A Very Patient Patient

, , , , | Healthy | July 7, 2021

I’ve just begun seeing this psychiatrist for treatment for ADD after having been diagnosed by a different doctor who, unfortunately, was too far away for me to see him regularly.

First, I go over history, habits, etc. with her.

Me: “I’ve read that [Drug #1] is more commonly used to treat this, but [Drug #2] has less anxiety-inducing side effects, and I think that that might be the better choice for me—”

Doctor #1: “Oh, no, you don’t want to take either of those. They can both be addictive, but [Drug #3] works just as well and doesn’t have nearly so many terrible side effects.”

Me: “Oh, all right! That sounds a lot better. Let’s try that!”

She then goes over what she says are all the potential side effects I need to worry about and writes me a prescription. Two weeks later, I return for my first follow-up.

Doctor #1: “So, how do you like them?”

Me: “I don’t know. They make me sick to my stomach. Most days, I throw up for the first time pretty soon after taking them, even if I’m sure to do it with food and without anything else that might upset my stomach, so I don’t think they’re actually being properly absorbed, and then I’m sick throughout the day. When I can keep them down, I still get very nauseous. I’m having headaches and feeling really tired.”

Doctor #1: “That’s normal while you’re starting the medication. You just need to keep taking it; your body will adjust.”

Me: “Even though I’m throwing it up almost every day?”

Doctor #1: “Yes, it’s still getting into your system. You’ll see.”

Me: “And the headaches and tiredness?”

Doctor #1: “The headaches will go away, and tiredness isn’t a side effect of this drug. You need to make sure you’re maintaining a good sleep schedule; that way, you’ll be able to separate your regular feelings from the medication. Just stick with it.”

Two weeks after that, I go back again.

Me: “I haven’t been getting sick quite as much, but the headaches and drowsiness are really bad, even on days when I’m getting eight hours. Also, does this medication react with alcohol at all? Because I was at a party and I had a drink, and I started feeling way too intoxicated for just having had one drink.”

Doctor #1: “What? You must never drink while you’re taking this medication! You shouldn’t drink at all — it’s so bad for you — but if you drink while you’re on this medication, it will kill you!”

Me: “I told you in the intake interview that I drank occasionally. Why didn’t you warn me?”

Doctor #1: “You shouldn’t drink at all! It’s terrible for you! You’re so lucky nothing else happened to you!”

So, I give up drinking. At her insistence, I keep taking the medication, in part because she’s told me that she won’t prescribe me anything else, despite me requesting that she change it multiple times. I assume that since she’s a doctor, she must know better than I do, even though the side effects still remain and I haven’t noticed many changes in my symptoms.

After ten months, I start seeing a psychotherapist for different reasons, and when she hears about what’s been going on, she insists that I take her referral to a different psychiatrist.

Doctor #2: “So, you’ve been taking [Drug #3] for eight months? Have you noticed your symptoms improving?”

Me: “A little, I guess. I think it’s hard to tell because I’ve been so tired lately. I know that that’s not supposed to be a side effect for [Drug #3], but I’ve been making sure I get enough sleep and it’s still a problem.”

Doctor #2: “You noticed you were becoming tired after you started [Drug #3]? You know, just because something isn’t one of the listed side effects, it doesn’t mean it can’t possibly happen. So that’s made it hard for you to tell if your symptoms are improving?”

I’m encouraged that he hasn’t just dismissed me.

Me: “Yes, definitely. And the headaches. They’ve been so bad that I can’t focus at all sometimes.”

Doctor #2: *Taking notes* “Are those all the side effects you’ve noticed?”

Me: “Well, it doesn’t happen as frequently now, but probably once a week I’ll end up throwing up from the meds.”

Doctor #2: “Once a week isn’t frequent?”

Me: “It used to be almost every day. My old doctor said it was just my body adjusting to the medication.”

Doctor #2: “How long did that go on?”

Me: “The first few months? When I first started, I’d be sick throughout the day, but after a while, it would just happen right after I took the pills. Now, though, I’m usually just nauseous for a while, but sometimes that gets so bad that I need to lie down.”

Doctor #2: “So, we’ve got drowsiness, nausea, and headaches. Anything else?”

Me: “No. The only other weird reaction was when I drank, which I found out I wasn’t supposed to do.”

