My correspondence with the psychiatrist who put me on all the drugs

 

I actually correspond with the psychiatrist who medicated the hell out of me. I’ve been sending him bits and pieces from my blog and he’s been pretty open-minded and decent with me. It’s been a terrifying process for me though. I loved my psychiatrist and still have warm feelings for him as a human being, misguided as he may have been. I have a dream that we might communicate. That he might hear me out. I don’t expect some sort of miracle or conversion on his part, no, not at all. But I would like him to reflect on how our relationship worked out for me.

I write to him pretty infrequently, but he had asked me to let him know when my Madness Radio interview was available online so I contacted him at that point. I also offered to mail him a Take These Broken Wings DVD, the documentary film of two stunning, beautiful women who had been labeled with schizophrenia and had full recoveries. My psychiatrist happens to also be a trained psychoanalyst, so I honestly thought he might have some real interest, since these women healed through psychotherapy. Also my psychoanalyst from the time I was seeing my psychiatrist, screwed up as she may have been actually never believed I was bipolar and didn’t think I should be on medication. That perhaps is the only good thing she gave me. A solid doubt that my diagnosis was appropriate.

My psychiatrist went to the same psychoanalytic institute she went to, but many years later and towards the end of my relationship with him he had only begun his studies. So perhaps the psychoanalytic institute is now more medical-model oriented as just about all studies of the psyche are. And the fact is he’s been practicing psychiatry as though it were medicine for a long time. That’s hard to shake.

A couple of weeks passed with no response this last time I communicated with him. So I sent him a very brief email asking him had I alienated him. He responded immediately and said, no, I hadn’t, but he felt cautious about communicating with me as I obviously had issues with our relationship. He granted me that was, of course, to be expected given the path I’m choosing.

In any case he made it clear he had read pieces where I talked about him on my blog. Today I went through my “personal” stories page to see what it was he might have read. I think I found it. I also think I’m incredibly fair and honest and loving. I needed to heal from that pain. This piece was written almost two years ago now. I pointed out to him when I responded to his hesitation in communicating with me that my feelings have changed. They are still complex no doubt. But I am not stagnant.

I want to share the piece I wrote back then that talks a lot about this doctor. I also want to remind you all of a piece I wrote recently that shows I’m learning to forgive. That I have grown and am indeed not stagnant. By the way, the title of that piece apparently turned off people who are not spiritual…I want to suggest to any of you who may be turned off by the spiritual language that the practical reality of that piece has absolutely nothing to do with spirituality explicitly and the techniques I use can be used completely within a secular worldview or not.

Anyway the piece I wrote almost two years ago was entitled My Struggle with Anger Towards Psychiatry and it was specifically anger that comes from my experience within the psychiatric system.

Here it is, first written March 26, 2007

I’ve been struggling with anger and (yes, sometimes) hatred towards my doctors and the people who “cared” for me when I was most disturbed and then the years following that, while on “maintenance meds.” I went years numbly accepting all as normal, par for the course. But no more. I’m enraged now.

I don’t believe these vengeful feelings are helpful. I, in fact, think they are destructive and could ultimately impede my continued health. I think it’s normal to feel angry and many people in the anti-psychiatry movement, I know think it’s helpful and empowering–an aid in the struggle against the establishment. While I understand this point of view, I think festering anger and hatred are poisons to the soul. So I’m determined to work through it and let it go.

My doctor of ten years, the one I hold most “responsible,” was a man I loved. Not romantically but as someone who supported me and had faith in me and believed in me. He was friendly and warm. It’s hard for me to even write about him now. I do, indeed, feel betrayed, but I have to take some responsibility for my plight as well. I am not an innocent victim, though I have a hard time taking responsibility for some of the poisoning of my body and mind anyway.

