by Kate Fitch
I’ve been called non-compliant and treatment-resistant before. I found it infuriating at the time because I had checked myself into the hospital that called me that. I asked for treatment. I went into a room with a stranger and told him my darkest secrets. I wanted help. Problem was, I wasn’t being helped. At least not in the way that I needed. I needed addiction treatment that fit my relationship with substances, but instead, I was only offered AA. I needed a process group where I could talk about what I was feeling, but instead, I was sat in a room with the others and talked at by a stranger. I needed medication that helped me get out of my slump but still left me conscious, and instead, I was sedated. I needed outdoor time, physical activity, and social rehabilitation, and instead, I was given coloring.
Recovery is often measured in clinical settings in terms of compliance, adherence, participation, recognition of a problem. But what if your medications make you feel too groggy to think, your therapist keeps going on about things that aren’t that important to you, and you’re forced into classes you know don’t work for you because you’ve already tried them? What if the problems you want to fix are housing difficulties, inability to maintain relationships, and a hard time finding work, but they want you to focus on the problem of hearing voices. What if your treatment is making you feel more frustrated, incapable, and powerless than it is making you feel better? Should you really be compliant with that?
I think recovery is much more about self-empowerment than anything else. It’s about knowing what helps you and what doesn’t. It’s about doing the things that help you. It’s about feeling good about your treatment regimen so you stick to it each day. It’s about having a good relationship with your providers where you can freely express objections, concerns, and questions instead of blindly following their suggestions no matter how you feel about them. It’s about working on problems that YOU have identified so that YOU can have the type of life that YOU want. Not the type of life anyone else thinks you should have.
If you’re labeled treatment resistant, non-compliant, or as “lacking insight” simply because you want treatment that works, embrace it. Say “yes, I am resistant to your treatment. I’m not resistant to [treatment that actually works for you].” “Yes, I am non-compliant with this treatment. I am more than willing to be compliant with [whatever treatment works for you].” “Yes, I do lack insight into how this will suddenly help me when it never has in the past.” Advocate for yourself.
You are an expert in your illness and your recovery, and you should be treated as such.