Sunday, 15 April 2012

Visit to the Psychiatrist

I went to see the psychiatrist on Friday morning, and have been debating with myself ever since about whether to blog about the meeting.  In the end, my big mouth has got the better of me as usual - I didn't get where I am today by being reticent, after all.  (Is that a good thing or a bad thing?  Discuss).

So here's what happened.  Paul came with me to the meeting with 'Dr Jameson' - not his real name, but the one which I used for him in my memoir (he was the psychiatrist I saw after the birth of my second daughter, and my subsequent children).   The three of us talked for about an hour.  The doctor did most of the talking, I said what I could (although I felt a bit overwhelmed, which is unusual for me nowadays) and Paul joined in occasionally. 

The upshot of the meeting is that the psychiatrist now thinks I do not have schizophrenia after all.  That is to say, I have not recovered, because it is not possible to recover from schizophrenia (without the long-term use of medication).  The fact that I am so well nowadays can therefore only be attributed to the fact that I was misdiagnosed in the first place. 

I did remind him that he suggested the misdiagnosis thing some years ago, only to be talked out of it by 'The Team' (this is in my memoir).  He said, though, that ideas have changed, the criteria for the diagnosis are different now...he was very articulate and very convinced of the rightness of what he was saying. 

Well, hindsight is a wonderful thing, is it not?  I don't like what this means for people who are being diagnosed with schizophrenia now.  It means they can still be told there is no chance of a full recovery.  On the other hand, as he put it, what would be best for me?  Obviously, it would be to be told I was misdiagnosed.  Hurrah, redemption, no schizophrenia after all!  And who am I to look such a gift horse in the mouth?

I did a short counselling course a couple of years ago, and I remember during one of the last sessions, the teacher (who was lovely) telling me that I had a tendency to over-empathise.  She said that instead of standing at the side of the pit offering a helping hand to the person who was in there suffering and then pulling them out, I had a tendency to get down into the pit with the sufferer.  Thus creating a problem for myself, and not proving much use to them.

She was right.  But isn't this a bit different?  Isn't this like being in the pit with a whole load of other people, scrabbling my way out on to the edge and then walking off without a backwards glance at those I have left behind?

I just thought I would air the situation here.  Nothing is settled yet - 'Dr Jameson' has to sift through the old records, and come to a decision (presumably aided by 'The Team').  And I am probably not doing myself any favours by blogging about it here right now.  But I just wondered what other people's thoughts are on this. 

It is complicated by the fact that I don't actually believe in schizophrenia as a term anyway.  I don't think it has any foundation.  Psychiatry is based on a lot of guesswork.  So how stupid would I have to be to insist that I am (or was) schizophrenic, just to try to help other people with the same label see that recovery is possible?  I did talk to the doctor about this - I said that nervous breakdown would be a much kinder term for the experience of extreme emotional distress. 

I also managed to refer him to the work of Daniel Mackler, and the Finnish system of Open Dialogue (he wrote these things down).  And I spoke to him about the brutality of the system, the wrongness of forced medication and the fact that if there was more trust between mental health professionals and patients then the system would be vastly improved. 

He countered by talking about violent incidents that he had seen in mental hospitals in the last year, and how he has to protect the public and the patients themselves, which shut Paul and I up nicely.  And I can kind of relate to where he was coming from, because some of the things he sees in his job must be awful.  But still.  There must be an awful lot of people who are not violent who are brutalised by the system, and there must be some way of differentiating between the violent and the non-violent patients.  Plus, the system itself brings out the worst in people - if you are not treated kindly you are far more likely to respond with anger, in any situation.

Anyway, I will await the outcome of all this, and meanwhile my message remains the same.  Recovery from a serious mental illness is a reality.  In fact, if you recover from a diagnosis of schizophrenia you are likely to be told you never had it in the first place.  Maybe that's how you know you've recovered.

Confused by all the doublespeak?  Me too.  But I am no less fascinated by the subject of mental illness - I really, really want a career in it now. 

Back to the recovery book - I wrote a new chapter yesterday, about my meeting with the psychiatrist, and I suppose there will be more to come when I get to hear the decision about the 'Schizophrenia'.  He did say that if it was schizophrenia then clearly I have recovered, so that was good.  I will let you all know in due course - meanwhile, feel free to comment on the issues in this post.   


  1. That doctor is a jerk in my opinion, but typical. I'm glad for you wringing a possible retraction out of him, but I hate the suspense that you are now going through. Why should an idiot like him play God? What if he was misdiagnosed as a doctor and it was up to you to decide if he really was one or not? What would he think of that? He is a gatekeeper, not really a doctor. The thing is, he will go back and check his files (looking for what, I wonder?), but then he will realize that all his professional colleagues would have to have got it wrong, and he can't do that because of professional solidarity. Grrr. Good post!

  2. You have been going over much the same ground at least since your earliest posts on this blog in 2009, and I would respectfully suggest that on ground so well trampled no one is likely to find anything new.

    Your psychiatrist seems to be a little fixated on this pointless rumination, and he seems to know a good deal less about mental illness than you do. His obsession with terminology and being proved right even drives him to rummage through old case notes. He has a persistent delusion that he can protect people by playing an active part in a system that is known to encourage violent behaviour. Your tendency to over-empathise may be making it difficult for you to see the extent of his withdrawal from reality.

  3. you are doing a good job, Louise.If you manage to get rid of your diagnosis, I will encourage my son to do the same because it has been hampering him a lot in spite of the fact that he has been well for the past 3 years. You know the psychological effect alone that such a diagnosis has on a person. I am sure that he was misdiagnosed-not that the doctors would admit to it. Schizophrenia is by definition a biological illness and that's why it is supposed to last a life time. What happens though -if such an illness exists at all- is that other problems can have the same symptoms and psychiatrists are too much in a hurry to diagnose and medicate you. Afterwards they find it impossible to go back and say "sorry! I got it all wrong". I am sure that my son's psychosis was due to delirium, fever and infection to start with. I read on the Internet that 62% of delirium cases get misdiagnosed as "mental illness" because the symptoms are difficult to distinguish. The medication they gave him made him worse but nobody checked.

  4. The reply to these comments appears as a new post, because I wrote so much it wouldn't fit in this box!