How to be ‘productive’ in lockdown: learn how to get what you need.

Hi folks! Me again! Brought to you from my bed where I have been hiding in frustration and upset for the past couple of days.

Last week I had the displeasure of receiving a letter from a psychiatrist who had met me once for twenty minutes. In these twenty minutes this all-seeing, all-knowing idiot had decided to add a new diagnosis to my rapidly growing list completely out of the blue.

Being autistic, I like things being correct. And when this cockalorum contradicted eight previous psychiatrists and six previous psychologists to give me a diagnosis I knew was wrong I was seething. I immediately phoned my community nurse in tears asking what on earth I was meant to do. Her response? There was nothing I could do. This man’s word was final. I eventually was allowed to phone the psychiatrist who had caused the damage only to be patronised and belittled. I was mentally ill, I wouldn’t understand his thought process.

He was right, I didn’t understand his thought process, so I decided to leapfrog him and complain about his ridiculous thought process to the NHS trust managers. Whilst I am yet to get a response it is this complaint that I want to focus on today.

Too often, particularly as women, we don’t like to make a fuss. Sound familiar? To get around this internalised lack of self worth I like to tell myself I’m doing this for the people that follow me. The next in the long line of people waiting to access their right to good quality healthcare. In reality, I shouldn’t even need to do this. If I’ve been repeating my positive affirmations I’d know by now how much value I hold as a human being and that I deserve to be listened to and afforded basic respect, no matter what my diagnoses, correct or otherwise. Frustratingly, this doesn’t always happen. Luckily therapy isn’t just about changing you, it can also help with changing those around you.

So… without further ado, I figured I’d share a technique with you that I learnt whilst doing a course of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy during my first hospital admission: DEARMAN.

For anyone who’s done DBT, you’ll know old Marsha Linehan loved a good acronym, DEARMAN is no different. D stands for describe. Describe the situation in as much detail as you think it needs. Go with your gut, you’d be surprised at how good our human brains are at getting us what we need when we let them.

E stands for express. Express your feelings and opinions, you’re allowed to and you should. No one will understand how much you need something if there’s no emotion behind it. If you’re angry, tell them. If your feeling is justifiable then you are allowed to feel it and you are allowed to tell other people you’re feeling it.

A stands for assert. Ask for what you want in no uncertain terms. You can still be polite, just direct. Alternatively, if you’re using this technique because you need to not do something, this is the point where you say “no”. If you’re anything like me, this is important because I tend to waffle and not get to the point.

R stands for reinforce. Try explaining the positive consequences of you having your needs met. You may be more able to do other or more work if you’re talking to your boss. Or, in my case, I would be treated more effectively and therefore stay stable.

M stands for mindful. Stay focused on your task. Whilst emotions are great, we can’t let them overtake us too much else people don’t take us seriously. If you’re getting upset or angry try running a scan of your body, work out where you’re feeling the intense emotion and exhale the tension you feel, hopefully the emotion should lessen too.

The second A stands for appear confident. All too often we are anything but. But putting on that front makes it harder for people to tread all over us and therefore easier for us to get what we need out of the situation.

And, lastly, Negotiate. Having said all that stuff about standing our ground, remember the other people in the situation are also complex humans who have needs and emotions too. If we stay open minded and respectful we may realise that we need to back down on certain aspects of our request, just through having a rational conversation.

Being a woman and being disabled isn’t going to stop me being heard. I will take on the world, one strongly worded letter at a time.

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