There were so many ways that hour could have gone badly. By rights, it should have been a disaster.
The psychiatry profession fucked me badly for 30 years – there’s just no other honest way to tell it. They conned me into believing I had a mental illness and then kept me drugged for 30 years. Only divine intervention rescued me from their hypnotic story. And when, over the last six months, my true Self surfaced, they fought to drag me back into the nest. It just didn’t make sense to them that – after being “bipolar” for 30 years – I could be fine, really much better than fine, now. I tried to get them to read about my “waking up” experience. I tried to get them to read several posts that describe how amazingly calm and quiet and centered and slow I have become – not at all “manic”, which they think is the only logical explanation for me, as I am reducing my psych medication, to suddenly be non-stop happy for six months. I tried to explain to them that getting off of Lithium didn’t “make me manic” – it allowed me to finally be happy. But none of that fit their model.
Three weeks ago, when I reached certainty that this was true health now – actually much better than health, genuine spiritual transformation – a bomb of rage went off in me about “30 years of my life stolen from me”. On that Saturday, I felt sure that at my next psychiatry appointment I would spend most of the 30 minutes pacing up and down the room “raging” at my poor helpless 31-year old PA (Physician’s Assistant) psychiatrist. It seemed to me, in that moment, to be in no way an inappropriate response for 30 years lost. This story describes how one four-minute song at church the next morning caused me to release most of that rage and replace it with forgiveness. (30 years of deep pain mostly healed in four minutes – healing is happening in me so fast these days!)
By yesterday morning, some of the resentment had slipped back in. I was determined that today I would maybe not start right in at the beginning of the session with my two upsets with this new woman:
- Why the unexplained transfer now – and the mysterious letter from my old psychiatrist, saying they were transferring me because of “needing a higher level of care”? What need for a higher level of care? I thought we had agreed that I was on my way out of the practice. I felt sure they were calling in a more experienced, full-psychiatrist heavy-hitter to try to back me down into taking more drugs again.
- Why, when I called in my request for the new psychiatrist to read three of my blog posts that would give her a glimpse of my non-manic behavior, did the secretary get back to me with a simple, “She says ‘no’, that she doesn’t do that.”After my last 15 years in the business world (after 20 years practicing psychology), I knew that – if you cared at all about customer satisfaction – you would never turn down a new customer on such an easy request. Had this woman not gotten the memo that we were customers now – not just patients? Well I intended to set her straight on this.
Back in my 20’s, LSD researcher (with Timothy Leary) Richard Alpert turned into an eastern spirituality “seeker” – and was named Ram Dass by his new Indian teacher. He and his classic book Be Here Now turned a whole generation of us towards meditation and eastern spirituality .
At Susan Campbell’s magical Tuesday morning ecstatic dance yesterday, right near the end of the mix she played some gorgeous music with Ram Dass – must have been after his stroke, his speech was labored – speaking over it.
He said so few words that I think I remember them pretty much verbatim:
“On my second visit to Maharaj Ji in India, he took me aside one night and said to me, ‘Love everybody….love everybody and speak the truth.'”
I knew, as soon as I heard these words, that I had gotten my direction for today’s session:
- Love this woman, who you have never met, but about whom you already have lots of negative projections (my physician friend Steve, who wonderfully coached me to start slow today – and then went with me to the meeting for moral support) agreed with my perception that “lots of psychiatrists have God complexes. Doctors in general – but it seems like psychiatrists even more so.”
- Tell the truth – all of it, including stuff she might not like hearing. Make sure, even as you try not to hurt her, that you get enough of your story said that you are ready – at the end of that session – to walk away from psychiatrists for good, knowing that you were doing it with pride and integrity.
When this new psychiatrist appeared at the door,
- she was younger and prettier than I expected.
- her face looked soft and warm and human and nice – not at all the control-oriented frigid person I expected.
- she was wearing jeans! Nice, tailored, maybe expensive jeans – but jeans. for chrissake! This totally blew my expectations. She looked like “my people”.
