Questions for Reflection
In each episode, we offer you a few prompts to think about how that day's conversation applies to you. You might pause the podcast and answer them right then and there, but if you keep a journal (Steph and Beth both do), feel free to download and print a PDF of the Questions for Reflection we've made just for you:
Landscape or Portrait
Beth Demme (00:03):
Welcome to the Discovering Our Scars podcast.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:05):
Where we share personal experiences so we can learn from each other. I'm Steph.
Beth Demme (00:08):
And I'm Beth.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:09):
I've been in recovery for 16 years, and am the author of Discovering My Scars. My memoir about what's done in the darkness eventually comes to light.
Beth Demme (00:15):
I'm a lawyer turned pastor, who's all about self-awareness and emotional health, because I know what it's like to have neither of those things.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:22):
Beth and I have been friends for years, have gone through a recovery program together. And when I wanted to start a podcast, she was the only name that came to mind as co-host.
Beth Demme (00:28):
I didn't hesitate to say yes, because I've learned a lot from sharing personal experiences with Steph over the years.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:34):
We value honest conversations and we hope you do too.
Beth Demme (00:36):
On today's show, we're going to have an honest conversation titled Discovering My Scars, Chapter Five.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:42):
Then we'll share a slice of life, and the show will close with questions for reflection. We'll invite you to reflect on the conversation in your own life. All right, Beth. We've been doing this for maybe a year now. I don't know, it's probably been a while. But I wrote a book a couple years ago, it came out in 2020, and it's called Discovering My Scars. And we've been going through each chapter and playing it and then reflecting on the portion that we heard. And the recording of the book is directly from the audiobook version of my book. And spoiler alert, I recorded the audio myself with my voice.
Beth Demme (01:21):
Excellent. Today we're going to do chapter five. Can we do a recap, what's happened up until this point? You were a student at the University of Central Florida.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:34):
Beth Demme (01:34):
And you had a... Altercation is not the right word. You had a-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:39):
Beth Demme (01:40):
Yeah. But you had a blow up with your roommate.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:42):
An incident with a roommate.
Beth Demme (01:43):
Yeah, an incident, and then-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:45):
Not an altercation, because that feels like a fight.
Beth Demme (01:48):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:49):
Internal fight with myself.
Beth Demme (01:50):
Yes. And your go-to coping mechanism at the time was non-suicidal self-injury.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:55):
Beth Demme (01:56):
And after that particular incident your NSSI kind of... Well, you went too deep. You hurt yourself.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:03):
Yes. Yeah, when I engaged in NSSI, it was very deep because of the anger I had in the situation with my roommate. The police were called, and they took me to a place called Central Receiving Center in Orlando, Florida, and it's where they took anyone that presented with a mental health crisis in Orlando. And then... Well, I don't know more detail because that's where we are now.
Beth Demme (02:35):
That's pretty much where we are. Yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:36):
And so far we're on chapter five, and so far we go between that incident and then I also reflected back on things from my childhood that brought me to that moment. We have gone in and out with chapters from that moment to childhood.
Beth Demme (02:53):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:53):
But now we're back in CRC, and-
Beth Demme (02:57):
And one person that is going to be mentioned in this chapter is Matt, and he was a... At that time he was serving as a hospital chaplain, but he was somebody who you had known because he had been a youth pastor too you. But he happened to be serving in the Orlando area at the time, and so he had left, he had not been able to see you, but he was able to leave you a note.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:21):
Beth Demme (03:22):
Okay. And we're going to hear a little bit more about him in this chapter.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:24):
Yeah. I knew him from Tallahassee, and he happened to be in Orlando at the time.
Beth Demme (03:27):
All right. Let's do it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:28):
All right, we're going to just start playing, and then we'll pause and have some chat.
Chapter five, 37 hours. At 7:00 PM, sitting quietly by myself in the CRC waiting room, I finally got word that I was being transferred to the psychiatric intensive treatment unit at the Florida Hospital Center for Behavioral Health. As my vehicle pulled up to this new location, I noticed that the surrounding area was pretty, with a lake and picnic table. I thought, "Maybe this is a treatment center like in the Sandra Bullock movie, 28 Days."
