The following blog was shared by a patient who wished to remain anonymous. In this account, they explain why they felt they were treated differently when they presented with symptoms of Covid-19 due to their mental health difficulties. They also describe how receiving a false negative test result caused further harm to their mental health.
I was experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 and when I became unable to complete a sentence or walk to the bathroom, my GP advised me to go to hospital. I have mental health difficulties and one of the staff recognised me from when I had been admitted previously, following a suicide attempt. I felt that I was treated like a 'frequent flyer' of A&E and that my symptoms were taken less seriously than they would have been otherwise. I was sent home after my tests for Covid came back negative and was told that it was just anxiety.
I got much worse over the coming days. If I had tested negative, why was I feeling desperately unwell with all the published symptoms of Covid? I thought that I should be physically active if I didn't have Covid-19, so I pushed myself and berated myself when I repeatedly became unable to breath with a pounding heart upon any exertion. I couldn't cope caring for my four children and was in a 'critical' dangerous mental state many times. I self-harmed to try and cut off from feeling so awful.
My physical health deteriorated. The ambulance was called by the GP who had sent a nurse to assess my oxygen levels and the paramedic said I should be in a coma according to my obs. This made me feel less like I was making it up, but it was still in my head despite my husband telling me repeatedly that the results of the test are 30% wrong. The paramedic gave me oxygen and I protested strongly against going to hospital a second time. The paramedic insisted I went, put me on oxygen and reassured me he would ask the hospital staff to relate to me as a patient who was showing clear signs of Covid and that I did struggle with my mental health but that I was doing my best to recover. I also asked the paramedics to inform the hospital staff about my eating disorder so they could gently help me to manage my low blood sugar without judgements and causing me further shame.
In the hospital I saw a Dr who confirmed that I did have Covid-19 and that my test must have been a 'false negative'. I had felt judged, dismissed and had doubted myself. The first thing anyone I spoke to asked was whether or not I had had a test and whether it was positive. The negative test result isolated me from calling family and greeting neighbours as I didn't have the energy to go into the false negative answer. I found that saying my test was 'negative' sparked a surge of invalidation of everything I was experiencing. The isolation caused me further significant harm to my mental health. Among other fleeting symptoms I have had overwhelming fatigue, breathlessness, sweats or chills, no smell or taste, a rash, headaches and low mood. After nearly four weeks I am slowly recovering.
I am lucky to have a social worker, family support worker and psychologist available over the phone through this period, so I do feel my family and I are supported. But I am interested to know if anyone else has found their symptoms are being quickly dismissed as anxiety when they are sure they have the virus? Or if anyone else feels like they haven't had their symptoms taken as seriously because of their mental health difficulties?