Paging Dr. Dysfunctional.

I have been seeing both psychiatrists and psychologists since around the age of three. I’d like to think I have learned a few things from my experiences with medical professionals of the psychiatric variety. So, here is my list of “Do’s & don’ts,” thus far:

  • DON’T stay with a doctor who doesn’t return calls, or doesn’t get back to you for weeks. A lot can happen in a short amount of time with bipolar disorder. You could have written an entire book, convinced yourself you are Liza Minnelli’s long lost twin, and tried to kill yourself all in an hour. Now add another hour, a day, a week…just imagine all of the trouble you could get into.
  • DO be completely open and honest with your doctors, they can’t help you if they are not seeing the full extent of your problems.
  • DO get a second opinion if your gut is disagreeing with something.
  • DO contact your doctor the moment you run into trouble of any sort.
  • DON’T take shit from a doctor just because s/he is a doctor. We are all human, and we all have our problems, dysfunctions, and baggage. Condescending looks and tones are not okay. Nor is any kind of negative or cocky attitude. A doctorate may be what stands between you and sitting in the leather arm chair, but a unique lifetime of emotional knowledge and experiences are what stands between that doctor and the patient couch. One is not more important than the other.
  • DO find a doctor you can connect with that meets your needs. Searching may seem like a waste of time, but sticking around with a doctor that isn’t meeting your needs is a bigger waste of time.
  • DON’T go in there and act bat shit crazy just for funsies. While it is amusing, it’s pretty difficult to do damage control when that’s how you have been presented for the first time.
  • DO ask every damn question you can think of. Every. Damn. Question. Clear things up and reaffirm them a hundred times if you have to.
  • DO make sure that you are being heard and listened to, don’t just make sure you understand them, make sure they understand you.
  • DON’T stay somewhere where you feel someone is making too light of your situation or not taking you seriously. No one will ever be able to feel what you feel. The intensity of your feelings are only known to you. This is a particularly hard one for people with mental illness because our suffering does not manifest itself in physical sense that can be seen the way a rash or broken bone can, so people tend to be skeptical of it. I have stood up in the middle of a session and walked out of a doctor’s office for this very reason. I don’t suggest that you do the same, but you can see how frustrating this can be especially when trying to get help while being in a very bad place.
  • DON’T be an asshole. By the time I was in high school, I was burnt out on trying all of the wrong medicines and seeing the wrong doctors. I became very jaded, and never let myself hope for, or think about the possibility of things getting better. With every doctor I saw, I got a bit sassier until eventually I was just being a complete asshole out of my own emotional exhaustion. Not only did it make me feel guilty and a bit worse overall, do you really think people want to work to help you if you’re being an ass? The answer is no.

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