Beth Demme (04:03):
Okay. I'm sorry to stop you already, but that sounds so incredibly intense. The psychiatric intensive treatment unit. That sounds intense. And also, it just made me chuckle that you were like, oh, this will be like in a movie.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:19):
Okay. Yes. Well, I didn't know the full name at the time. I don't even know that I knew exactly fully what it was. But yeah, I love that movie. The Sandra Bullocks movie, 28 Days. Do you not know that movie?
Beth Demme (04:33):
I don't know that movie.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:34):
You have to see it. Oh, I love that movie. It's more of a long-term treatment facility for people with all kinds of issues. It was like Sandra was an alcoholic, and then there was people with obsessive compulsive disorder, things like that. And I think she was there for 30 days, or 60 days or something. Yeah, it's a good movie. But spoiler, that's not where I was.
Beth Demme (04:59):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:01):
That's one of my favorite movies, and I love Sandra's performance. The movie is about people with different issues, alcohol, drugs, relationships, and self-harm. They all end up in a treatment center and grow close together through group meetings and working and living together. When they finish treatment, they keep in contact because of the deep connections they made. The movie made it look like an intense summer camp. "Well, if this place is anything like that movie, maybe it won't be so bad," I thought. I walked in and I felt calm. The hallway was very medical, but also had a homey touch. My handlers dropped me off and left. Three smiling faces took my things and escorted me inside the treatment unit. "Okay, not too bad," I thought. It was a hospital, but it was certainly better than the rundown CRC.
My first step, another medical evaluation. A female nurse unwrapped my arm, took a look, and wrapped it back. Then she took some tubes of blood and got my temperature. She made me pull off my scrubs to see if I cut my legs as well. It felt humiliating to take my scrubs off in front of her, mainly because she didn't believe me when I told her it was only my arm. When she could see I was telling the truth, she proceeded to lead me to the dining room. On her way there, I looked around and noticed the hospital was very sterile and cold. Literally cold. I felt like I was outside on a winter day. We arrived in the dining room, which was a big open space with round tables and a few chairs around them. About 20 people sat at the tables all in different spots. More than half of them were just staring at the TV. I found an empty table and ate dinner around 7:30 PM. Around that time, Matt found me and we talked one-on-one in person.
Matt didn't know anything about what happened to me, but he knew me and he cared. He told me he was at CRC when I got the dove note, he was right outside the whole time. They wouldn't let him see me, but he finally convinced them to give me his note. It warmed my heart knowing he was there with me. As we chatted, I was so curious about how he had found me. He shared the story. My mom had called Matt, as she knew he was in the Orlando area. My mom made this happen. My mom couldn't be with me herself, so she had found a way to help comfort me from afar. After a short while, a nurse gave me my clothes in a brown bag. "Do I get to put them on?", I asked. My excitement was audible. A shred of humanity was being given back to me.
Then I remembered all I had in the bag was shorts and a t-shirt, and that was not going to cut it in the cold box I now lived in. I expressed this to Matt as he left. He said he would be back soon with some warmer clothes for me. A male nurse asked if I needed anything special, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and oh yeah, pads. I told him my period had started while I was at CRC. He escorted me to the supply room and gave me a bucket for my toiletries. He also gave me slipper socks, because all I had arrived in were flip-flops. Next, he showed me my room. It was decent size, two twin beds on the back wall with a window in the middle. The window had thick bars in front of it, and the glass was hard to see through. I could sort of see the outside from it.
There was a wide open space in the middle of the room and a bathroom on the right. The male nurse left me in the room so I could change. I looked inside the bathroom. "Oh gosh," I thought, "a metal toilet. Now I can definitely say a mental hospital and prison are not so different." When I had left my dorm room, a little more than 24 hours ago, not knowing where I was going or for how long, I just had on a short-sleeved and shorts. I had changed out of my scrubs and back into those clothes. It was nice to be me again, but I was hardcore freezing now. When I emerged from the bathroom, a girl was sitting on one of the beds. My roommate, I assumed. I sat on the other bed and introduced myself. She talked. I tried to be friendly. Her name was Nicole. She was 30, bipolar, schizophrenic, and had attention deficit hyperactive disorder. She told me about her son, he was taken from her and she was going through a divorce.
Beth Demme (09:11):
Okay, I want to pause there. Did Nicole introduce herself that way?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:15):
No. It was more of a conversation. But it was like she did offer up that information.
