Doing a favor for my psychiatrist

Last year my psychiatrist asked me to do him a favor. He teaches at a Chinese Medicine school. He does the Western Psychiatry block of the course. He asked me to come into his class to be interviewed by a student. They would be taking my “history.” I told him that if I did that that I would be very critical of psychiatry and if he didn’t have a problem with that I would go. He told me that the more variety his students got the better.

I went and did it and it was extremely traumatizing even though I got to do a bit of smashing of psychiatry to a young impressionable audience who probably already questions western medicine in large part. My favorite part was when the student made reference to something my doctor had taught them—that anti-depressants often uncover underlying bipolar disorder by revealing a mania. I quickly said, “Oh no, antidepressants cause mania and people get wrongfully diagnosed bipolar. There is a big difference.” No one said anything. Not even my doctor. It was sweet.

Anyway I felt like I’d been hauled through the dirt. I had to talk about my entire history in front of a classroom full of people I didn’t know, but I did get to tell them just what I thought of psychiatry and how I was in withdrawal and successfully, without any sign of relapse getting off all my meds. My psychiatrist thanked me and was not defensive or put off. I told him I wouldn’t do it again because it was too difficult emotionally.

Then a few months ago things were going so well I told my doctor that I would do it again. I thought I should spread the truth and these would be people in health care who could in turn spread the truth to their patients. Well this was before I stopped making commitments mostly due to the chronic fatigue. After my brother died, I called my doctor and said I was sorry, but I was not emotionally up to it and I was unable to make commitments because I am so often sick. I told him once I’m better I will happily go there every year and share my experience of the dangers of polypharmacy.

He called me today in a pinch. One of the people who volunteered to help him out is very ill and won’t be able to participate. I told him I wouldn’t be able to commit until the day of and if he didn’t get someone by then then I might be able to do it. Hmmmm. I hope I can do it. It’s in two weeks.

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters

7 Responses

  1. Denise

    You are very brave to do this even once. I would be scared myself. It is very difficult opening up about this sort of thing in a small group, but a large classroom is another story. Good for you. I would like to hear how your 2nd experience goes, if you do feel up to going again. This takes a lot of courage. wishing you the best.

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  2. ama

    “Anyway I felt like I’d been hauled through the dirt.”

    yikes. this doesn’t sound like fun at all. maybe you can mold the young minds in some other, less hauled-through-the-dirt way? seems to me like you need all the peace and quiet and lack of upheaval you can get…

    not that you asked for my opinion! sorry for offering it! i guess i’m feeling a bit protective… but of course you are in the situation and you are in your body-mind self and you know what’s the intelligent thing to do! good luck!

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  3. Judy

    I can’t remember exactly how old he was, but my older brother, who has paranoid schizophrenia, was out in a bar one evening. This was when he was in the early stages of the disease but was already exhibiting symptoms. He was talking to another patron in the bar, a college professor whom he had just met, and at one point the professor asked my brother to come and talk to his class.
    When my brother told me this, I kept my mouth shut and thankfully he never followed through with it. Had he decided to go through with it, I would have discouraged him from doing it.
    Since I was not present during the original conversation, I can’t really pass judgment on what the motives behind the invitation from the professor was. But I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that the professor recognized my brother’s mental illness and wanted to use him as some type of a guinea pig.
    Kudos to you for your courage.

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  4. Sara

    “My favorite part was when the student made reference to something my doctor had taught them—that anti-depressants often uncover underlying bipolar disorder by revealing a mania. I quickly said, “Oh no, antidepressants cause mania and people get wrongfully diagnosed bipolar. There is a big difference.” No one said anything. Not even my doctor. It was sweet.”

    Love this — what a great moment. If even a handful of students absorbed this point or it tweaks them later on, I think it might be worth the pain. I’ve got to believe talking to a group like this is a powerful, powerful way to make a difference and I hope you have the courage to do it again. It might feel like s__t at the time but in the long run I’ve got to believe it might be one of the most healing things you can do. I think it’s a great sign your psychiatrist wants you back for a repeat performance.

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  5. Judy

    It’s me again. I wanted to add to my comment above. I understand that your situation (speaking to a classroom) is a far cry from the situation my brother would have walked into. I have no idea what type of professor it was or what sort of class it would have been.
    At the time this happened, he was not receiving treatment of any kind. And he was averse to getting help for a very long time. My reaction was a protective one, not wanting him to place himself in a situation which could have possibly subjected him to ridicule.
    I hadn’t thought of that memory in years until I read your post! It made me remember my brother’s story and helped me gain some insights into my own mental illness issues. Thank you so much.

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  6. Helen

    I find that doing a “history” is always upsetting to me. They ask you to talk about areas that are painful. I find that it brings up things and rehashes tramic events. Some people say, “Well, you must not be over that “issue” then. But I think it is just painful stuff. If you want to do good for others, I say go visit the class and remember that you are so much better than you were.
    But if you don’t think you are strong enough and don’t want to be derailed, don’t do it. You have been through a couple big loses recently.

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  7. You can do it! Sending you courage, take this chance, it’s the one person who needs to hear your speech that you may never know you helped. Afterward, cry and sob, but know you said what needed to be said.

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