…So is this all I did? SSRI from my GP and a bit of counselling? Heck, no! The big P was the best of all… My Psychiatrist. For me, the word generates one of two stereo-typed images. One: of bouncing around in a padded cell while the psychiatrist, wearing a white lab coat, stares at me and recommends injections of various chemicals and varying degrees of electric shock therapy. Two: of lying on a comfy leather couch, in a room where the furniture is finely polished antique oak, and the walls are adorned with row upon row with highbrow books discussing the science of the human brain. On a seat next to the couch sits the psychiatrist, asking thought-provoking questions and providing deep insights into the workings of my mind. This may well be your experience if you also drive a Rolls Royce, have your own luxury jet, and holiday on expensive private islands in the Indian Ocean. However, this was not the case for me. Neither was image number one. My psychiatrist’s office was just off the emergency ward of my local hospital. She did not wear a white lab coat and nor did she have a leather couch for me to lounge on. I waited about six weeks for an appointment. Her waiting room was shared between herself and two other doctors (these ones were not psychiatrists). The waiting room was small – only three chairs for the patients! The other patients always seemed to have knee or leg issues and so were in much greater need of the seats than those of us with ailments of the mind. I assume that one of the other doctors was some sort of knee surgeon or leg specialist (does such a thing exist?) Anyway, none of this prepared me for what lay ahead.
“…she reassured me that I would get through this depression and I believed her.”
Clark Kent worked in a run-of-the-mill semi-open concept office and wore a bland combination of shirt and slacks, yet underneath it all he was Superman. Batman hid his superhero talents and paraphernalia in a plain old bat cave. My psychiatrist reminds me of these guys. She was a superhero hiding out where you’d least expect to find her. She rescued me and saved my life… well sort of. When it comes to a heart surgeon reattaching my aorta, I don’t really care about his/her personality. I’m just interested in their skill set. I want the best surgeon for the job, even if they’re grumpy and disagreeable! However, with a psychiatrist, you need both – personality and skill set. She had both, in abundance. Dr. K. (as I will call her for now) was my superhero. Hiding out in a plain old, slightly cramped office next to the busy emergency ward was a woman who I will never forget. Combining the medical understanding, prescription-writing super powers of the doctor, with the expertise of a counsellor, she patiently listened to my story and delicately asked sensitive questions to get all the information she needed. She provided logical, scientific explanations for the way I was feeling, expressed in terms that I could understand. She conveyed a sense of truly caring about my condition. She carefully explained her plan, and always included what we would do next time if I wasn’t significantly improved – the contingency plan.
She prescribed meds, adjusted doses, recommended lifestyle changes, health supplements, and local counsellors and psychologists. Most importantly of all, she reassured me that I would get through this depression and I believed her. My appointments with Dr. K. were full of plans and actions to address my situation. When I left the appointment, I always felt better informed and better equipped to deal with what lay ahead. I felt confident that I would get well again. Thank you Dr. K.
“Acceptance is hard and requires the patient understanding of everyone around.”
Indeed, I did continue to get better. The meds, the counselling, the lifestyle changes. They all added up. But the purpose of this chapter is to pass along what I learned through this stage of the journey. Firstly, you have to accept that something is wrong with your health – your brain health. This acceptance isn’t easy. If you are the friend of someone who is depressed then prepare yourself for some serious frustration, while they come to terms with what is wrong. Acceptance is hard and requires the patient understanding of everyone around. Secondly, have an open mind. Get rid of any notions you have that counselling and medication are for the weak. Would you suggest that someone with another life-threatening illness such as cancer try to get through it on their own? I didn’t think so. I tried my family doctor, psychologists, social workers, and my favourite, the psychiatrist. Accepting all of this help, enabled me to ultimately get through this. There’s lots more out there that I didn’t try – acupuncturists, naturopaths. You probably don’t have the time or energy to try it all, but keep your mind open to the possibilities. There is much out there that can help you and you should accept all the help you can get – you need it, trust me.