Beth Demme (09:20):
Yeah. Well, because I've met people who are like that. It's like, what you need to know about me is, I'm bipolar, I'm schizophrenic, I have ADHD. It's like they're so worried about how they're going to be perceived that they're like, I just want to get it out on the table so you know what you're dealing with kind of thing.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:37):
I don't think it was like boom, boom, boom. But again, this was how many years ago? And I also was in a whole different state of mind. But I know those things were presented in some capacity, whether it was boom boom, or if it was a [inaudible 00:09:57] 20 minute conversation.
Beth Demme (09:58):
Just came out in the course of the conversation. I'm also reminded, I've had the experience of I'm going somewhere and I don't know where I'm going, and it feels like it's taking forever. And then on the way back, it's like, oh, that wasn't so bad. Because you kind of know where you're going. And so this experience that you're describing has that sense of it to me. You're going into it and it could be endless. You have no idea how long you're going to be there. You have no idea if it's going to be hours, days, weeks. It seems like it could just go on forever. And time moves so slowly when that's the case, when you don't have a perception of how long this is going to take or be. As you read back over it, as you listen to yourself reading it, do you have that feeling again of this could just last forever?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:45):
Yeah. In hindsight, when you hear I was there for four days, it sounds very doable. I think if somebody heard that, your [inaudible 00:10:54] in the hospital for four days. To me, I feel like people think that's not a big deal. That's like-
Beth Demme (10:59):
Yeah, what's four days? Four days out of your whole life, oh my God, this is nothing.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:02):
But it was literal four days, it wasn't sleeping. There was a little sleep, but especially the first day it was completely 24 hours I was awake. I know a lot of people, sometimes when you travel, your travel days get all crazy and then you don't get to sleep at all. It's like that, but not going somewhere fun.
Beth Demme (11:30):
Fun, yeah. Yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:32):
It's almost a dream state of, am I awake? Am I not awake? Is this just a nightmare that I'm in the middle of? It was almost like that. And then not knowing what I needed, because not knowing how long I'm going to be somewhere. Because my parents also were debating about coming down, and they ultimately didn't come down because they thought I was going to be out faster than they could get down, and-
Beth Demme (11:57):
Which would've been four hours. You know what I mean? They were four hours away.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:00):
Yeah. To be fair, I was telling them not to come because there's nothing they can do. It was more complicated than them just not driving down. And then Matt was there. And I wasn't super close to him, but it was some kind of connection, and he was helping me have a connection to the real world and things like that. But yeah, when I hear it, I'm there. I remember being there. It's not just hearing the words, it's like I'm transported back into that hospital with my little bag of toiletries and the room. And I remember when I said the bathroom was like being in a prison. I was actually not as bad because now I've seen prison shows and the toilet's in the room with you. At least there was a door.
Beth Demme (12:52):
Oh, there was a door. Okay.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:52):
There was at least a door to the bathroom, so I guess it's a little bit better than prison.
As Nicole talked, a loud alarm sound. I thought it was a fire alarm, so I got up to go, but Nicole told me to stay seated. "The sound means someone is probably trying to hurt themselves and it alerts the staff," she said. Suddenly, a ton of people rushed to a room right outside our door. A loud beep went off when a team of about 10 male nurses entered the room. I heard a man yelling, and what sounded like him shaking on a bed as if he was in pain and trying to get free. I heard the nurses rush to him and hold him down. Then the alarm stopped. I assumed they had sedated the man with a drug. I never saw him. I don't know what was wrong with him, but this process happened many times during my stay at the hospital.
After this, Nicole went right back to talking about her life. She acted as if alarms were pretty normal around here, which was not comforting. As we talked, a male patient walked into our room. He was skinny and disheveled, and had droopy devilish eyes. He asked if we wanted to have sex. I froze. Why was this man allowed to just walk into our room? There were no workers around, and I didn't know what this man might do. My whole life I had a fear of being raped. I don't know where it came from. I've always been pretty strong and can hold my own, but this fear of being overpowered and taken advantage of by a man had always been there in the back of my head. As I quietly panicked, Nicole started yelling at him. "Get out, get out. I'll push the alarm on you." She started walking toward the wall that had a big red button, which I noticed for the first time.
