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.