Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBT+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

An Open Letter to Dr. Carlson

Dr. Carlson,

You should be impressed, I remember your name. If you aren’t, I won’t be upset, though. I don’t expect you to remember me. The last time you saw me was back in 2007, if I remember correctly. That’s a pretty long time for a doctor who has only about fifteen minutes to devote to her patients, no matter how frequently they have to visit her, and, as I recall, I saw you once every two or three months.

I’ll be honest. You aren’t the only reason why I left Valley Mental Health’s care. First, I was denied a therapist, and I did—and do—still need therapy. Just not for the reasons I needed it to begin with. Then there was a mess with my applications for funded medications, because you’d prescribed me a “new” medication for Schizophrenia which the company who manufactured it still had sole rights to manufacture, which meant they were charging at least $100 more than I could afford to pay for it. Yeah. That was a tough one.

But the kicker?

That was when I got the reevaluation by the Veterans Administration Hospital. I’m sure you knew of it before I departed Valley Mental Health’s care. I distinctly recall one of my last visits with you, when I told you the evaluating doctor had pegged me as having Bipolar Disorder. Remember how you refused to consider he might be correct? Then you gave me a scrip refill for my Schizophrenia medication. Which I didn’t even bother going to the nurse’s office to fill out the paperwork to have it funded for me.

You know why?

Well, I’ll tell you now. I had an appointment for the next week with a VA psych doc. Also a therapist there. Yeah, they evaluated me and got me into all the care I needed within a month. I forget the medication regimen Dr. Agricola put me on, but it worked better than what you’d given me for Schizophrenia.

I know you think you were just doing your job, but isn’t part of that job to listen to patients and make adjustments based on what they tell you? I think it is. It’s how the psych docs I’ve had at the VA have dealt with me. When I complained to Dr. Vukin, my current psych doc at the VA, about the fact I was sleeping 14 hours a day, getting up for about an hour or two, then taking a 6-7 hour “nap,” he changed my medication regimen. Yes, I know we did this, you and I, Dr. Carlson, but you always seemed more interested in pushing me onto certain medications rather than trying to find what would work.

Of course, nothing would work. Why? They were all Schizophrenia medications, and I needed those for Bipolar Disorder. I was not functioning as well as I seemed to be, Dr. Carlson. I was not stable. You know how I know? I still had temper tantrums, like the one I had on the way to the VA for my evaluation. I got off the commuter train and crossed the street (luckily going in the right direction), and, thinking I was lost, struck the light pole there with my cane. That’s the clearest tantrum I recall having, and it’s not the only sign. I was still making unwise decisions with my sexual activity. I had an incredibly difficult time keeping hold of what little money I was able to make. It was a good thing I had a part-time job doing surveys on the phone, because I tended to babble a lot. And there were times I’d be up for two or three days straight, as well as periods where I stayed in bed for days due to depressive swings. On the medication you prescribed to me.

I’m certain I told you and my therapist about these bipolar episodes. This tells me you never really listened to me. You went through the motions of giving me care. You had in your head I was Schizophrenic, and that diagnosis was written in stone for you. I pity your other patients and can’t imagine they’ve gotten any better care.

I know why you clung to the diagnosis of Schizophrenia so hard. It’s because I have auditory hallucinations, and hallucinations of all kinds are a hallmark of Schizophrenia. I’ll tell you this, though: It is entirely possible to have hallucinations, particularly those of the auditory kind, with Bipolar Disorder. Yes, it is. I’ve looked it up, asked both Dr. Agricola and Dr. Vukin and my therapists I’ve had at the VA, and even asked the evaluating doctor about it. They all backed up the research I’ve done since. Auditory hallucinations can be a symptom of the manic phase of Bipolar Disorder, which all my other symptoms point to.

The good news out of all this: I am now stable and have been for at least the past two years. I probably still can’t hold down a regular job very well, but I’m not spending days at a time huddled in bed, having unprotected sex, or experiencing auditory hallucinations consistently. I’m able to make a budget for each month’s income and stick to it so I have all the money I need for bills. And now I actually let people get words in edgewise instead of babbling right over them. My tantrums are few and far between, and I’m able to talk myself out of them because the therapy I’ve gotten has enabled me to recognize when I’m caught up in reacting too strongly to situations and events. I won’t lie and say I don’t have the mood swings typical of Bipolar Disorder, because I do. I will say that I’m able to weather them with greater calm and patience with myself than I was when I was misdiagnosed as Schizophrenic.

I thank you for doing what you thought was your best in your care for me, Dr. Carlson. It enabled me to get by until I received the proper diagnosis. However, “getting by” is not my goal in life. I want to be fully functional, and I was not when I was misdiagnosed and on the wrong medication. I’m still not quite there, but I’m much more functional than I ever was on any of the Schizophrenia medications you tried on me, and that is extremely important to me.




  1. Wow. I’m really, really glad you found doctors and therapists who were willing to listen to you.

  2. Reblogged this on Are. You. Mental? and commented:
    Thank you for sharing.

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