"That's good to know," I thought. I wish the nurses had mentioned the emergency button before. The man finally left. Although, I will never forget his crazy dirty eyes staring at me. Nicole acted like it was pretty normal and said it was snack time in the dining room. She left the room and I was a little afraid and a little excited to be alone. I organized my things, and after 30 seconds I had nothing left to do, so I just laid on the bed, which felt like a bad camping cot. Later, I went to the front desk and asked to call my dad. The desk was a fully enclosed box in the middle of the hospital unit. It had a few windows, which had to be open if the nurses wanted to communicate with patients. I knocked on a window and waited for one to reply.
I asked if I could make a phone call. "Local or long distance?" the nurse said with a sigh. "Long distance, I guess. My parents are in Tallahassee." "We have to patch it through to the phone on the wall. Write down the number and wait by the phone for it to ring." She sounded bothered by my request. Three phones hung on the wall outside the nurse's box. They looked like old style payphones, only there was nowhere to put money and they were not encased in a booth. I waited about 15 minutes until one finally rang. "Hello?" I said. "Hello," my dad said on the other end. "Hi, dad. I'm at a mental hospital now, and the people here are really crazy. Like alarms going off and talking to people in their head crazy. I shouldn't be here. I'm not going to get the help I need here. I need to get out. You need to do something. Call them and tell them I shouldn't be here," I pleaded in a progressively more panic tone.
"Stephanie, you need to calm down. There's nothing I can do. You need to play the game and you'll get out. I know how this works, and if you're frantic and crying, they will not release you. You need to be calm and do what they say. They will not keep you long, there's no reason. They have plenty of patients they need to see, and you will not be kept long," Dr. Lawrence said. I just wanted him to be my dad. I had enough medical professionals around me, and I didn't need him giving me the same company line. I thought, "It's easy for him to say calm down while he talks to me on the phone from the comfort of his house." Play the game, a sports metaphor. I always sucked at sports. I was on the junior varsity basketball team in high school for a year. Try as we did, we never won a game. That was our legacy, we never even won one game. Why would this game be any different? What would winning even look like in this game?
Beth Demme (17:00):
The part of that that really got to me in the conversation with your dad, when you say, "I shouldn't be here. I'm not going to get the help I need here." You knew that you needed help. That's what that suggests to me. I know that I need help, but that's not what they're offering me. I think that's really insightful. Because I could see a different perspective where just in reaction to the whole situation you would be like, I don't belong here. I'm fine. Let me go home. But that's not exactly what you were saying.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:35):
Well, I had already accepted that I needed help. Right before I left for college I had started seeing Dr. Jill, my psychologist. I already knew I needed help with my NSSI, and that I couldn't do it on my own. And so I did accept help and seek it. But then when I went to college, I didn't have that support anymore because I was four hours away from Tallahassee and hadn't found a psychologist in Orlando.
Beth Demme (18:06):
And Zoom wasn't a thing and telemedicine wasn't a thing.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:08):
Beth Demme (18:09):
It was a different time.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:10):
And so in my mind I knew I needed help, but not this kind. I needed to talk. I needed to share what was going on, and it wasn't something that a pill was going to fix. And I think anyone that knows psychology and mental health, that is a huge component of it. It's not just popping pills, it's talking about the things that are in our brain and the things that we're worried about. Self-injury wasn't my issue, it was all the things that made self-injury a reason for me to cope. I didn't need to deal with the self-injury, I needed to deal with the things that caused the self-injury, and you can't do that in a facility like this. And so I knew enough that that's what I was saying, basically,
Beth Demme (18:57):
Self-injury was your coping mechanism, it was an unhealthy coping mechanism. But nothing about this experience at the CRC or the psychiatric intensive treatment unit was geared towards helping you process what you were coping with.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:12):
Yeah, because my issue was not an immediate issue. My immediate issue was I needed to be stitched up for the cut, and that did eventually happen. That happened before I was sent to this location, I did go to the ER and I was stitched up. That was the immediate issue. There was no immediate that I was going to harm myself or others. Did I hurt myself? Yes. Was I trying to kill myself? No. So there was nothing that they were going to be able to do in this kind of facility that would have helped. Ultimately, as we find out in the story, it harmed me for the next five years and caused post-traumatic stress disorder that I had to deal with way longer than for four days that I was there for. Yeah, the immediate issue was already taken care of, was to stitch up my arm.
