The Curse of the Capable Sufferer

27 Jun

Help wanted - no bullshit

When I was working, I called it the Curse of the Capable: how the need for help and support by people who appeared capable went unfilled. Now, I call it the Curse of the Capable Sufferer: those deemed to have a high capacity for suffering are left to get on with it, unsupported.

Because I’m deemed capable of suffering without “doing something stupid” – in other words, something physical – I’m left to get on with it on my own. Someone somewhere has made a deliberate calculation that my suffering is mere suffering and will not result in physical harm – hence, not a priority. Another example – if another were needed – of how mental health services treat mental distress only if it presents as a physical problem.

It’s cruel to abandon people to their suffering, to leave people to go on, to struggle from day to day, from coping mechanism to coping mechanism, one day more, second by second. It’s a waste of a life to merely exist, to get through a day, to live to only suffer some more. It’s cruel to abandon people to suffer on and on.

Sometimes I wonder how psychiatric staff can get through their day, find value in their work, sleep at night, knowing they are leaving people to suffer. I wonder what it’s like to train for years to help people and then, when you qualify, to find you cannot help people since there are no resources. I wonder what it’s like to train for years to help people, to know you could make a positive difference to people’s lives, and to then not do so. I wonder what it’s like to come into work knowing that, today, as yesterday and the day before and the day before that, your decisions  will be condemning people to needless suffering that interventions could alleviate. I wonder what it feels to do that calculation that says: this person is capable of doing a lot of suffering, so let’s leave them to suffer. Perhaps it’s part of the training: to view mental distress in terms of physical health, to treat with physical measures: drugs, containment.

I can tell you what it feels like to be abandoned to get on with suffering: cruel, wasteful, twisted, grotesque, inhumane, disgusting, shit.

To offer me treatment only if I do something physical? That’s sick. That’s twisted. But the Curse of the Capable Sufferer condemns me to be left to suffer on. It makes me angry that people are making decisions that condemn me to suffer on alone – or make it physical. Treating mental distress only when there are physical consequences, and then treating it with physical means, seems barbaric.

There’s something warped, twisted & cruel in a mental health system that deliberately abandons people to suffer mental distress.



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2 Responses to “The Curse of the Capable Sufferer”

  1. savemefrombpd 27 June 2014 at 2:14 pm #

    Excellent but sadly true post.

    It’s very awful that things are like this. Even regardless of the physical aspect, I find a lot has to do with how much you kick up a fuss in order demand over and over for help until they probably ‘give in’ and help you out more just to keep you quiet. Whereas others can be suffering the same or even more but just not be in a good mental state in order to call over and over hassling them and not being able to be as assertive and you can be left behind.

    Things are unfortunately screwed up in the mental health system all over the world. I know that I could NEVER work in the field because of the things you mentioned in this post. I’d find that even if I tried to stop things from being so twisted, you most nearly have someone working over you, the big boss, that stops you from providing a better and more fair system to your patients. I couldn’t work in such an important field having my hands tied.

    Stigma inside and outside of the mental health system is bad enough let alone all the other problems involved once you are meant to be ‘in’.

  2. Dizzy's Squeaks... 27 June 2014 at 3:59 pm #

    I really feel for you as this happened to me – until last week when I finally couldn’t cope, big time…
    I must be incredibly thick because although I’ve been in services for 3yrs I didn’t know I had a care or crisis plan, it had never been discussed with me. What I do know is every time I asked for help it wasn’t there, no matter how much I hurt myself or how many to dark thoughts I had. Last week my husband tried to tell my psych he was scared I was going to “try” again, he didn’t listen, I “did” and I absolutely meant it. Result – terrified family & I didnt know how to move on… Then psych sends misleading, inaccurate & potentially defamatory letter to my GP – I have now fire in me to fight him with the help of an advocate found through MIND. Is it worth calling them for advice for you? Xxx

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