That’s what my psychiatrist said to me today. He hypothesised that I don’t help myself out of a dark place when I am there because I like being there. This from a man who has probably spent a total of about 10 hours with me in the past year.
I was anxious about meeting with Dr L today. I anticipated that he would suggest new treatment options and this worried me. After feeling so much worse on my current medication (Brintellix), I thought he would push for me to go on something different, or one I’ve had before.
He did none of that. He made no suggestions and offered me nothing. He said I need to continue with the Brintellix and that I haven’t given it a chance. Despite the fact I wake up feeling sick every morning and my moods have become far more volatile, he wants me to keep taking it.
The whole meeting was upsetting for me. Dr L seemed irritated, maybe even angry, with me. The way he spoke to me made me feel criticised, disrespected, and unimportant. Here are some of the incredibly unhelpful things he said:
- “You know when you punish yourself, you’re punishing other people too. Do you want to punish your wife?”
- “You need to engage with your therapy. It’s not enough to just absorb.”
- “When you’re having a crisis, what do you expect us to do about it?”
These were all crap things to say. But the last one was the most infuriating. I actually lost my temper when he asked me that. I’d explained how I felt last week and how I didn’t feel supported by the service. My wife called the ‘crisis team’, who are supposed to offer some kind of help in these situations – but never do. When Dr L asked what I wanted from them, I got angry.
I got angry because he put pressure on me to know what treatment / support I need. In what other field of medicine would a patient be asked this question? If I had cancer, would my specialist be asking me to tell him how to treat it? No. I told him I didn’t know what would help, and he basically said that means his team can’t help me. I was so angry by this point I was almost in tears. I ranted at him for a while about how they are the professionals and I didn’t think it was too much to ask for them to intervene when I don’t feel safe with myself. His response was to say that they provide a safe place (you can read here about why I will never go there) and that it isn’t his fault if I don’t like it.
My consultation went on for almost an hour, and the whole time I was being grilled, criticised and pushed. Dr L found fault after fault. He repeatedly told me I have to help myself, because nothing he offers will benefit me if I don’t want to do what’s healthy. I know this. I have talked about it in therapy for years.
Being told I have to love myself, find compassion for myself, be kind to the parts of myself I hate – none of that changes how I feel. It isn’t possible to just conjure up those feelings. I am not able to suddenly decide that from now on I will love myself. That isn’t how it works. Dr L seemed to have no understanding of this, and so drilled home the message that I am a failure and I can’t be helped. I actually left the hospital feeling like my psychiatrist thinks I don’t deserve help because I don’t want to help myself. That’s a horrible, hopeless way to feel.
I talked all of this through in therapy this afternoon. It didn’t make any of it feel better. I got the impression that J thought I was overreacting, being hyper-critical of Dr L. And she basically agrees with him, she just says these things in a softer way. I told her I am scared that there is no support available when I feel unsafe with myself and that was a big part of why I was so upset. I explained why I didn’t want to go to the ‘Safe Haven’ or the Samaritans, and I got the impression she thought my reasons weren’t good enough. She seems to think it would be easy for me to take myself to these places, or A&E if I felt unsafe. It made me realise she really doesn’t understand how it feels to be swamped by that darkness.
It has been a tough day. I feel drained and my head is buzzing. It’s hard not to feel hopeless, when I am struggling so badly and I’m told I have to fix it for myself. I know it’s possible that I will be able to do that – in time and with a lot of work in therapy – but what about the time in between? I can’t describe how it feels to have to sit with everything I’m holding until then.
Photo: Alessandro Bonvini, Creative Commons.