Beth Demme (20:00):
And in a way, Dr. Lawrence is right. There's no reason for them to keep you, they have plenty of patients to see. That's true. So go ahead and let you out because you're just taking up space in a place that's not going to help you.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:13):
Yeah, and I think we do get to that in this chapter, but I had a back and forth with Dr. Lawrence and Dr. Jill. Dr. Jill said I need to get out. Dr. Lawrence said play the game. And Dr. Jill knew that this place was a place that just wanted people with good insurance so they could keep them and have that insurance money coming in. Dr. Lawrence thought it was a place like he worked at where, why would we keep somebody for no reason? Sadly, there is very different places in all locations, especially Florida. And some places will keep people for the wrong reasons, if it's not the right place for them. That was part of it, is it's more complicated than, why would they keep you? That makes no sense.
Beth Demme (21:01):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:02):
Well, there is reason why someone might keep somebody that has good insurance.
Beth Demme (21:05):
Yeah. They have another motivation.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:06):
Beth Demme (21:07):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:09):
After feeling defeated by Dr. Lawrence, I just wanted to go to bed. I entered my room to find clothes on my bed with a note from Matt. The site of the care package made me smile. Matt's note said that he was not good at shopping for women's clothes, but he had tried. He had brought me a sweatshirt, shirt, leggings, underwear, and night clothes. He also got me a book, Sudoku, and a notebook. It warmed my freezing body to see the care Matt went through to bring me these things. I didn't have a pen to write in the notebook, so I walked to the office and asked for one. After many requests, I was offered a golf pencil. As I was waiting for the pencil, I saw Nicole yelling on the phone and saying she wanted a 24-hour release form. I understood it was something about her child and divorce case. She was going to lose custody of her kid, she wanted to leave to get the problem worked out.
I went to my room to start writing this story, and then I went to sleep. Although the camping cot was not comfortable, I was so tired, so I slept well. At 6:00 AM, Tuesday morning, I was rudely awakened to have my blood taken. After that, I wasn't told what to do, so I just hung out in my room waiting for further instructions. I sat on my bed and continued to write this story. At 9:00 AM a grad student arrived and took me to a small room. She told me to tell her what happened and that she would report it back to the psychiatrist. It frustrated me that I didn't get to talk to the psychiatrist myself, but I didn't let that show. I tried to be human, calm, and funny.
I retold my story. She finished up and told me it was time for group session and that I was free to go. Not having any clue what group session was or where it was, I walked to my room and waited to see the psychiatrist myself, hoping he would allow me to go home. The psychiatrist was the head honcho here, so I thought he might be the person with the power to release me. I was hopeful that after talking with him he would agree I didn't need to be in this facility. I was called in to see him five hours later, and my meeting lasted all of five minutes. First, he looked me up and down and said, "What are you wearing?" His question shocked me. "Why do you care?," I thought to myself. He was not the first to ask me this. I didn't feel comfortable wearing just the leggings Matt had brought me, so I put my shorts over them.
My look was a white sweatshirt, black leggings with green Bermuda shorts, and slipper socks. Based on everyone's reaction, it was not a positive fashion statement, but it kept me warm, and that's all that mattered to me. As I shared my story, the psychiatrist started looking at his papers and began writing. He didn't seem to care about listening to me. He stopped my talking by putting his hand in the air, palm toward me, and said he wanted me on Seroquel and Zoloft. Then he said he wanted to observe how I do on the drugs. He wants me to take drugs and observe? "That takes time," I thought. He didn't even hear my full story. He didn't even know my history. It was as if he didn't see me as an individual. It was as if he saw me as another body, and his job was to drug it and see what happens.
After my brain quickly processed this information, I told him I didn't want to take the drugs. I just needed to get out to deal with my problems through therapy. He said, "You have to take the drugs if you want to be released, the medication will be ready for you to take right after dinner." I knew what Zoloft was, but had never heard of Seroquel. I asked him if he could explain to me what it was for and what it would do to/for me. He gave me a piece of paper that explained what Seroquel was and sent me on my way. I read the sheet in my room. Seroquel is used for the treatment of schizophrenia, it is also indicated for the short term treatment of acute manic episodes associated with bipolar one disorder in adults. After reading the whole sheet, I did feel crazy.
