Posted by fxckfeelings on June 7, 2010Share This Post
Most people panic if their mental health goes south, and if/when they find a doctor to help them recover, they assume that treatment is a mystery about which doctors know best. If you’re in that situation and disagree with your doctor’s decisions, don’t act like a helpless child challenging an all-knowing parent. Learn what you need to know to make well-informed decisions and stand by them, whether or not your doctor agrees. It’s the best way to cure yourself of panic, and it makes refuting your doctor’s advice a discussion between equals, not a pleading.
My psychiatrist thinks I should increase my medication, but it already makes me sleepy and has caused me to gain 10 lbs. If anything, I’d really feel better getting off it entirely, because I hate being dependent on it. For the time being, I know I need it, because I’ve barely recovered from my last depression, but even thinking about increasing the dose makes me feel depressed. I’ve seen this doctor throughout my entire illness and she’s been very good with me up to this point, but now that I don’t agree with her I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to have to take more medication.
It’s much easier to have an agreeable disagreement if you’re not pushing someone with your emotions; after all, lawyers use evidence, not tantrums, to win a case.
Still, it’s hard not to push with your emotions when the issue is personal and scary. Unfortunately, you don’t have a choice.
If you don’t put your emotions, you’ll sound (even to yourself) like a kid who hates needles. Your doctor will then feel like you need protection against your fears and impulses, and so will become even more insistent and condescending (and afraid of a liability lawsuit when your fear turns to anger).
That attitude will make you feel more like a helpless kid who isn’t being heard, and long story short, it’s a vicious circle we’re all familiar with, and it requires you to shift approaches, not give in.
Besides, if you’re pushing someone with your emotions, you’ve got to wonder whether you’ve conned yourself into doing what you want, rather than what’s best for you.
Switch your language (and maybe your way of thinking), list risks and benefits, and prepare a list of the questions you need answered to make a good decision. Put your feelings aside, put facts first.
No one likes medication, but it’s your job to know enough about the possible course of your long-term, incurable mental illness to judge whether the beneficial promise of a given medication outweighs its costs and sluggish, chubby side effects.
Becoming educated about your illness and its treatment is the only way to avoid being a medical victim who feels helplessly reliant on a doctor’s judgment.
If you want to have a discussion with your doctor that doesn’t sound like you’re trying to escape the ouch of your camp shots, learn what your odds are for relapsing and whether resuming meds at the beginning of a relapse can be counted on to stop your symptoms before they damage your life and/or your brain. Also, find out what the chances are that a higher dose will make a positive difference in the short or long run.
Don’t forget to ask what evidence the doctor is drawing on for his answers. Then you’re prepared to announce your verdict as a responsible adult.
Here’s a formula for a worst case, high risk disagreement. It alludes to your fears but sticks with a managerial point of view. “I know that rejecting your recommendation carries a 10 percent higher chance of relapse, that there’s no guarantee that we can stop a relapse once it’s started, and that relapse can cause a little brain damage. But I’ve weighed these odds against the risk and side-effects of the medication and my own conviction that I’m less vulnerable to relapse now and I’ve chosen to keep the dose where it is and wean off in the not-too-distant future.”
Admittedly, I’m a neurotic, depressive guy—I’m a New Yorker, I’m normal here—but when I had a shitstorm a year ago when my girlfriend left me and my job changed/became horrible, I started going to a therapist. It was helpful to rant and get some perspective, but now I really think I’ve come through the other side of the situation and don’t need therapy anymore. My therapist, on the other hand, thinks I still have a lot of work to do, because we never really talked about my relationship with my father (not great) or why I had trouble with my ex-girlfriend. Thing is, I don’t really think my dad has anything to do with anything, and I know what my problem is with my ex-: I chose badly. How do I convince my therapist I’m ready to leave and that there’s nowhere deeper to dig?
There are always therapists out there who, when it comes to accepting the fact that people are the way they are and treatment is a limited tool, need more therapy than their patients do.
What your therapist may have trouble facing—more so than you—is that your treatment has produced all the change and relief that it’s going to, despite the fact that you still have pain and other problems.
Many therapists can’t accept imperfect results. They feel they’ve failed if they can’t help you and, so as long as you’re suffering, they’ll look for a deeper level of change.
If they could bring themselves to accept you the way you are and let go, they could also become more creative about teaching you methods for minimizing the harm your behavior can cause. Obviously, this is not the case here.
So prepare for your decision by gathering data about whether or not it’s really time to stop. See your therapist less often, or take a designated break, and see what happens.
If you slip back into that shitstorm feeling, your goal is to figure out what the treatment was doing to help you, whether you can get that help for free from any other source and, if not, how often you need to see your therapist to sustain the benefit.
If, after running that test, you decide to stop treatment but don’t want to get drawn into a fight with your therapist in which you sound like you’re trying to avoid your homework and your therapist sounds like a concerned adult, there are 2 options.
You can lie, and tell your therapist you’re feeling better and last night you had a dream about a happy bird flying high above the clouds and missing its nest down below but confidently soaring towards the mountains in the distance where your dad and ex-girlfriends were waiting to give you a hug.
You can be straightforward and truthful, telling your therapist exactly what you told me, backed by the results of your experiments with withdrawal, and stick to it.
After all, you’re an adult who can make your own decisions, and your therapist will have to accept your decision. And if s/he can’t seem to cope, s/he’s the one who needs time on the couch.
“I know I’ve still got problems but I think I’ve got what I’m going to get from this treatment and I’m managing things well enough. I wish I were less grouchy but I don’t think that’s going to happen and, meanwhile, it’s not doing me any harm. I’ll always look for new ideas about how to manage my problems but, for now, I don’t think I need more psychotherapy.”
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