The Disclaimer For Your Advice

Meeting Myself CCEach person is mostly like every other person, but not exactly. And the not exactly goes to varying degrees. Some people are sick. Of the people who are sick, there are many different body parts that can be sick. Of the people with one specific sickness in one specific body part, each will have different and varying degrees of the effects of the illness and the effectiveness of their treatment.

Every illness is like this. The world is full of different people; mostly all the same, but each with a personal experience that no one else gets to experience. My mental illnesses are different from yours. Mostly the same, but different.

Don’t assume you know what someone feels because you wear the same label that they do. I, for example, do not have happy mania. I have dysphoric (opposite of euphoric) mania, so when I meet a person who has great highs, I don’t assume I know what that’s like, at least not in detail. I’ve read a lot about bipolar, so I can guess all day long (everyone is comfortable with guessing, it’s how we live most of our lives), but in the end, my guesses don’t count for anything real. That’s a good thing to keep in mind when you’re trying to relate to someone. Don’t assume your guesses are correct. Seek to carefully listen to what the person is saying before you start your assumptions.

If you have a mental illness or any kind of sickness, it is comforting to meet someone who shares your diagnosis. You’ll have a lot to talk about. You will want to share as much helpful information as you can, including advice about medicine, and that’s a great intention. However, please remember your disclaimer. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. Your disclaimer is the conditional that you always add to your advice, which is this:

“I am not a doctor. I can only speak to my own experience so it would not be safe or wise to assume that what happened to me will happen to you. My medicine works for me in this way, but every person’s body is different and their brain chemistry is different also. What worked for me may or may not work for you, and you MUST get permission from your doctor before you make any changes. Do not medicate yourself based on what I’ve just told you. It may not be safe for you. At all.”

That disclaimer is very important, and this message needs to be spread around the world as quickly as possible. No one should make any change in the medicine they are taking based solely on what one or two individuals say. Now, I’m not new to this game. I know that many decisions about what medicine to take and how much to take are made by the patient and then the information is relayed to the doctor at your next visit. Everyone does this sometimes. It’s a dangerous wager, but anyone who has to deal with multiple medicines is going to tinker with their dosage, timing, or combinations. As someone publishing a website, I am obligated to say that this is not recommended and can be very dangerous. In fact, most psychiatric medicines list suicidal thoughts as a contraindicative side effect if the medicine is not right for your particular chemistry. Of course, if you’re having suicidal thoughts for any reason, you need to tell your doctor and your family at whatever moment you have even the slightest feeling that you want help. Please read this article for more information on suicide.

I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to carry this information out into the world. Misinformation is born of hearsay. Do not tell someone to take or not take a medicine. You do not have that right unless you are already their doctor. We fight mental illness as a community that shares insights and information, but please, never forget your disclaimer. You very realistically might prevent a person’s suffering. It is good to help. It is harmful to lose track of your place in another person’s recovery.

By Emily Harrington, The Goldfish Painter


My disclaimer:

I am not a doctor or any sort of mental health professional. I am a psychiatric patient with multiple mental illnesses that I have survived for 12 years now. My secondhand knowledge comes from doctors, psychologists, therapists, books, college courses in psychology, and the internet. My firsthand knowledge comes from the feelings, experiences, thoughts, symptoms, problems, and solutions that I have lived through. I know myself well, but again, I am not a professional. The information on this site is not a replacement for getting an actual diagnosis or professional help. Coping skills are fantastic, and I hope you learn some here and that they help you, but please seek and continue real medical treatment if you are struggling with mental illness. I wish you the best. You can do hard things.

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Thoughts? I will listen.