I woke up one morning, turned on my side, and said to Lynn “I’m sick.” Oh, I had sought help before this, many times from therapists and, one time, a psychiatrist. Encouraged by my mother, I tried the bootstrap approach where you somehow reached into your soul and made the depression go away.
What had preceded this bout? Several months of going from town to town speaking about the war in Yugoslavia and how people could support the peace movement over there. The subject had worn me down, eroded my belief in myself. I stopped returning phone calls, stopped believing in my own intelligence, my worthiness to be human. The period came to a soft but painful landing like running into a beanbag chair and feeling nothing of the collision except a rash of pain. I was not rested. I slept badly. I stayed up in the night and stared at the ceiling. I did not even have the energy to hate my condition. It was as if I did not have a proper body, just a jelly log that could do nothing but lie in bed. Who could pull themselves out of this by sheer force of will when there was no will to have.
I had heard about this new drug, Prozac, and I wanted to try it. Kaiser required that I make the appointment myself, so as Lynn watched, I picked up the phone and arranged to see the psychiatric triage nurse. I feared that she would see me as a fake, but she passed me on to the psychiatrist who prescribed Prozac.
I was cured the next day. Uh oh.
That was the whole plan. That is how I decided to end the pain. Alone.
The opposition to Murphy’s Law has made some strange bedfellows, but I am not willing to get into bed with just any of them.
If you want a list of stigma terms, this should be a good start.
A new study out of the University of Chicago reports that psychiatrists are likely to be the least religious type of doctor and that religious doctors, especially Protestants, are more likely to send a potentially ill patient to a clergyman or a religious counselor than to a psychiatrist.
The atheist world should be abuzz with concern and I, an agnostic, am one to join them. I have seen what religious counselling does to patients with mood disorders. I do not recommend them:
“A patient presents to you with continued deep grieving two months after the death of his wife. If you were to refer the patient, to which of the following would you prefer to refer first” (a psychiatrist or psychologist, a clergy member or religious counselor, a health care chaplain, or other).”
Overall, 56 percent of physicians indicated they would refer such a patient to a psychiatrist or psychologist, 25 percent to a clergy member or other religious counselor, 7 percent to a health care chaplain and 12 percent to someone else.
Although Protestant physicians were only half as likely to send the patient to a psychiatrist, Jewish physicians were more likely to do so. Least likely were highly religious Protestants who attended church at least twice a month and looked to God for guidance “a great deal or quite a lot.”
“Patients probably seek out, to some extent, physicians who share their views on life’s big questions,” Curlin said. That may be especially true in psychiatry, where communication is so essential. The mismatch in religious beliefs between psychiatrists and patients may make it difficult for patients suffering from emotional or personal problems to find physicians who share their fundamental belief systems.
Personally, I wonder about the doctors who avoid referring them: are they up to snuff on their medicine or are these backwoods GPs whose suspicions of modern medicine manifest in other ways in their practice? I have known people to give up their meds on the advice of a faith healer and consequently end up arrested after embarking on wild sprees. The problem is that many patients are looking for magical answers and when they are offered reality-based somatic therapy (replete with side effects) they balk.
Curlin seems to promote a model where the patient sets the therapy. While I do not believe in forced medication except where the patient is gravely impaired by her/his illness, I also feel that a wise patient works with the psychiatrist on a series of experiments designed to find an effective treatment for the illness. Religious talk therapy alone just does not work that well for severe depression and bipolar disorder. It’s practitioners are either woefully ignorant of what psychiatry can do or deliberately hostile lest they lose “souls” — translation: paying customers.