It’s scary how fast things change.
A month ago I was having a perfectly fine uneventful day. It was the last day of my week off before school started. I was feeling wonderfully relaxed.
Then I checked my mail. I’d previously requested my records from a partial hospital program I had been to several years ago. They’d arrived. I wanted them more for my obsession with recording keeping and possessing anything anyone has ever written about me and storing it in my filing cabinet than anything else. There was some curiosity about how they would write about the part where I was forced to take off my pants despite clearly refusing, but mostly I planed to skim through it and file it away.
First couple of pages, nothing too exciting.
Third page. “Hey! They got my age wrong. Typical.”
I read more. “Wait a second. I don’t have schizophrenia. ” I looked at the top of the page. It had someone else’s name on it. It wasn’t about me. There were 3 pages of someone else’s records in the middle of my stapled packet.
To say I was not pleased would be a major understatement.
Confidentiality is a major hot button issue for me. If they were careless with this person’s info maybe they were or will be careless with mine?
I work very hard to keep my privacy. I don’t have any close friends and especially not at school. I can’t trust anyone. If someone gets too close they might find out how crazy I am and somehow that will lead to my school finding out, because no one can keep a secret and that will lead to me getting kicked out of school again. I know it’s paranoid, but I have to protect myself. No one else will.
This reactivated and exacerbated all of my fears about my privacy being violated, anger towards health professionals who have been sloppy with confidentiality in the past, anger towards people who have used my personal information against me. I had just an overall sense of powerlessness, anger and feeling overwhelmed. I can’t put it into words that do it justice so I’m just going to stop trying. Point is I was extremely upset. I’m getting teary now a month later writing about it.
It took less than 24 hours for me to fall apart. The day after getting the letter I called the hospital. It took talking to 3 people at the hospital to get someone who understood what it meant when I said “HIPAA Violation”. One person said “Hippo Violation?” and tried to transfer me to security. No joke. Class act they’re running. They fed me a “We’re taking this seriously” line.
I was having cycling panic attacks. I’d taken my maximum daily dose of klonopin and it felt like I hadn’t taken a thing.
So what next? Clearly the logical step is to take a bunch of painkillers, right? Of course. So I did that.
And well I had a box of nicotine patches I’d been hanging onto for over a year just this sort of occasion. I’d thought about throwing them out before, lucky for me I still had them. I put all of them on from the previously unopened-box.
I lay down in my bed for awhile. I’m not sure how long, maybe an hour. I decided I’d made some bad decisions. I took off the patches and made myself vomit up as much as I could. I was extremely dizzy. I realized I had no mouthwash. I zig-zagged my way over to the store to buy some. Came back, vomited some more (this time without the help of fingers).
I felt significantly calmer once the dominant problem shifted from emotional to physical. I went to sleep for the night. I was still a mess for the following 2 weeks,but that first 24 hours was the worst part of it.
It is terrifying to look back and see how quickly things escalated. At the time it felt like much longer than a day. It’s scary to know that no matter no stable I am for how long these things can still happen out of nowhere. I’m always at risk that one day I could be fine the next I might kill myself.
This is the end of the post, but here’s some more writing anyway. I didn’t want to get bogged down with extraneous information that isn’t about the point of the post, but here some is. I didn’t want this swept under the rug. I wanted to throw everything at them and not let them get away with it. I called more lawyers than I could keep count of and each kept referring me to another lawyer. I kept calling them until I reached one who never returned my call. A lot of this lawyer-calling was more related to my past school issues than my present issue. I was extremely lenient with my school. I could have been significantly more aggressive, but opted for gentler methods because I wanted to preserve my relationship with the school.
Ultimately it turned out that part of the other person’s file had been put in my folder my the social worker who had done both of our intakes. None of my pages were missing from the file (or so they tell me). They said they’d “talk” to the social worker. So wrist slapping, basically. I get it mistakes happen, but these mistakes can have big consequences.
Oh yes I should have gone to the hospital. Blah, blah, blah. Don’t anyone dare lecture me. I’d have gladly gone to get checked out physically at the point where I’d vomited things up. But I didn’t want to be trapped there and risk messing up another semester of school. I know okay, priorities, maybe ours are not the same. School trumps physical health. And also wasn’t exactly feeling very trusting about hospital’s abilities to keep my confidentiality so no way was I going to risk telling them more information.
Wow. That just truly sucks…i don’t even know what to say…except i am soooo glad that you are alright…please don’t do that again, okay? (said the pot to the kettle). i have goten records from my hospital stays a couple of times and the psychiatrist’s notes were rather upsetting at times “…patient cannot be trusted”, but at least they were mine. And at several stays, sooooo many HIPPA rules were broken, i brought it up and began to wonder if any of the staff had even heard of HIPPA, seriously.
take care of your self, i know how it is to fall fast,
Thanks for commenting, it means a lot. I’d been feeling a bit disappointed that I’d gone and written this whole thing out and despite a lot of views no one had commented.
Confidentiality isn’t taken seriously enough, especially I’ve found in hospitals. Everyone on a psych inpatient unit knows other peoples business. And private things are nonchalantly told to family members with out permission
Wow, that whole situation sounds ridiculous! That’s a shame that the situation was not handled in a more serious manner. It’s hard to trust in a system that should be a safe place to turn when it’s definitely not.
I am pleased that you did attempt to get people to notice and have them understand that it really is a big deal. I would be upset too. Hopefully through your post someone who may not have previously understood how this violation could seriously affect someone sees that it can.
Wow, I would have been mortified if that had been me. I can completely understand why it drove you to panic…I would have too. My first thought would be “who did they send MY files to?”
I know a long time ago you posted about how you have several files about your various experiences in the mental health sector. I’ve never really thought about getting my files. Would a psychiatrist who is treating you currently give them to you? I would be interested to know what is in my file currently.
Exactly. If they sent me someone else’s mine could easily be with that someone else.
The easiest filed to get are from larger organizations, like a hospital or school. They have to put the records in a file and that individual in the larger org who you met with had no involvement in the processing of you getting your records. When it’s just an individual it’s harder. I’ve never gotten more than just a summary letter from an individual. But I also have never really pushed too hard against them to get more than just the letter. Also never gotten anything from a person I was meeting with still. It’s worth a shot, but be prepared for them wanting a lot of reflecting on what reading your file represents to you.
They do legally have to give you something though within x number of days after a written request though unless they can prove it represents a danger to you if you were to read them.
So if you’re getting a struggle try putting the request in writing see if that helps.
I understand. What causes it for me may be different, but I know that fear. Feeling balanced, ok. Then all of a sudden it feels like time to die. How can one prepare against oneself?