This doc must think I'm schizophrenic or bipolar if he wants me on this drug. The doc never told me any of this. He just said he wanted me on the drug. What's the girl to think after reading what the drug is for? At that moment I began to think that I might really be crazy. Maybe I do hear voices. Maybe I'm bipolar. Maybe this was a manic episode. I know I have depression, but maybe there's more. I started to panic. I wanted the crazy out. I called my dad to tell him what was going on and that they wanted to drug me. Again, he said to play the game and I would get out faster. "This is my body and they want me to drug it!", I yelled. "It's a low dose, it won't affect you," he said. "Then why take it at all?", I yelled. "It's part of the process. You don't have to keep taking them once you're out," dad said, sounding annoyed.
I was so mad at his words I yelled at him some more, slammed the phone down, and went to my room crying. I was furious. A nurse came in to see me because of the scene I had just made. "I'm fine!", I yelled. Nurse Johnny tried to calm me. I yelled my side of the story through tears and anger. "No one is helping me. I want my bandage changed, and I've been waiting since last night and it's not done. I have a simple request, I wait patiently, and I get treated like I'm invisible," I told Johnny. "We have other patients who are higher priority," he said. "I know, that's why I shouldn't be here, because you don't have time for me," I said sadly. "I'm sorry you feel that way, but that's how it is," Johnny said.
We went on to have an intellectual debate about the treatment of patients in the hospital. I tried to find my sane place to present my arguments with facts and clarity. In the end, Johnny bounced it all back to me saying that if I wanted to get out, having a fit was not the way to do it. "It's all a beep game," I thought to myself. All I kept thinking was that I didn't cut myself to play, I cut out of frustration. Not suicide, not attention, not for punishing others, but to have control of my out of control life. I felt so much confusion, pain, and anger. Self-injury was a way to pinpoint the pain. Here's where it hurts. As Johnny and I sat on my bed in silence for a moment, I looked over at Nicole's bed. I told Johnny I felt bad for her because she was losing custody of her kid and was not able to get out to fight for him.
He looked at me, silent for a moment, then laughed a little and said, "You know she doesn't have a kid. She's not married and never has been. All that is made up, part of her illness." I sat shocked, I had believed everything she told me. I felt mad and confused. "Is she someone who really needs to be in the mental hospital, and is she getting the right help?", I pondered. Johnny left the room and returned with gauze to redo my bandage. He told me he had undergone surgical training, so he knew how to clean my arm and wrap it. I felt very safe in his hands. He also told me that peroxide loosen stitches, which made me mad because that's what they poured all over my arm at CRC right after the stitches were put in. After the talk, I felt better.
I was happy to be told what was going on and to feel as if I was adult enough to understand my own life, but I was still concerned about the drugs and if I should take them. So I called Dr. Jill and she told me they drug everyone because they want the patient zoned out and zombie-like, it's easier to control the situation that way. "Considering what the drugs are for, I must be schizophrenic or bipolar," I told Dr. Jill. She was quiet a moment. "Stephanie, you do not have those mental illnesses. They don't have the time or the resources in that place to really help you." This was comforting to hear, but it didn't change the fact that I was still locked up.
And that's the end of 37 hours, which is chapter five of Discovering My Scars.
Beth Demme (28:42):
So a couple of humanizing moments, a humanizing conversation with nurse Johnny, a humanizing conversation with Dr. Jill. Reminders maybe that you really were in the wrong place and that you understood who you were. I think there's some really helpful insight here too about NSSI. Because you say, "I cut out of frustration. Not suicide, not for attention, not for punishing others, but to have control of my out of control life. I felt confusion, pain, anger, self-injury was a way to pinpoint the pain, to say, this is where it hurts." You have this pain that you can't pinpoint, and you describe it in other places in the book about a disconnect between your heart and your brain. And your heart is feeling something, you're feeling something, and your brain doesn't quite know how to process it. And it's like the NSSI is a way for your brain to process what it knows you are feeling. Yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:41):
Yeah. There was definitely a lot of insight I had about myself at the time that was really frustrating. Because it's like, I knew all of these things about myself and what I needed, but no one... It's almost as if I was in a clear box, that soundproof box, and I'm yelling, saying, this is what I need and no one is hearing me. But all they hear is someone hitting the box hard, looking crazy, and that's all they're seeing. But they're not hearing my words of what I need and how I can be helped. And it just was such a process that took the person out of it. This wasn't about me, this was a checklist that this is what we do when somebody comes in. This is the checks that we do, but we don't actually listen to the person and figure out exactly what they need.
