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How I Knew It Was Time to 'Break Up' With My Psychiatrist


Editor's Note

Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

Today I’ve decided to break up with my psychiatrist. We’ve been together for five years now, so it was a pretty momentous decision. But the truth is we just didn’t work the way we used to. My feelings had changed. It was him and not me. And now I’m dumping him.

I’ve had a number of psychiatrists during the course of my illness, and I’ve had varying levels of confidence in all of them. There was the one who misdiagnosed me as depressed, then put me on a medication designed to treat bipolar disorder — without telling me I might be bipolar. Since I was newly diagnosed at the time, I didn’t catch it until the drug landed me in the hospital. There was the one who felt that if one drug was good, two were better – or four, or eight. I dumped him when we got to eight. There was one right out of medical school who was giving me ECT, which was not reassuring. And then there was this last one, who for a while has done pretty well by me. But he doesn’t take my insurance anymore, and he doesn’t offer a type of treatment that’s worked very well for me (transcranial magnetic stimulation TMS, if you’re interested). So he gets the boot. And although I’ve been rather angsty about this decision, I do think it’s the right one. After all, a girl’s gotta free herself up for somebody better. Or at least different.

In related news, I’ve decided that one of the classes in the psychiatric portion of medical school is specifically designed to give psychiatrists an excessive amount of arrogance. A “my way is the right way” sort of attitude. I’m sure they exist, but I’ve yet to meet a psychiatrist who doesn’t consider himself and his practice as the center of all creation. I suppose it’s a helpful trait when you’re telling other people what to do all day, but it’d be really refreshing to meet a doctor who wasn’t convinced he was the only competent doctor on the planet. I suppose sometimes this degree of arrogance — I mean confidence — is reassuring, but once you’ve been in the mental healthcare system for a while, things are different. I’ve been doing this song and dance long enough to be familiar with the methods used to treat my disorder. A doctor telling me about these methods as if he discovered them in a buried treasure like Indiana Jones is just not necessary.

The bottom line is that with time, I’ve become my own advocate. I’d say it’s a self-empowering sort of notion (it is, actually) but in reality, I just don’t trust anybody else. The person taking a pill is me. Therefore I want to know what it is I’m introducing my brain to at the moment. I’m also the one who experiences the effects of a treatment – good or bad. There’s been enough random duplication in the course of my recovery to convince me that keeping up with what I’m taking and why is an extremely good idea. As an added bonus, it shakes up a psychiatrist when you already know what the drug does. That alone is almost worth it. Take that Indiana – I found that buried treasure all by myself.

So, I’ll be telling my old psychiatrist that it’s really him and not me, and moving on to the new. Breakups can feel incredibly liberating.

Getty Images photo via shironosov