Being a Mental Health Patient: Swallowing Your Pride

August 9, 2012 Natalie Jeanne Champagne

I was not sure what to title this post but the word pride came to mind. So, what is the theme here? Well, I was on my way to visit my lovely psychiatrist and I started thinking...

What Is It Like Being a Mental Health Patient?

Yesterday, when walking into the "AFFECTIVE DISORDERS CLINIC" I felt, as usual, a little shame. I know, I know, I should not. I have come to terms with my illness! I have, for the most part, accepted it. But still.

I checked in with the receptionist, who is certainly younger than I am and I am a whopping twenty-seven years old, and told her my name and the name of my psychiatrist. She took a brisk irritating note and asked me to sit down. I don't really like being told to do anything and, further to this, be told to do such an obvious thing. Clearly, I would sit down without being told!

Ten minutes later, my psychiatrist opens the doors, the doors which are double paned glass and open only if you have a magnetic card with your credentials on it, and beckons me in.

She sits down in her very large office and so do I (grateful she did not tell me to sit down!) and we carry on with our usual every-six-weeks-and-no-exceptions-Natalie appointment.

"So, Natalieeeeeeeeeeeeee, how are you?

Ugh. Must she draw my name out?

"Good. Thanks."

Sometimes, I throw in some innate sarcasm and reply to each question as such:

"Good. Thanks. And how are things going on your end Dr. (insert long name here)?" Of course, she will always tell me things are going well. If her home burnt down the night before everything would be great. Isn't psychiatric etiquette great?

She continues on asking me about my moods, my life, whether or not I talk to my parents. Really, she does.

But here is my point: The entire time she is taking notes. Scribbles. When I tell her that, yes, I am visiting my family once and a while, she takes notes. About that. About whether or not I have learned to eat breakfast yet. I am serious.

I have never asked her what she is writing. This is not something patients do, right? And it bothers me. I tell her personal things and she writes them down. I have no idea what she is writing, maybe something like: "Patient ate a boiled egg this morning. Progress?"

In summary: It bothers me. I feel exposed. Shame. I guess I can be sort of self-righteous. I'm not sure. I should ask her, surely she has written a note about narcissism somewhere.

Swallowing Our Pride

It is, at least in Canada, legal for patients to request copies of the notes being taken. And I have done this (purely for research when writing my memoir) and found I could not even read the damn notes! Psychiatrists must take some sort of "How to Write So Patients Cannot Read The Notes" class in university.


That aside, I do understand that it's part of living with a mental illness. These people are there to help us recover and, dammit, if we want we can take notes of our own!

Walking out of the "AFFECTIVE DISORDERS CLINIC" I decided to swallow my pride, not an easy thing for me to do, and understand that those notes, scribbles, come in handy when I falter. They aid me in recovery.

Still, I see no point in asking me what I ate for breakfast. From now on I will tell her I went to Denny's and ate an unlimited amount of sausages. I figure she would write, "Natalie seems to have acquired an issue with overeating. Regression. Not progress?"

Now, excuse me while I boil an egg.

APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2012, August 9). Being a Mental Health Patient: Swallowing Your Pride, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

December, 9 2015 at 1:27 pm

Great piece and perspective peppered with a witty/clever humor. I find that I coach myself on the way to the appointment on what I have been thinking or feeling since our last meeting. When she asks "James, How are things?" I sometimes just want to say "They are horrible, I still have to take meds which tells me you are failing as much as I am"; however, she is nice and simply doing her best (Or she is a quack as I suspect). Simply, I try to be as honest and candid as possible or there is a slim and none chance that I will get better (And slim just walked out the door).
Enjoyed the read, thanks again.

August, 11 2012 at 6:32 am

I liked this post. I think I have an issue with pride, too, when it comes to seeing therapists and psychiatrists. Like when my psychiatrist asked me if I was exercising at my last appointment- and I told I that I was walking sometimes after work- but I think I had done this a total of 3 times since I had seen him last. A part of me didn't want to admit how bad things are- and even worse- to admit that I am not doing things that might help me- but it is the catch-22 situation. Too depressed to exercise most days.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
August, 15 2012 at 5:21 am

Hi, Emily
Pride is a tough pill to swallow--bad pun, I know:)'s easier in the spring and summer my mood dips the other months. All we can is try our best.
Thanks for your comment,

August, 10 2012 at 4:46 am

Hello Natalieeeeeeeeee!!!!! ;) -I really enjoyed reading this and can relate as well. It sounds like the receptionist has been unprofessional with you and needs to learn better skills working in that environment! The office I attend has some rather unprofessional receptionists as well and at the last meeting I had with my doctor, I told him that. I am sorry about all the scribble-taking while you are in your appointment. I am sure that is quite difficult when you're in there for someone to give you their undivided attention. I am lucky in that sense, I suppose, because I have such an amazing doctor who I adore and he actually does most of his note-taking after the appointment. Anyway, it was great to read this! We are close in age by-the-way. I am 31. So, nice to "meet" you! :)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
August, 15 2012 at 5:22 am

Hi, Christa!
Glad you can relate to the post. Nice to "meet" you as well:)
Thanks for the comment!

August, 9 2012 at 6:48 am

Didn't know you were Canadian too. Well, all psychiatrists that I've been to do that. The notes are likely used to remember what happened during the last session, and if something in particular was bothering you. It's hard to remember many facts when you have a ton of patients.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
August, 15 2012 at 5:23 am

Hi, Ash!
Yes, born and bred here:) I agree, notes are important.
Thank you for the comment,

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