Diary of a Mad Shrink
In the continuing soap opera of shrinks that defines my emotional life, the following is a short summary and critique of the people who accompanied me on my pathway to mental health.
They made no guarantees nor promised miracles, but delivered a lot of raw material for SNL and other comedy ventures. As a group of professionals, the shrinks clustered in categories, and not all the categories were complimentary.
The Do as I Say Preachers
One of the earliest and most memorable of my shrinks was a Dr. Joyce Brothers look-alike who welcomed cats in her reception room. Would that she be as welcoming to injured minds!
Individual sessions were bad enough since she missed the obvious, which was my OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), but as a group member, I was totally miscast. The other five or six members were relatively normal except for one person who always came late to group and then spent her “talk” time positing theories as to why she came late.
When I chose to quit “Dr. Joyce Brothers,” she rudely informed me that I should apologize to the group. I suppose she felt if I didn’t apologize, the group might think my departure resulted from her failure as a psychologist. To some degree she was right.
Another shrink who also worked from home was just the opposite of Dr. Brothers. A chatty, affable middle-aged man, he was sincere but too mired in the web of Freudian analysis to heal my shattered mind. More than once he echoed the ever-popular, “Be happy.”
Later on a shrink in the guise of a nurse practitioner specializing in psychology, made no pretense of soothing ruffled feathers. She reveled in asking questions your draft board might require: weight, sleep habits, eating patterns, general mood.
She was a “by the book” shrink. If the current med cocktail wasn’t working, she was stumped. Resembling a parochial school nun in spirit, she once severely chastised me for having the audacity to make a small change in my medicine without her overt consent. That heartless accusation cut to the quick, and I moved on.
Didactic and dogmatic were the work styles of these three shrinks. Do what I say and everything will be fine. Mom-and-pop tenets of faith that failed miserably in real life.
The Bad Ones
Early on in my evolution as a patient, I saw a man whose four-star reputation preceded him yet was so mean and arrogant that he charged my parents an extra fee for recommending my hospitalization. On a bad day, he alluded to lobotomies as a curative.
The hospitalization turned out to be a blessing in disguise — the only positive contribution he made. So unfriendly and unprofessional was he that he believed he was rendering a therapeutic service telling me my father was a nervous wreck and had been ever since high school.
Another shrink who had newly discovered CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) conducted her therapy via a workbook. The total effect, exacerbated by the fact we met at her office on the ASU campus, was that I felt I was taking a course in “Me 101.” Her interest in hypnosis, though relaxing, proved to be a bust. At our final session she demanded the CBT book back, a book I had probably paid for 10 times over in counseling fees.
The Crazy Ones
By far the craziest shrink I consulted swore that if I took mega-doses of Vitamin C I would end all my mental woes. I tried his approach for two days before my chronic GERD (gastroesophageal reflux) disease told me this therapy and I would have to part company.
The only other crazy shrink I had was really quite innovative in everything but traditional one-on-one talk. He arrived late or not at all, casual-dressed and slovenly. He may have used dog therapy since I saw a cuddler in his office, but I never saw the dog. On a bright note, he introduced me to ketamine, then had his own NBD (nervous breakdown) and literally forgot to call, meet or do anything to continue our therapeutic relationship. Then two months later he called and inexplicably asked why I never made an appointment to see him. Duh!
The Good Ones
During my one hospitalization, a good-looking Iranian psychiatrist rescued me from the encroaching morass of psychoanalysis and told me in plain terms that I had OCD and depression and that I wasn’t just some garden variety prima donna neurotic. He tried me on a multitude of medicines, even going so far as to recommend I purchase Anafranil, which at the time was only approved in Canada for OCD. It later proved of little value to me as an anti-depressant.
A later shrink introduced me to the SSRIs, and Effexor became my new BFF. As traditional in approach as a Thanksgiving turkey, he was compassionate, honest, and professional. I would probably still be his patient were it not for the forced closing of his one-person psychiatric practice due to the prohibitive cost of health insurance he needed to pay.
His departure as my personal savior opened the door to the Silent Shrink, my current psychiatrist whom I see every month and has been receptive to using ketamine. A man of few words, he keeps busy mixing my medicinal cocktail since now my chronic depression diagnosis has the added word “resistant.” He soothes my nerves, always having a Plan B. So far we’ve managed to keep to a chemical approach, but ECT or electroconvulsive therapy and transcranial magnetic stimulation are not off the table.
So there you have it, the good, the bad, and the really ugly professionals who trekked through my emotional life, leaving indelible marks that both hurt and helped.
Although research is still playing catch-up with the needs of the emotionally fragile, much of the credit and blame for my current state of dysphoria rests on the shoulders of the men and women in the above four categories. May their misdeeds come back to haunt them and their successes bear witness to their humility!