My psychiatrist saw an intelligent and insightful young woman working in social work and told her to go to medical school. He thought I should become a psychiatrist. I found this flattering, though totally unrealistic. How in hell was I supposed to do an internship and then residency when I needed 12 hours of sleep a night just to sleep off the drugs he had me on? How, when I took three months off work routinely to deal with my “illness.” (read deal with the poisoning of my system.) But I do believe he was sincere. He saw something in me. And I think he was right to see something in me. That he contributed to my complete unraveling was not something he intended.

Then…how was I partially responsible for my massive drugging? I couldn’t stand an unpleasant symptom. I would call him and cry until he upped my dose. I couldn’t tolerate my depression, my irritability my sleepiness or my sleeplessness, my anxiety. Help me! Help me! I wanted the quick fix. Of course it never came. It never dawned on either of us that I simply had to take control–to stop being pathetic. We can all learn to cope and deal with the human condition as I am now doing. It would have been nice to have someone REALLY believe in me. In my spirit and in my power to heal myself. I have those people around me now. My doctor only believed in the medication and its power to heal.

Granted, many of my symptoms were caused by side-effects, but neither he nor I knew this. Is his ignorance an excuse? Maybe not an excuse, but certainly an explanation. The power of the psychiatric and pharmaceutical industries are so vast that your average everyday person just doesn’t stop to wonder. I’m not justifying this….it’s simply the case. To be ignorant does not make someone inherently evil. Most Americans are terribly ignorant about something. I was ignorant about psychiatric treatment. As a social worker, I was even part of the system that oppressed those with “mental illness.” In some cases, ignorance should be prosecuted. I’m not letting people off the hook. Some of the issues where ignorance comes into play have more serious repercussions than others, but ignorance is human, and thus ignorance is something that can be forgiven as far as I’m concerned.

This makes me think of parents you hear about, who are indeed criminal in their behavior when they leave children in cars to die by heat and suffocation. I always have great empathy, nonetheless, to hear of their pain and that they are being prosecuted. I think, isn’t their pain and guilt enough punishment? I have no problem forgiving them from afar. And yet I do think that in many cases ignorance should indeed be prosecuted. In any case, even though it’s different, doctors are greatly arrogant in their ignorance, I still believe that if I can forgive the people involved in my “treatment” I will heal more completely.

Also, I am completely aware that not all doctors are kind spirited as mine was. Some are not only ignorant, but patronizing, condescending and controlling and oppressive as well. I’ve encountered those people too. Not just doctors but also staff in psychiatric hospitals. The proposition to forgive these people becomes more difficult. They are truly hateful at times. Though I have to say, those people in my life were in and out of it so quickly–my hospital stays being brief–that I don’t have the same complexity of feeling involved when I think of them. They are just mean humiliating faces. My long-term psychiatrist was my “friend.” Like I said, I loved and trusted him—all the more reason that the feelings of betrayal I have about him are palpable.

Anyway, this is all in the realm of theory as I’ve not forgiven nor forgotten. I harbor deep anger and resentment towards all these “providers.” I think it’s okay to feel these things. It’s necessary to feel these things. Repression of these feelings is not the answer. That would only make things worse. So I will feel and I will feel completely and then I hope I will release the anger, the rage, the hatred.

It just feels heavy. I want to be light.

Please remember to read (if you haven’t already) what I linked to above which to me is a sort of an epilogue, or continuation of this process as I learn to let go of the anger.

For more links to correspondence with my psychiatrist look here.

Comments

  1. My psychiatrist only send a phone message to the new therapist I had seen. He said he wouldn’t send any of my records to her because of a possible legal suit.
    I was stunned. He knew he had wrongly prescribed and diagnosed me. This was him admitting it.
    I hadn’t mention suing. I had stopped seeing him.

    Wondering if a simple e-mail scares yours?

  2. I hope he’s not scared. It is not my intention to scare him. But the nature of my blog can’t be comfortable for him. I can sympathize with him there…but this blog, as I’ve told him is not written for him…it’s for me and all of us…I share it with him as a friend actually…but I don’t know if he sees it that way….I understand it has to be difficult.

