Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Psychiatrists Say the Darndest Things

My first psychiatrist was a short, dumpy little guy from somewhere in the middle east. He is a well-respected psychiatrist, and has impressive credentials. We shall call him Dr. F. I will not divulge here what the "F" actually stands for, but I'm sure you all have active imaginations.

On my first visit, while discussing medications:
Me: I'm a writer, and I've heard a lot about these meds making it difficult to do anything creative.
Dr. F: Oh, don't worry, Depakote won't kill your creativity.

On a later visit, twenty pounds heavier, and expressing my concerns about the side effects I was experiencing on Depakote:
Me: I'm concerned about side effects...I've noticed that my mind doesn't seem to functioning at its normal clip. I'm having trouble multitasking, I can't write anymore, and I've put on quite a lot of weight.
Dr. F: Depakote doesn't do that.
Me: All the same, I was wondering if there was some other medication I could try. What about lithium?
Dr. F: You wouldn't like lithium. Besides, you're already on the very best medications we have.
Me: Well, I really don't like the way they make me feel.
Dr. F: You are an intelligent woman. You know that you need to take these medications. If you're having issues with that, you should be in therapy.

On an even later visit, after having put on a total of forty pounds in only a few months:
Me: I'm really concerned about the amount of weight I've put on.
Dr. F: Well, you need to watch what you're eating. If you eat less, you could probably lose all that weight without even having to exercise.

At my next visit, The Scale appeared in his office, and I was subjected to the additional shame of having to step on it at every visit thereafter. As if I wasn't already painfully aware that my size 6 body had ballooned to a 14, and I could barely stand to look at myself in the mirror.

Another visit, now sixty pounds heavier than when I started:
Me: I'm concerned about the amount of weight I've put on. At what point do the health risks of being overweight become more serious than the risks of not being on medications?
Dr. F: You need to be taking your medications. The risks of being overweight aren't nearly as great as the risk of you becoming hypomanic again.
Me: I've put on sixty pounds in the last year. That can't be healthy. My feet hurt all the time, so I can't even exercise.
Dr. F: I may not have been entirely honest with you about the side effects of Depakote...
Me: Well, what about trying a lower dose? Or stopping it entirely?
Dr. F: If you stop taking your medications, you will ruin your life.

That was my last visit with Dr. F.
How am I supposed to be a partner in my own health care when my doctor won't be straight with me about the risks and side effects of the medications he insists I take?

I have a new psychiatrist now. His name is Dr. L. I haven't come up with anything snarky to call him yet, because so far he's been up front with me, answered my questions, and hasn't made any dire prophecies concerning my currently unmedicated future.

Time will tell, eh?

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