Monday, April 21, 2008

is olivia a bitter person who is antipsychiatry?

Dear People Who Need to Know,

My bias: I am female. I am old enough to have enjoyed the heydays of Nirvana, but too young to grasp the reverence for classic rock. I look white, but I have a visible minority heritage that isn't obvious by my appearance. I grew up knowing too well what a fridge looks like when it's empty. I have the benefits of a university education, and hold dual degrees, one relating to the realm of medicine, the other relating to the realm of metaphysics.

I have been diagnosed with what the medical profession likes to call a SMI (severe mental illness). I have lived intimately with the effects of my diagnosis for 10 years or so. My condition has affected me in profound ways in a psychological sense, in an economic sense, and in an interpersonal sense.

Pardon me if my experience ever clouds my judgment or colours my words, and I will do the same for you.

So, given my experience, I'm going to lay out *my* opinions on psychiatry, and hope that my words are not too often abused or distorted from their original context.

In a general sense, since my experiences with psychiatry have been positive, and I see a movement in psychiatry towards accountability and collaboration, I regard psychiatry as a potential benefit for those who are affected negatively by their mental health.

I know that many people have suffered abuses (in the form of stigmatization, discrimination, sub-standard levels of care, enforcement of unwanted treatments, literal abuse, etc.) at the hands of the mental healthcare community. I respect your experiences, you own those experiences.

But those experiences are not mine. And although this blog will express a significant amount of frustration with current standards in health care, I am not fundamentally anti-psychiatry.

In the same way that abortion is a contentious, weighty, (and I believe, personal) issue; mental health is an issue that carries with it a burdensome load that is equally personal, weighty, and contentious.

So, in short, if a person confided in me that they were negatively affected by their mental health, I would suggest to them that they may benefit from seeking help from the medical community. That being said, I would be very careful about the places I would direct them to, since (those who have received mental health treatment are well aware that) not all doctors are created equal. Some doctors are simply better; being more approachable, more informed, and more invested than others.

Your 'Only Human' and Fundamentally Biased Blogger Who Genuinely Respects Her Treatment Team,


marion said...

I struggle with depression, have done all my life, pretty much. In my experience in the UK, mental health is hugely underfunded and seriously misunderstood, with many psychiatrists behaving as if they were suffering from delusions of grandeur (bitter and twisted? Moi? Surely not!).
Good luck with the blog.

Occupant (aka Olivia) said...

the people in my country who live with depression often get the short end of the stick too. i know a lot of people who have been put on a cocktail regimen of medication with no follow up, or any form of therapy.

it is fairly well understood in the medical community that drug therapy is most beneficial when therapy or counselling are a part of treatment.

sadly, nobody ever invests in the man power that will ultimately get people on the road to recovery, and people are stuck on powerful drugs for far too long.

my regrets, i wish for more for you,

scarlettcat said...

I've been really, really lucky to have a couple of fantastic doctors who are extremely understanding and happy to help.

Of course I, like most people with depression, have found the other type too.

One GP, while treating me for an infected blister, knowing me for all of five minutes and having already been told I was under the care of a psychiatrist proceeded to give me an unwanted ten minute lecture about antidepressants being like 'training wheels' and suggesting it may be time to stop taking them because I didn't 'look' depressed.

That helped my blister no end.

Once you find a doctor you trust and who is helpful and willing to listen, stick to them like superglue!

And ignore the imbeciles.

xxx scarlett

Occupant (aka Olivia) said...

"And ignore the imbeciles."

Ditto scarlettcat. You are smrt.

I had the same experience with a specialist who went way above his head trying to prescribe meds for a condition he was absolutely NOT qualified to diagnose. (ie. An immunologist trying to diagnose and treat a psychiatric condition.)

I think there is problem when doctors try to diagnose something that is out of their field. And sadly, too many patients don't realize that just because a person seems very smart and they have a lot of letters behind their name, it doesn't always mean they know how to properly (or even adequately) treat *your* condition.

I really wish there were more protection for patients on this matter. And I ultimately wish that there were more accountability for doctors (particularly specialists) who try to assess, diagnose, and treat out of their specialty. (And I'm talking about unusual cases of rare diseases and whatnot. I'm talking about circumstances like pediatricians who like to "dabble" in adult psychiatry.)