Sunday, June 19, 2011

One Shrink, Two Shrink, Three Shrink, Four...

There is a 7-month wait to see a psychiatrist in this province. And I have three psychiatrists.

In 2001, I was brought to a downtown hospital to undergo a "difficult patient assessment". There were 21 psychiatrists sitting on creaky metal chairs placed in a circle in a salmon-coloured room. Most of them were middle-aged white men. My father came with me and stayed in the room until I asked him to leave the room so that I could speak freely about my illness. The purpose of the visit was to see whether any of the 21 psychiatrists had new ideas about how to treat me, as I'd been treated for 4 years without any improvement and nobody knew what to do with me anymore. I had been on almost every type of anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, anti-psychotic, anti-epileptic (which also serves as a mood stabilizer). I had received almost 4 years of on-and-off electro-convulsive therapy. I had been locked up in isolation. The psych ward was more of a home to me than any other I'd ever lived in.

Out of that three-hour assessment, I walked away with two new psychiatrists - one to focus on medication and one to focus on talk therapy. I had major psychosis and several other symptoms of schizophrenia, so the talk therapist that took me on specialized in schizophrenia. I don't know whether he was "disappointed" that I turned out not to have it (I hope not), but he has, for over a decade, seen me once a week and I owe him my life, many times over.

My med shrink was incredible. Though I had/have treatment-resistant depression, he got me on a cocktail that eventually helped some of my symptoms: He stopped my psychosis immediately, and put me on anti-depressants that had not yet been approved by Health Canada (our version of the FDA), which actually helped some of my symptoms too.

And now, I have a Reproductive Psychiatrist too. Who is fabulous and has a plan for me to wean off what I can... and who will see me until one year after the birth of my child.

There was a time where I really did need a "power team" of psychiatrists, but I feel as though this is not necessary anymore. I think about all of the people in this city and province who are waiting to see someone, and though my decision to stop seeing my med shrink won't directly affect that (he will not see anymore patients regardless), I feel like I did the right thing by transferring my full care to my talk shrink.

But the break-up was hard.

The med shrink is the best shrink in this city - no exaggeration. He is known as "the doctor's doctor," as he only sees patients who are doctors or their spouses (with the exception of a few patients, ie. me). He was the first psychiatrist in my life who ever listened to me, the first to treat me with the respect that I deserved, the first that didn't shove me back on an ECT bed to have my brains shocked out.

He's become a bit of a father figure to me, and to him, I will forever be grateful. There were a few reasons I decided to break up with him (and it really did feel like a breakup), and mostly, it had to do with becoming pregnant.

In his last email to me before I told him I would not be seeing him anymore (the only shrink I have ever dealt with who gives his personal email, home phone number, etc.), he warned me about lowering the medication I'm lowering now, saying that the last time I did so, I became incredibly ill. I appreciate his concern, but I need to do this. I need to do this for me, and for the health of my baby.

Am I scared? F*ck, yeah. Most people could never imagine leaving his care once they were able to get in with him, and though I'm nervous over my decision, I feel like it's the right one. I must now put my faith in my talk shrink, who I've been seeing for almost as long, who is a great doctor, and who knows how badly I want to have a baby. In all honesty, he seemed a bit nervous when I told him what I wanted, as the pregnancy adds another layer, but I'm sure he'll be great.

Even though I feel like I made the right decision, it's been incredibly hard. There have been some pangs of regret. There have been some anxious moments where I feel like I've given up so much.

I guess it's all part of this messed-up journey.


  1. I would assume if anything started to go bad he would see you again in a minute. He seems also he has compassion and has seen you at your worse and he rightfully so is worried about you and weaning off some of the meds. And the hard part is the person sometimes resists taking the meds when the time seems to be hitting because they fear they will work (I know that is strange to say) but I know that to be the case for some people. Lex, you are a brave person but not stupid and I know if things started to go downhill you would not jeopardize your health when there are other ways to harvest your eggs and have someone else carry so you can be off long enough to harvest and then back on while picking a surrogate. I trust that you and the doctors you have will succeed and also intervene if it becomes necessary to do so.

  2. I agree with Madgew you are very very brave. Just know that you are doing the right thing for you, for your future, and for you journey to parenthood.