Over the course of a session that she had scheduled for 45 minutes (not the 30 that I expected, I guess because it was our first time together) and that she actually allowed to go for 75 minutes, I learned some other ways she was my people:
- She, like me, grew up very Irish Catholic. She is well younger than I and was not taught by nuns in the era when they were still teaching that God might hate you enough to make you physically burn to death for eternity – but she was close enough to all of this to know what I was talking about, and why for a young child this had been genuinely traumatic.
- When I said that there are so few genuine spiritual teachers around these days to help someone who is actually going through a “spiritual emergency” (as opposed to a mental illness), she rightly protested that “there are some genuinely spiritual eastern-tradition teachers. I’m being very influenced by a Zen teacher named Thich Nhat Hanh.” I really softened and warmed towards her as I shared that I had for four years meditated every week with a Thich Nhat Hanh “sangha” back in Chicago, that during those four years I very much thought of him as “Thay” – Vietnamese for “teacher” – and had attended two ten-day retreats with him. All this appropriately blew her away. If you are a Thay sister with me, you are my sister.
- She was very intrigued by what Steve and I told her about Jubilee and our amazing new “lesbian Jewish rock and roll goddess” minister. She opened up the Jubilee web page and Facebook page as we were talking and said, “I will have to look into this.”
- She was also very intrigued by my passionate practice of “ecstatic dancing” – and asked me a couple of questions about that. My energy turned down a week ago. I am supposed to be “depressed” now. Depressed people don’t dance. I continue to dance pretty much all day every day. This confused and intrigued her.
- She was also confused that the core symptom of my “depression” was always physical pain, not emotional. This did not fit for her. And that I got the “bipolar” diagnosis when I was in the throes of having my life blown apart by the surfacing of long-suppressed memories of childhood sex abuse. She basically said that she might agree with me that this diagnosis was always incorrect.
I think it was right after talking about Thay that I – now emboldened to talk with “the new psychiatrist” about eastern religion, told her about my experience yesterday with the live words of Ram Das: “So I came in here today planning to love you – and to tell the truth.” I think she may have even blushed ever-so-slightly and sweetly as she thanked me for that. Whoulda thunk we could have had a moment like that?
I went into the session feeling strong because – rather than the usual power imbalance where the psychiatrist has something you think you need, the drugs – I was clear that I had enough Lamictal left to wean myself off almost slowly enough to not have too bumpy a ride. So, very important to me, I in no way felt one-down to her going in. And I know from many experiences over the last six months that literally nobody can intimidate or scare me any more – and that I speak my full truth with integrity pretty much 100% of the time. And I came out of the session feeling just that way.
Very surprisingly, while the doctor told me her concerns about me getting off of this final (of three) drugs, she did outline for me what she thought would be a good pacing for “weaning off” of the Lamictal – and I happily told her that this was exactly the timing I had in mind. She said brightly, “Well don’t try to cut those pills down twice – let me prescribe 50 mg. tablets – that will make it a lot easier for you.” It was not a problem for me – after originally committing myself to “want nothing and take nothing” from her – to graciously accept her offer. (And it actually will make reducing my dose much more convenient.)
As the session was nearing an end (we had already run 30 minutes over), she offered that I could come back in a month and fill her in on how things were going for me as I weaned off my last medication. Charming and cute as she certainly was, I was very clear that I had entered a psychiatrist’s office (as a patient, at least) for the last time – and that I would call in a progress report to her.
As I was saying goodbye, I was feeling so genuinely warm towards her that I had a fantasy of offering her a hug. I knew there was no chance of that flying, but our handshake – and real looking in each other’s eyes – were just right, perfect.
A minute after we drove away, I let out a big exhale and said to Steve (driving me back to my car), “Wow! That was a big deal!” And then, completely unbidden, the words that popped out of my mouth were, “I’m glad that 30 years is over.” And I laughed – a very hearty, very happy laugh.