Psychiatrist #s 3 – 6

This is the last of a 3-part series of posts about my various psychiatrists. Psychiatrist #1 of 6 was posted 2 Sundays ago, and Psychiatrist #2 of 6 was posted last Sunday.

executive-room-in-business-workplaceI met Psychiatrist #3 during my first hospitalization. I stopped seeing Psychiatrist #2 when I was discharged, and instead saw Psychiatrist #3 at his office. Unlike Psychiatrist #s 1 and 2, Psychiatrist #3 didn’t provide counseling — we just discussed my symptoms and how the medications he prescribed affected them.

Psychiatrist #3 was like a father figure to me. I can’t emphasize how warm and kind he was. He was so different from Psychiatrist #s 1 and 2. I could tell that he actually cared about me and my well-being. I was under his care from 1995 – 2011 — almost 20 years! He practically watched me grow up, and, unfortunately, also witnessed my worsening symptoms.

He saw me after I quit my admin assistant job in 1996 and went back to college. I couldn’t afford the school’s insurance, but Psychiatrist #3 saw me anyway, for a nominal fee. He gave me medication samples because I couldn’t afford prescriptions.

He was the one who recommended ECT a few years after the Breakdown.

I didn’t see him from 1999 – 2001 because I was away at grad school where I had Psychiatrist #4. I don’t have much to say about him other than he was about the same age as Psychiatrist #3. I saw him for 2 years. At one point, he said he was afraid I wouldn’t graduate because of my depression. That scared me, big time, but I graduated.

During school breaks, Psychiatrist #3 accepted appointments to see me. When I returned to Chicago in 2001, I was back under his care.

In 2011, he accepted the head of psychiatry position at the hospital where he works. Unfortunately, it’s the hospital’s policy that the department head can’t continue in private practice. He referred me to a young doctor: Psychiatrist #5. I was concerned that she wasn’t as experienced as Psychiatrist #3, but I gave her a shot.

She was awful. She had a condescending attitude. She never responded to my calls, which was frustrating, particularly when I needed medication refills. She promised to get me into EMDR therapy, but never followed through. Not that it mattered — I have no idea why she recommended EMDR because I don’t have PTSD. But the point is, she blew it off.

Then a fellow patient from PHP 3 recommended another young doctor, Psychiatrist #6. Luckily, he was accepting new patients. Again, I was concerned about his experience, but I was desperate to see someone else. Turns out, not only does he know Psychiatrist #3, he did a 2-month rotation under him during his residency!

Psychiatrist #6 is totally cool. I once heard Led Zeppelin playing in the background of the waiting room instead of smooth jazz! He’s easy to reach, he replies to e-mails quickly, and has infectious enthusiasm. I hope to be under his care for a long time.

I realize how fortunate I am to be able to switch psychiatrists so easily because, except for that period I was in undergrad, and the time my husband was unemployed, I’ve always had insurance; and for that, I’m grateful.

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Psychiatrist #2 of 6

This is the second of a 3-part series of posts. The first, Psychiatrist #1 of 6, was posted last Sunday, and the third will be posted next Sunday.

psychiatrichelpThe first time I ever felt suicidal was when I was 20 and living in Houston. That’s where I went to college before returning to school as an adult student 7 years later. That’s where my partying lifestyle began, culminating into the party scene of my early 20s back home in Chicago.

I moved in January 1990 because, as I said, I felt suicidal. I began feeling that way the previous November, but was both too scared to act on it, and scared of the feeling itself. I finally called my parents, and told them how I felt and about all the partying. They came and got me. They said they knew of a Filipino psychiatrist and would take me to see him. Never happened. It would be another 4 years before I got into treatment.

In 1994, I had grown tired of my “rock star” lifestyle, but was depressed without it. The only option I felt I had was to see a psychiatrist. I knew I couldn’t count on my parents. So I looked in the phone book (remember those?) and called about 5 random psychiatrists. No one answered, so I left messages on their answering machines (remember those?). I started seeing the first one who called me back.

Psychiatrist #2 was a woman, and that made me feel more comfortable, especially because of the bad experience I had with Psychiatrist #1. Back then, psychiatrists provided therapy; they didn’t just prescribe medication and talk about symptoms, although they did that, too.

Man, did I hate her. Not because she was the first to medicate me, but because she was cold. I once complained about something, and instead of discussing my feelings about the issue and why it bothered me, she said, and I quote, “Call your Congressman.” Wtf?

She diagnosed me as having major depressive disorder. Psychiatrist #3 would later diagnose me correctly with bipolar II, and eventually, an anxiety disorder.

I continued seeing her for about a year because I was naive: I didn’t know that if I didn’t like my psychiatrist, I could go to a different one. I’ve been fortunate enough to usually have the insurance to change doctors, for which I’m grateful. But in my limited experience, I thought all psychiatrists were like that: unfeeling like Psychiatrist #2, or extreme like Psychiatrist #1.

