POINT OF INFLECTION

Today at my psychiatrist visit, it was all the usual stuff with medication review, discussion of mood, ups and downs, and all the usual stuff.

But then he surprised me out of my gourd: he said, “Thank you,” for placing my faith in him, for going along with his treatment plan this past year, for, I suppose, not being angry with him over the unexpected ghastliness of the whole exercise.

I was taken aback. It has never occurred to me to be angry with him. The “medication change” plan from last year was meant to take, at most, a few weeks. But here it is more than a year later and we’re still working the problem, seeking a fine balance between treatment and function, that lets me live an ordinary life. Indeed, today my doctor filled out a prescription for an anti-anxiety drug, Topamax, and talked about cutting back one of the two anti-depressants I take, Cymbalta. He says it’s time to “simplify” the baroque complexity of my medication, and fair enough if I can get decent coverage without quite so much faffing about with pills.

During the truly bad times last year, I did contemplate changing doctors, not because I wasn’t comfortable with the way things were going, but because of the near-impossibility of actually seeing the guy. I was one of dozens of patients under his care, and for the most part I had to make do with seeing one of his junior doctors, one of the registrars. Who were excellent doctors in their own right, and would all go on to become consultant psychiatrists in time. But I was always in a hurry to get well again. I wanted to be fixed now.

Because every time I saw a registrar to talk about my case, they would tell me that they would have to talk to my consultant and get back to me, and that could take days. When you’re badly strung out, and vibrating with spiky anxiety, that wait seemed eternal. I did sometimes see my actual doctor, when he knew I was in catastrophic shape. But for the most part I was assigned to the registrars.

I did understand that my doctor had dozens of patients in the hospital, plus his usual line-up of outpatient visits in nearby consulting rooms. I also saw him sometimes in the hospital, in the midst of meetings, bustling about carrying laptop and files, talking on the run. I didn’t know it then but he saw me at those times, too, and was deeply worried for me. Sometimes I wondered not so much about when he might squeeze in a few stolen moments for me, but about when he might see his family.

I think he has come to regard what happened last year as an horrific mistake, something so dreadful that he would not recommend it to me again. I think he feels sorry for what happened to me, and that was why, today, he thanked me for staying the course, and having faith in him.

While I would not say it was a pleasure, I would and did say it was no trouble. It was also worth it, to reach this point, in far better emotional and psychological shape than I have been in for years. It has been nothing less than a transformation in my life, much like everything that changed in my life in 2012 when I broke my arm. This experience has certainly been a personal crisis, bit also an inflection point, from which I have a new trajectory.

I should be (and have, many times) thanking him.

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