Doctor #2: “Not supposed to drink?”

Me: “Yeah, my other doctor told me afterward about how it can be deadly, so losing some of my equilibrium seems like a fair trade-off since that’s the only bad thing that happened.”

Doctor #2: “There are warnings about drinking on [Drug #3] because it can increase the effects of alcohol on your system, but the only life-threatening concerns are for binge drinkers, because [Drug #3] could exacerbate liver damage. Your doctor told you drinking on [Drug #3] was prohibited?”

Me: “She basically told me that it would be fatal.”

Doctor #2: “All right. Well, first of all, that’s not true. Second, since you’re having such bad side effects from [Drug #3] and you haven’t noticed much improvement, I’d recommend switching medications, all right?”

He ended up prescribing me [Drug #2], the same drug that I requested from my first doctor during our first appointment. It’s been a month, and all the drowsiness, nausea, and headaches are gone, along with a lot of my initial symptoms. Let this be a warning: if your doctor refuses to work with you to find an acceptable course of treatment and you have any other options at all, explore them! An MD doesn’t always mean that the doctor knows best.

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She Will Shake Away The World

, , , , , , | Healthy | July 19, 2019

(My seven-year-old daughter was recently tested for ADHD, which means she and I have to go back to the psychiatrist’s office two weeks later to review the results. While I am talking with the psychiatrist, my daughter is sitting on the floor playing with an Etch-a-Sketch. The psychiatrist is explaining to me that although my daughter does now have an ADHD diagnosis, she wasn’t able to specify a subtype. Specifically, the tests are less accurate with exceptionally bright children because if a task is designed to take ten minutes but the child solves the problem in two, the test is only able to measure two minutes’ worth of attention span instead of the ten it was supposed to.)

Psychiatrist: “So, it’s clear that your daughter’s brain is working on a different level than her teacher expects–”

Daughter: *interrupting* “Mom, look! Can you guess what I drew?”

(She’d gotten almost the entire Etch-a-Sketch screen to be black.)

Me: “Um… a black bear at night?”

Daughter: “MOM. No, it’s the void! And now I’m going to magically make the void disappear…” *shakes Etch-a-Sketch* “There, now I’ve deleted that dimension.”

Psychiatrist: “So, as I was saying… different level.”

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You’ll Stress-Knit A Whole Outfit At This Point

, , , , , | Healthy | August 1, 2018

(I’m waiting to see my psychiatrist for a medication check-up. This office schedules meds appointments in fifteen-minute blocks; they’re a quick in-and-out to make sure the meds are working before the prescription is refilled. I arrive five minutes before my appointment and am told I’m seeing a new doctor. I’m a little annoyed that they didn’t tell me this when the appointment was being set up — my father works in the mental health field and I’m uncomfortable being seen by his coworkers — but whatever; maybe my regular doctor is out sick. So, I go to the waiting room. And wait. And wait. At twenty minutes past my appointment time — so, five minutes after it is supposed to be over — I hear the receptionists chatting. They say something about the new doctor having computer problems. Okay, stuff happens. Forty minutes past my appointment time, the person who is waiting before me gets into a shouting match with the receptionists about how late things are running. I’m frustrated too, but an extra person yelling won’t change anything, and I have plenty of time, so I keep waiting. Finally, fifty minutes after my scheduled time, a harried-looking man calls my name and introduces himself as the doctor. I’m expecting him to apologize for the delay, or offer an explanation, or anything. Nope. He doesn’t say a word until we get to his office. Now my appointment starts in earnest.)

Doctor: “So, do think you’re depressed?”

Me: *pause* “This appointment is literally to treat my diagnosed depression, so, um, yeah.”

(He doesn’t respond at all to this. He doesn’t even look at me. He has a walking desk, so he’s power-walking in place while he types on his computer. And he keeps typing. For almost ten minutes. I almost stand up and walk out. But I’ve already been here forever, I don’t want to have to do this all again, and I need my meds refilled. So, I take out my knitting and work on that for a bit.)

Doctor: “Do you want to keep taking [Medication #1] and [Medication #2]?”

Me: “Yes, please.”

(He types for a few more minutes.)

Doctor: “I’ve sent in the prescriptions for those. I’ll see you again in five months.”

Me: “Thank you.”

(I get up to leave.)

