her patient. While getting my blood drawn, having an MRI or getting an EKG, I am a patient. Regardless of my diagnosis, when getting treatment, I am a patient. Why, if the diagnosis is depression, undergoing the same tests and treatment, must I be a consumer?

We can’t have it both ways. If our premise and platform is that we have biological, treatable illnesses, just like everybody else, how can we define “patient” as a stigmatizing word? We can’t fight for research dollars. We can’t educate the school children. We can’t demand equal insurance coverage. We can’t reduce stigma. We can’t align ourselves with other biological, treatable illnesses if we continue to separate ourselves by denying our status as patients. We can't have it both ways.

Choosing between Ajax and Comet? Consumer.
Choosing between Prozac and Paxil? Patient.


Jean Grey said...

I hate the term consumer. If I am interacting with the medical system, I am a patient. I don't see anything demeaning about that. Changing the term to consumer doesn't make anything better except further stigmatize patients receiving mental health care.

Bethany @ Online Therapy and Coaching said...

I have found it disconcerting that the word "consumer" is starting to replace "patient" for some physical conditions as well.

Jen said...

Couldn't agree with this more!

Anonymous said...

The best way to cope with depression is to let go, let God. By that I have found to just let things go and don't worry. Worry, anxiety, alcoholism, and lack of running would always accelerate my anxiety and the depression.

I have bad days, but I quit the meds. I have what I call emergency Xanax which I have not had one in two months. Have 38 pills left so hopefully that is a lifetimes worth.

My meds is finding the happiness around in nature, jogging, family, and friends. I just quit worrying and that has helped a lot.

On people. Don't worry, they always think of depression as someone with self pity and laziness. I don't care what they think anymore.

I wish you luck. Keep going. You are doing good.