Because if they had, I wouldn't have been there. And they would've talked to my psychologist and they would've heard her tell them my history. And there's just so many things that didn't happen in so much time that I was just there with no answers. And also, to just be told to take drugs without somebody even knowing my history. I don't know, it's still so frustrating to me to have somebody want to give me drugs, but also my dad's like, it's a low dose and won't do anything. Then what is the point? And the point is, it's something that they can check off their list. That's the point. Which is just so dehumanizing that this is the process.
Beth Demme (31:30):
I think that's something people can probably relate to. Because in all aspects of medical care, I think that there is a sense that the doctor knows and the patient doesn't. I can think of examples where I haven't felt like I was listened to. And my mom was recently telling me a story. My mom just had surgery and she was telling me that many years ago, so she's in her 80s now, but when she was in her 40s she went to the doctor and said, "I'm pretty sure I have a urinary tract infection. I have a UTI." And he said to her, "Really? Where'd you get your medical degree?"
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:12):
Oh, my gosh.
Beth Demme (32:14):
And he ran the test and she was right. She had a UTI, because she knew her body. And she had learned from her own life experience what that was like. But he just discounted her ability to know as if that would somehow demean his training, or his expertise. But really, we know our bodies, we know ourselves. And it also reminds me, in 2018 I had severe abdominal pain and went to the ER. And told the ER doctor, "I think that I've had an ovarian cyst burst." And he said, "I don't think that's what it is. I think you have diverticulitis." And I was like, "Okay." Ran all the tests. Of course I was right. So when I went to my gynecologist and told him the story, he was like, "You know, one of the things that I remember learning in med school, is I remember having a professor say, 'The most important thing you can do is just listen to patients. If you will just listen to them, they will tell you what is wrong.'"
They will diagnose, even if they don't have the same words you would apply, people can describe to you what's happening. And in that process they are diagnosing themselves. So he affirmed that for me, that that's something doctors don't do well. And that it is something that you can do even if you don't have this medical training you know can describe... You're the only one who can describe it. Actually, you're the only one who can describe what's going on in your body. Yeah, I was reminded of all of that in this experience that you're relating when no one is listening to you because they just have a checklist, and they just want to go down their checklist. And the checklist was created to make sure they didn't miss anything. But the thing that they're missing in all of this is listening to the patient.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:57):
Yeah. I am lucky, and it comes in this book actually later in chapters, I have finally found a great primary doctor that I started seeing her in this book. And then I have seen her ever since. And I'm so lucky because I will say, this is what I think, or da, da, da. And a lot of times it's not like what I think. It's not that. And but she will validate. She'll be like, "Well, that was a great thought, but I think it's this because da, da, da, da." And she won't make me feel bad. Sometimes it is the thing that I think. Or sometimes it presents, I think it might be this, but it's presenting in a different way. And she'll be like, "You're so right, and this is da, da, da." And also, she doesn't make me feel bad for Googling things.
Because there's really nothing wrong with Googling. Unless I only Googled and didn't seek treatment from a medical professional, I think it's a good thing. Because just the medical profession is not set up for you to sit there for five hours with your doctor trying to figure stuff out, so it does give me time to process and maybe explain something better. Or give an idea, I think it might be this. And she knows what that is, and she would know it's not this. But knowing I'm thinking I'm having these symptoms, so it might give her an idea of what it could be.
Beth Demme (35:26):
Yes. And also, if you Googled things and then thought, oh, now I'm the expert and I will ignore my doctor, that [inaudible 00:35:33] wouldn't be good. But just to gather information and be informed and have that with you when you go in to talk to your doctor, yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:40):
At the end of each episode we end with questions for reflection. These are questions based on today's show that Beth will read and leave a little pause between for you to answer to yourself, or you can find a PDF on our website.
Beth Demme (35:54):
Number one, reflect on a time when you didn't feel heard by a medical professional. Number two, have you ever had a situation where you felt you weren't in control of your own life? Number three, have you had a situation where someone told you something about themselves that turned out not to be true? How did that make you feel? And number four, how would you handle the situation if a doctor told you to take a medication you knew you didn't need?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:26):
This has been the Discovering Our Scars podcast, thank you for joining us.