For me, it started back in 1993. I knew something was off about me, something more than being a misfit or loner or socially awkward or even just a lazy flake. The patterns would always be the same, the symptoms the same. I sought counseling. They pushed medications for depression. I held out, insisting it was just a dysfunctional upbringing and I could fix myself.
A year later, I caved. Thus began the medi-go-round. By the fifth anti depressant that helped for a couple of months (well, it caused mania, so of course I felt not depressed) I acquired The Pill Book. Because the doctor wouldn’t answer my questions about what drug was used for which disorder, side effects, et al. Only thing that quack got right was my anxiety disorder and giving me Xanax.
But because I educated myself, had input of my own, questioned the professionals’ authority- I was viewed as some sort of troublemaker and summarily dismissed. Like anti depressants get you stoned so you want to try every single one available for shits and giggles.
It wasn’t until 2006 I found a different doctor (or more accurately, my sister found one for me because I had no phone, my prior doc had taken away my Xanax in favor of 25 mg Seroquel, and I became a paranoid agoraphobic for two years, unable to even find my own doctor. She also did my laundry because I couldn’t even go to a laundromat or to her house to use the machines.) New Dr Awesome latches onto “bipolar two” and mood stabilizers changed my life. I wasn’t cured, but no longer was I having screaming fits, throwing shit, bawling my eyes out, feeling overwhelmed by every influx of emotion.I could think clearly. Someone frowning at me in public didn’t send me on a week long anger bout. She also tapped into seasonal affective disorder because in spite of the Lithium, every fall I’d crumble to pieces. She didn’t shove exercise and light therapy down my throat because she took the time to listen, and believed me, when I told her I’d tried it all to no avail. She wasn’t even offended that I’d done my own research, she listened to my input without getting huffy.
I flourished under her care. I still struggled with the winter depressions, but no longer was I mood swinging shebitch, even though she lowered my Xanax, I wasn’t a shut in, and she gave me sleep meds which no other doctor had ever done before.
So of course, she served her two years in this hellish place, moved along, and after I had my kid, I got stuck with Dr “You don’t want Zoloft to work” osteopath.
Since them, the last six years have been an endless stream of shrinks on a TV screen, finally getting to see one face to face, med after med failing, more light boxes as the cure for seasonal, and more dismissal. Because now that we have the internet and can talk to others with similar disorders, we’re better educated than ever about our mental healthcare.
The doctors call it Google-itis.
Sadly, a third of the stuff people find through a Google search ends up being more accurate than the ten diagnoses given by other doctors. Because the doctors don’t have time to listen. Because of managed care, they have to outsource pretty much every test but taking a temperature. Because healthcare for all has resulted in decent healthcare only for the wealthy. (Fuck you, Obamacare, LIES.) BECAUSE GOOD MENTAL HEALTHCARE SIMPLY DOES NOT EXIST FOR THE MOST PART.
I won’t dispute the existence of Google-itis. But then, there have been hypochondriacs since the dawn of times. Google may enable them more in their delusion of illness but it cannot be blamed for it.
There’s one thing Google can provide for mental healthcare that the doctors never can. That is, links to blogs, forums, support of others in similar situations. The doctors study, treat, gain experience…But they don’t suffer the condition and they just don’t know. The people who do suffer, they know. It’s bizarre because doctors have no problem with support groups and education for other illnesses- cancer, organ transplant, loss of a child, et al. But for some reason outside the official support groups like NAMI. psychiatrists really don’t favor patients seeking information and input from others.
And ya know why they hate Google and such?
Because it allows the patients to basically do the doctor’s job for them thus undermining their own superiority complex. Am I saying patients don’t need to heed (to an extent) the opinion of the doctor and their education and experience? Not at all. At the same time, the doctors need to appreciate clients/patients who want to be active participants in their mental health care. If you care enough to scour hundreds of pages on the internet and reach out to others to learn more about your condition, this should be applauded. It means you care enough to be involved rather than a passive “tell me what to do and I will blindly obey even if I don’t get better” person.
The biggest hindrance in all healthcare, and mental health particularly, is that patients are allotted, if lucky, fifteen minutes for a “med check”. The doctor typically goes by what was put in the file by other doctors, ask few relevant questions, and reach for the prescription pad/paper. Frankly, at my last appointment, I was horrified when my doctor, rather than knowing most common side effects and using a computer to get me a print out of all known, whips out his smart phone and lists five common side effects. The manufacturers provide more information on their websites and pharmacy inserts and corrupt big pharma has every reason to play down any side effect that only occurred in a few. Instead, it’s my own doctor downplaying it, not giving me proper information, and using a smart phone like I’m asking for title of some song from the 80’s. It was insulting, to be honest.
Now, I don’t expect the doctor to know every side effect possible, especially with the plethora of available meds (at least for anti depressants, we’re still fucked when it comes to progress with mood stabilizers that work). I just think if a patient is concerned enough to ask, the doctor at least owes it to them to print out a list or at the very least, admit they’re not sure and I should carefully read the pharmacy insert. A smart phone check? Seriously? What next? He’s gonna force me onto Facebook and treat me through status updates?
Most of us don’t have Google-itis. We have “there’s got to be a better way” itis. After Latuda and Trileptal, my trust of this doctor is very thin. Of course, you never know what will/won’t work or who will develop what side effects. But when a client says, “I do not respond well to atypical antipsychotics”…The doctor should at least consult the chart, note all the bad reactions I’ve had, and give it some credence. When treated this dimissively, hell yeah, I am gonna seek answers elsewhere.Hell, even my pharmacist told me if I can’t get him to listen to me, I need to seek a second opinion.
Which puts a lot of us doing the doctor’s work for them. Just today I was researching seasonal affective disorder because after 20 years, I am sick of having the “light therapy” shoved down my throat. It doesn’t work, it gives me headaches. My problem is not with the lack of light. I am a night owl, and winter is low anxiety season for me, so whatever causes my depression…It’s not their norm. It’s the cold, for me. I get too cold, I can barely function. That depresses me, shivering so hard that I have to spend six months layered in clothing and blankets. Not one of the doctors have ever listened to me or even searched for a reason that might not be psychiatric. (My thyroid is always normal, which I sometimes wish it wouldn’t, as it would explain the distorted body temperature perfectly.)
20 years. Three correct diagnoses. A plethora of disagreeing ones. No fucking answers. And they get a hundred fifty bucks for fifteen minutes of basically ignoring me and being apathetic to my drowning.
Google-itis is a hell of a lot better a diagnosis than “inept doctor” itis.