Munchausen syndrome is a psychiatric factitious disorder wherein those affected feign disease, illness, or psychological trauma to draw attention, sympathy, or reassurance to themselves. It is also known as hospital addiction syndrome, thick chart syndrome, or hospital hopper syndrome.
Lately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how hard it’s been to find decent help for my long-standing TBI issues. I’ve had more “than the average bear”, and for the past 10 years, it’s been making my life pretty miserable.
I’ve been forced to think about it, because my neuropsych is retiring, leaving a massive gap of knowledge about what it means to have TBI issues, and how to best address them.
Also, when my company is acquired, later this year, our insurance may change — to the hellish coverage I had, when I was first trying desperately to find help, back in 2007.
I had to jump through all kinds of hoops, just to step into a neuropsych’s office, and even the testing they did wasn’t completely covered by my insurance, which is just the sh*ttiest thing on earth. If I have to go back to the old insurance, I will leave the job. I hope they lay me off, anyway. I need a change, and having a little $$$ help to tide me over while I interview for my next position would be great.
My safety net (which was the equivalent of 5 years’ pay) evaporated after my TBI in 2004. Thanks for that, life.
Anyway, I keep thinking back to the days when I was so close to the edge of ruin, about to lose everything– my home, my marriage, my whole identity — and how everywhere I turned, people treated me like there was nothing wrong with me. I just wanted attention, according to them. In their eyes, I was jealous of my spouse, who had spent a week in the hospital and had medical eyes constantly trained on them for months and months after their hospitalization.
Just to be clear, I never, ever want that kind of attention. Didn’t then. Don’t now.
But that wasn’t how others saw it. Those others included my (former) friends, doctors, specialists, etc. And they kept asking me A) how my relationship with my parents was, and B) how long it had been since I last took any drugs.
Oh. My. God. It was hell. All I wanted was access to someone who could explain to me what was going on.
That’s all I needed. An explanation. A breakdown of what was screwed up in my head, and some possible next steps to move on and get my life back together.
Oh, hell no. I’m happiest when people leave me the heck alone — especially medical folks and hospital staff. I literally only wanted answers.
But instead, it was a constant barrage of questions about why I was looking for help, why I was seeking assistance, why I thought there was something wrong.
Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that concussion is associated with a higher suicide rate. I’m sort of joking. But not.
Being all alone in this — and having everyone around you treat you like a “head case” who’s trying to get attention or sympathy or reassurance — it was pretty devastating. And I know I’m not the only one. There’s a whole science around detecting people who are malingering… and there’s a syndrome named after it — Munchausen Syndrome, named after a fictional German character known for embellishing his stories.
I’m not saying it happens to everyone. But it strikes me that within the medical and neuropsych community, there’s a fair amount of lacking regard and treatment of concussed folks.
So, if you find yourself in the un-enviable position of being treated like an attention-seeking drug addict who’s taking up precious time better used on people with “real” problems, rest assured, you’re in good company.
I wish it weren’t so.