    But because I care about him and we had a relationship—and really I don’t believe relationships ever truly end when you interact with such intimacy…even if you never see or talk to a person again…your life has been permanently changed by that person.

    I don’t feel our relationship is over.

    I feel that way about other people who are not in my life who I choose not to engage with as well…and I know engaging with him is highly unusual given the circumstances.

  3. naturalgal says:

    Hi Gianna,

    I remember reading that post two years ago. I felt/feel the same about one of my psychiatrists. I toy with emailing him or sending him something by snail mail about how I am now off of all medication, what I do part time and how successful I have been.

    I wonder if he would be scared. He gave me neurontin (aka gabapentin. That med really backfired. I lost a very good, cool job and I blame that med.

    I really, really felt close to him and I know he felt close to me….or at least I imagined he did. I do believe he cared for me. He continued to listen to me even though he was miles apart from me because I had moved and he had moved. When I landed in the psych ward in a strange town, he refused to take any more calls from me. He knew I had to get help from someone else. (After I got out, he did help me apply for disability.)

    He has a side business totally unrelated to mental health and I emailed him at that business. I did not reveal who I was. (I wondered how in the world you got your psychiatrist’s email. They are very, very protective about it and usually will never respond for privacy concerns.)

    I plan to email him some day as myself. In fact when he emailed me back about his side business, my heart skipped a beat and I could feel blood rushing to my face. Evidence that I definitely have feeling for or about that relationship.

    I too felt that it was intimate, but not sexual.

  4. Dear Gianna,
    I think this is an interesting way to go about healing. That’s nice that you care enough about the psychiatrist to try and resolve things.

    In my case, it’s the “system” more than the person who angers me. He’s just did what everyone else is still doing. And he even brought in a consultant on my case–whom I saw twice on my own–who’s a big mucky mucky in the university Affective Mood Disorders clinic.

    I feel there is something so intrinsically wrong with a system where you make a diagnosis and medicate it and believe that’s the best you can do.

    I’m trying to figure out a way to get this message out, but it needs to be more than just my story.

    Susan

  5. well Susan,
    there is a huge movement of people working to get the message out…I know you don’t agree with everyone…but I find it very helpful to work with multiple organizations none of which I agree with 100%….there are thousands of us if not 100’s of thousands of us who want to change things…I find working with organizations very rewarding…and I’ve met some of the most awesome people in the world that way…and found a job, and been interviewed on the radio, and gotten interviewed for a book that will be an expose on what’s happening with these drugs, I’ve been published in a journal and soon there will be a book with a chapter written by me…

    I highly encourage you to ally yourself with others even if you don’t agree with everything a group stands for…the nature of groups is that there are individuals there and lots of them are not subject to group think just like you and me…

    anyway…it may not be right for you, but it sure as hell has gotten me out there and I feel I make a real difference because of all my allies..all the people who are working to change the sick system we are part of. It’s also very comforting to be in touch with people daily who know its all a load a crap…as you know in our blogosphere there are too many people who swallow all the crap and believe they are sick…

    anyway…I don’t know if you wanted to hear all that…it’s just what has worked for me.

    I link hands with these people….and it’s very empowering.

  6. Gianna,

    I remember a while back, you put a post up about him….And, you were trying to think of the verse from the bible about forgivenes….and, Sloopy, our friend from England helped you out with “Forgive them, or they know not what they do”….

    The thing is, this guy practiced what he had been taught in medical school….That’s all these guys know is what they’ve been taught….

    The real crime is coming from the research chairs who get paid big-bucks to toss out data…as in half of it, according to some estimates…..

    These medications (I prefer to call them drugs, because that’s what they are)….look okay to the docs, because all they read are the more favorable studies….and, the drugs come in slightly better than placebo, and the trials are only a short time….12-weeks, tops for a lot of them….less for others….and, so the “side effects” don’t show up…..

