May 27, 2010

Smitty's ESH: My Struggles with Psychiatry

What bugs me most about psychiatry is something some Twelve Steppers will understand. I hope you are one of them. But I need you to speak up if you don't agree!

I feel psychiatry helps us see how we are unique, by giving us a diagnosis. The danger for that can be this, we get stuck in that box, that limited view of ourselves. .This is an unnatural thing... we are alone in the rooms with our therapists and our psychiatrists. They are the well ones, they are the observer and we must be very patient. In my small town there are few groups in town that unite those with diagnoses. Until we can connect with others who are also vulnerable to emotional illness and show us what it is to be well, we can be too focused on the problem with access to only a few very specific tools.

Even if there were a group for folks with my particular flavor of emotional illness, I'd refuse to hang out with people of my own EXACT kind. I want to be exposed to folks that have different vulnerabilities from me, because I need their unique perspectives. In this world, to be truly well, I eventually have to enlarge ny focus to being with those that have a different label on them, or even to ignore the label altogether.

Which is why our 12-step recovery rooms are such a God-send for me. As it says in our program, I Need People. Other people who have emotional vulnerability and are willing to admit it. Diagnosis is truly irrelevant to me.

Well, I figure it was my emotions and my thinking that got me my symptoms... and so it is for everyone that comes in the door to the face-to-face meeting I attend. If I compare notes with folks and only hang out with those who understand my symptoms, I fear we remain in the problem again, and not the solution. If I only relate to those with my diagnosis, I lose contact with the unity of purpose that makes everyone whole. I find it so much more important to focus on the HOW that we each have in common, and not the specifics that cause us to see ourselves as "other".

In the program I belong to, sometimes folks *do*come looking for someone with their diagnosis, otherwise they feel "alone", "misunderstood" in our rooms. They might think, at first: "Oh you can't relate to me if you don't know what I have experienced." It could be cutting, love addiction, mania, depression, panic attacks. Well I know fear and I know anger and I know very well how to chew my nails until they bleed. I also know what it is like to not want to get out of bed. And what it is like to want to end my life. Is that enough? Do I need your diagnosis to be able to show you there is hope for you?

I won't even tell you my diagnosis. For one, I don't agree with it. For another, I refuse to be held back by the poor prognosis I have been given. Thankfully, I have proven the docs wrong, so far. But if I shared my diagnosis, most folks would be concerned or even invalidated because they would soon find out I do not believe in chronic medication. They might be afraid that they are supposed to not be on medications too. I am a person who believes in medication when there is a need. But, I only speak for myself.

I am glad we have folks with depression, with mania, with anxiety, with anger, and even with schizophrenia in our group. It is important for them that they are open about their maladies.

Still, I tend to focus on what we all have in common: our unity of purpose in creating a place where sanity can take root and grow.


  1. Today I am reading so MANY really good posts, or maybe I'm just more are being SO perceptive in writin what our program is all about. Sure we are different, who ain't? BUT we are all alike.

    Smitty, you write: "As it says in our program, I Need People..." OK! true IMO. BUT, I need a Higher Power, for me I need God, and the only place I'll find HIM is deep down within myself (and everyone ELSE) P 55 in BB.

    And God only shows Himself to me through other Peeps, and nature, and this is also the way He TALKS to me...He uses Peeps like YOU! And I am SO grateful. You brought me back to God!!!

  2. I don't want to see myself as the victim because that gets me into self-pity. Just saying that I am "different" implies some self pity. That isn't where I want to be.

  3. Steveroni... Syd... I am grateful for your thoughts. I hold words like "different" very carefully myself. Or try to include them in a sentence that uses the word "and". For we are individuals who need unity.
    We are indeed one another's gifts, from God. Thanks for communicating with me today and putting God into action. I need people and you have come.


I welcome your thoughts. Keep me honest~