Doctor: “Wow! You’re so fast at knitting! What are you making?”

Me: “A sweater. Bye.”

(I was at that office for over an hour, but in the appointment for less than fifteen minutes. He said almost nothing to me, and half of what he did say was about knitting. And when I went to the pharmacy, only one of the prescriptions had actually been sent over!)

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A Depressing Statistic

, , , , | Healthy | March 7, 2018

CONTENT WARNING: This story contains content of a medical nature. It is not intended as medical advice.

(I have severe ADD and take Ritalin. I have been seeing a psychiatrist every six months for over a decade because it’s necessary to keep my prescription up, but normally we don’t do anything else. He asks me if I’m having side effects, I say no, he asks how school, work, or whatever is going, I tell him, he writes me a new prescription, and we’re done.)

Doctor: “And how are your classes going?”

Me: “Pretty well, except for this one lab where the whole grade is based on group work and my groupmates have disappeared…”

(I’m very frustrated with my classmates, and as I explain the problem with the lab, I start crying.)

Doctor: “Here, take these tissues! I had no idea you were so depressed. I’m going to prescribe you some medicine, and I want you to come back in a week for a follow-up.”

Me: “What? No, I’m just sleep-deprived! Your office is an hour from my house, and you get behind schedule so fast that my mom insists I book an appointment at seven am. I had to get up at 5:30 to be here! I’m a night owl; I get up at 10 or 11 if I don’t have anything I have to do earlier. I always cry too easily when I’m tired.”

(He doesn’t believe me and prescribes the medication, anyway. A week later, I’m back in his office.)

Doctor: “How are you feeling? If we need to, we can adjust the dosage before your next follow-up next week.”

Me: “Fine, like I was before, when I had slept. I know antidepressants take a while to kick in, but I don’t think these are ever going to affect me, because I’m not depressed. And I really can’t afford to keep experimenting with them; you know I don’t have insurance.”

Doctor: “I tried to find the cheapest antidepressants I could. I thought these were only about $10 a bottle.”

Me: “Come here. I want to tell you a secret.”

(He comes closer.)

Me: “You know those nice ladies behind the window in your lobby? They make people give them money before we can talk to you.”

(It had never occurred to him that visiting a psychiatrist every week instead of every six months might be a little pricey! I went off the antidepressants and am fine, as long as I don’t have to get up before dawn. Doctors, I know that lots of people really are depressed and it’s a serious problem, but people also know their own bodies, minds, and situations. It helps to listen.)

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Doesn’t Have 20/20 Psychiatry

, | Healthy | December 7, 2017

(I’ve suffered from mental health issues since I was young, but I wasn’t able to do anything about it because my family has issues believing that mental illness is real. A few years ago, while I was in college, things got really bad so I finally tried to tell my parents about it. It took a few months of frustration and arguing, but I eventually managed to convince them it was actually an issue. They found a psychiatrist I could see and I was excited at first. I thought I’d be able to get some help! I’d hardly walked in the door before I realized there would be a problem.)

Psychiatrist: *shaking my hand* “So, how old are you?”

Me: “I’m turning 20 next month.”

Psychiatrist: *laughs* “20? You’re far too young to have any problems! Why are you even here?”

Me: “Young or not, I actually do have a lot of symptoms I’m worried about.”

(I hand her a list I’d made of symptoms I’d been struggling with, including some rather severe ones. She sets it aside after barely glancing at it.)

Psychiatrist: “Why don’t you just tell me about yourself? Do you have a boyfriend?”

Me: “Um… no, I don’t?”

Psychiatrist: “Why don’t we talk about that. It might be causing some of your ‘issues.’”

(It was only downhill from there. She dismissed all my symptoms, including my suicidal ideation and dissociation, as nothing more than school stress or lacking a boyfriend. I was told I just needed to get out of the house more often and make a few friends, something my parents insisted was a cure-all as well. Ever since that day, nothing I’ve said has been able to convince them otherwise. The only reason I’ve improved at all — and mostly stopped being suicidal — is because of my college’s psychologist. I’d only found out there was a doctor on campus afterwards, and after meeting him, he was shocked I’d managed to make it as far as I had without any help at all. I’m living back at home now that I’ve graduated, only until I can find work, but he helped me immensely while I was still enrolled. I don’t think I would have survived school without his help.)

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