    Years on them….then the “side effects” show up big-time….The side-effects, especially for the atypical anti-psychotics (nueroleptics) aren’t really side-effects at all….These drugs do what they are designed to do – shut down higher functioning of the brain….

    But, the docs aren’t taught this in medical school….In my mind, the injury is caused by the drugmakers, who desparately try to keep the truth from the public, and the research chairs who are happy to do it, if the pay is right, and the doctos on the take who do the speaker’s gig….Making money hand-over-fist….

    Some big things have happened very recently – not the least of which is the preemption ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court – this will open up pandora’s box with civil law suits for damages – not “off-label” as we’ve seen, but as written – the prescription for ‘bipolar’ or ‘schizophrenia’……Once these civil lawsuits begin to take hold, the prosecutors will have even more evidence…..The judges will not be able to put gag orders on the ‘hidden’ documents for long…..Not without public outrage, and outcry…..More and more harm will be shown, and the U.S. Attorneyes assigned to these cases will have all the evidence they need to start putting these clowns in jail…..

    Not doctors like you had….But, research chairs – like Biedermand, and Nemoroff…..and the front-groups will be next – like NAMI – its top execs…..the ones who knew better for years – knew of the injury – knew of the death….

    Nixon thought he was above the law….And, he was put in a spot where he chose to resign from office….Our country is far from perfect – we have a long ways to go….But, it is refreshing to know that no man is above the law….A little while longer, and the first will go to jail, and then the second….a few more, and this thing will come to a crashing hault…..The Treatment Advocacy Center will have to close its doors, and people will no longer be forced to take these “medicines”…….Alternative treatment centers, and peer-run organizations will begin to take root…..

    It’s a little ways down the road, but I don’t think it’s the distant future…..I’m beginning to feel like it’s the near future….

    This doctor of yours – I think it’s a good thing that you’re able to see the best in him….He was misled, and misguided….It is ashame that he dismisses much of what you have to say…..It could be that the ‘truth’ you present is too much, too quick….He may come around in the not-so-distant future, as the truth becomes more obvious to him, and others like him….

    My best,
    Duane

  7. lots of mispellings in that last comment of mine….
    biederman of mass general (harvard)….not biedermand…

    tired and keyboards don’t mix

    one last comment –
    “friends don’t let friends join nami”

    this should be our mantra……whatta you think?

    duane

  8. Princess says:

    It would be cool to talk to the psychiatrist I saw way back in the middle school days who messed me up back then and explain to them how their meds affected me. I’ve been off meds for awhile. I’m now just as skinny as I was back when I was on stimulants. I got off all meds about a year ago after being on them for so long. I use Dexedrine recreationally sometimes. It’s a fun amphetamine. It’s good for recreational use. There is so much I would want to say to that psychiatrist from forever ago.

  9. Thich Nhat Hahn has a very good book about anger, I highly recommend. This from someone who went through the Vietnam War.

  10. It’s really amazing for me to see somoene else who was hurt by the mental health system working on forgiving. I know I burden myself with all the anger I have over what I’ve been put through by those claiming to help. But I’m not ready yet to forgive it. I still feel too much psychological damage from what has happened. It’s nice though to see it as a possibility in the far future.

  11. it’s a process and not a requirement tales!!

    best to you on your journey of healing.

  12. I loved my psychiatrist and still have warm feelings for him as a human being, misguided as he may have been. I have a dream that we might communicate. That he might hear me out.

    This sounds so much like what I’ve been going through lately. I tried the calm letter approach and it blew up. I was totally not heard. I wish you better luck. I never imagined that it could go so badly. And I did love him somewhere. And I think he’s a good person who really wanted to help me.

  13. Sorry Sara that it blew up….my doc has been a pretty good sport…but I’m not confronting him at all. Just letting him know what’s up in my life…sending him links to my blog…and telling him we did it together and that I hope he thinks about others…

    it could potentially get ugly but so far it’s been good…

    I certainly don’t recommend that everyone do this…it opens one up to lots of pain potentially…

    peace.

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