She kept badgering me to enter an outpatient alcohol/drug rehab program, which I didn’t feel that I needed. I went, just to shut her up. Stupid, I know, but it was also where I met my current therapist, so something good came out of it.

After my first hospitalization, I met Psychiatrist #3, who I’ll write about next Sunday. Being hospitalized was difficult, but again, something good came out of it. When I was discharged, I dropped Psychiatrist #2 and began seeing Psychiatrist #3.

Photo credit: Frederick Homes for Sale via VisualHunt / CC BY-SA

Psychiatrist #1 of 6

black-couch-furniture-living-roomI’ve had 6 total psychiatrists in my life, and I’d like to describe them. As such, this is going to be a 3-parter, posted today and the next 2 Sundays. (I can bundle Psychiatrist #s 3-6 in one post.)

When I was a senior in high school, an authority figure “recommended” that my parents seek psychiatric help for me because of behavioral problems (I skipped classes, smoked pot in and out of school, drank, fought with my parents, stayed out past curfew — teenage shenanigans). I can’t remember the exact circumstances of how this “suggestion” came about, but I do know that it definitely wasn’t my parents’ idea because of the stigma attached to psychiatric help in the Filipino community.

I don’t know where my mom found this psychiatrist, but I thought he was a total jerk. This was in 1987, and back then, psychiatrists didn’t just prescribe medication. They provided talk therapy, as well. During our first session, he did most of the talking; I remember feeling sullen. A few minutes later, I got off the couch and walked out of the office before the session ended. I don’t remember what he said that made me do that, but I remember feeling angry. Angry that I had to be there. Angry at my parents. Angry at him.

My mom was in the waiting room, and he asked the both of us to enter his office, where he suggested that instead of individual sessions, we attend a group family therapy that he led at 8:00 AM on Saturdays. Unfortunately, my mom agreed! 8:00 AM on a Saturday? No way! I was in high school, remember; I never got up before 10:00 on the weekends. But I had no choice.

The first time we went, both my parents came. Psychiatrist #1 started asking my dad provocative, introspective questions, which I can’t post (even if I remembered them) for fear of violating some kind of confidentiality law. My dad didn’t answer them, grew angry, and left the room. He never went back.

My mom dragged me there for a few months, until I had fulfilled the “requirement,” and I think we continued going for a short time after. Psychiatrist #1 would go around the room and ask each family how their week went. I would just mutter some things. My mom confirmed and/or added to my answers.

Sounds harmless enough, but it was horrifying. I have a specific example, but again I hesitate to describe it because it was about another patient and his/her parents. Let’s just say this was when tough love was really popular. After my mom and I heard this family describe the incident, of which the doctor approved, we looked at each other and never went back.

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Prozac, Perimenopause & PMS

PROZAC SAMPLE ADEarlier this month I wrote a post (“Depression and Hormones”) in which I shared that I am going through perimenopause.

For the past 6 weeks or so, I’ve been struggling to get out of bed. I still manage to get up, but an hour later than I normally would, which is 7:30 AM — even if I go to bed early. I can function for the most part, like shower, do my chores, go to physical therapy, etc. But last Monday, getting out of bed was a lot tougher than usual.

During the day, I had thoughts of wanting to die. I had also started PMSing and wondered if that, along with the perimenopause, was what was making my depression symptoms worse than usual. So I e-mailed my psychiatrist, described what was happening, and made an appointment for that Wednesday.

On Tuesday, I felt worse. I didn’t get out of bed until 10:00 AM, which is very unusual and late for me, and I had intrusive thoughts of suicide: like I should just go ahead and OD on one or all of my medications. This frightened me, but I had no plans for carrying that out. I didn’t exactly want to exist any longer, but I wasn’t going to take my own life. I immersed myself in a book and read until my husband came home from work a few hours later.

When I met with my psychiatrist the next day, the doctor suggested putting me on a low dose of Prozac. He said that the FDA has indicated that that particular SSRI, or serotonin reuptake inhibitor, helps remedy mood symptoms that are possibly related to perimenopause. (My regular antidepressant isn’t an SSRI.)

He said I should give it 3 or 4 days to work, but I know better — as I mentioned, I’m currently PMSing, which makes everything worse. I’ll give it a month and see how it works. It’s been 5 days, and I’m able to get out of bed again, and haven’t had suicidal thoughts. Showering is a struggle, but I’m able to do it. I’m able to walk to my physical therapy appointments alone, but doing chores is still tough.

Incidentally, I decided not to try progesterone cream or magnesium glycinate supplements, which I mentioned in the post I linked to above. I’m going to see how the Prozac works first.

My psychiatrist also suggested that I get my thyroid levels checked. Some of my symptoms, like constant fatigue and feeling cold a lot, could be an indication of a thyroid problem. I’ll see my primary care physician in about 2 weeks, so I’ll mention it to him then.

Photo credit: Hari Seldon via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND