A Long Post/Rant: What’s the Question? What’s the Answer?

There was only one colleague who ever did that, and the day after I got fired, she did too.

Challenging the mental health industry is also a threat to some patients because it is much easier to stay in the system, use any and all medications prescribed for you, and sit in your therapy session discussing the previous night’s episode of “American Idol” than work on your problems.

Yes, that really did happen.  At the last place I worked, right here in supposedly well-educated PA, I was the only therapist who had therapeutic materials in her office.  I was the only one who gave clients assignments to do or articles to read.  My clients got better, but they weren’t always the happiest in the bunch when they first began seeing me.

The other therapists’ clients were happy as always to see them.  But they didn’t get better.  And they blamed everything from their meds to their families for it.

I discharged people, because they got better.  The others didn’t.  So…I guess I cost the company money.

Getting better takes work.  A lot of patients do not want to do that.  A lot of therapists have no idea how, for example, to motivate someone with major depression to take steps to change their lives.  So…they do nothing.

Change is scary.  Some patients have a vested interest in “staying sick”.  It’s safe, it’s a label to explain behavior, and it puts the onus on recovery on the psychiatrist, or the medication.

And so, I am a therapist who doesn’t fit in with either side of the debate.  I can’t work within a corrupt system but I won’t work with people who either don’t think psychology is a science, or think that therapy is just something someone makes up as they go along.

Side note, again: Let me clarify – I see nothing wrong with coming up with your own interventions/therapy assignments/group therapy ideas.  I do that, routinely.  But I always have a clinical basis for why I do it.  This is not what I am referring to when I say ‘making it up as you go along’.

Ok, some do make it up as they go along, especially the ‘therapists’ on tv who just spout “good ol’ common sense”.   I saw someone on TV spend the entire show arguing with a woman who was clearly delusional and psychotic.  It was cringe-worthy.  And I am pretty sure the audience found it funny.  My, but the mentally ill are entertaining!  Read the entry called “Bedlam Over Halloween” if you aren’t clear on how I feel about that…

But, anyway, I am stuck, as I contemplate what on earth I am going to do now, professionally.  Because I do not intend to be on disability forever.  Eventually I will recover sufficiently to work, and then what?

I can’t go back to the conventional types of places I would normally try to find employment, because I can’t see repeating the same behavior that I know will eventually get me canned.

I refuse to ‘play along’ and sacrifice my principles and patient care for money.  Period.

I have never done that, and I’m not going to ever do it.

I still have to do what I think is right, every day.  Yes, I realize all the principles in the world won’t buy you groceries, rent, or a car, but I realized that long ago, as a teenager.

You don’t understand – for me, it’s not a choice, not anymore.  I have to do the right thing, or I will torture myself forever about it, especially if someone gets hurt.  That’s really emotionally uncomfortable.

You’re right: Yeah, sounds kinda like humblebragging, doesn’t it?  That I think I morally superior to the rest of humanity, but I disguise it by saying, “throwing someone under the bus hurts me more than it hurts them!”

What a load of bollocks, of course I don’t think that.  I expect everyone else to also ‘stand up’, and if I thought I was such a paragon of virtue – above all others – I wouldn’t think humanity was capable of “doing the right thing”.

All I am trying to express here is that, guilt is uncomfortable.  So uncomfortable for me that I will do nearly anything to avoid it.  If that means putting myself out there, then I will do that.  It’s not all altruism.  It may be for some, but it’s not for me. 

That’s a home truth.   What I do is part altruism, part pain avoidance.

To continue   even if I were to volunteer at an advocacy organization, no doubt it would not be long before I would find myself at odds with someone.  I can’t abide organizations who emphasize “patient compliance” as the solution to mental health issues, because I am not blindly supportive of psych medication.

They are advocates, but only so far as their financial backers let them be.  Once they are threatened with funding cuts, they tend to back off.  Because maybe their biggest contributor is also on the local hospital board.

It happens more often than you think.

This leads me to my explanation about my bipolar diagnosis.

When I worked in a psych hospital in Mississippi, I knocked heads frequently with:

~ my supervisor (who, by the way, had one of those ‘non-psych’ degrees I mentioned earlier),

~ the head of human resources (who didn’t like me because I filed a sexual harrassment           complaint against a tech who was a friend of hers, on behalf of a nurse who was too scared to report what happened to her),

~ and the CEO who was angry with me because I tried to secure the release of a teenager who was being committed by her father in a very bitter custody battle.

Well, I mean, what would you have done??  The girl and her mother were sitting in session with me, begging me to help them because no one would listen.  And I didn’t see any pathology when I assessed her.  The father had her in on a 72 hour hold on the basis of ‘drug abuse’, and the only thing she tested positive for was marijuana, which she admitted to even before the drug test.

She didn’t have a legal history, or a history of substance abuse, or a history of mental illness, and she was a good student.  Her father was an attorney who knew the committment judge in Mississippi, and who also knew the attorney for the psych hospital.  Good ol’ boys.

A teenager, who was a freshman in college, being held against her will in a psych hospital for smoking pot?  Please.  I didn’t have the last word, I got in trouble for meeting with the psychiatrist and pleading her case to him.  He didn’t listen anyway.  But I had to do it.

Ok so anyway, this caused a lot of tension at work.  My supervisor had taken to following me around with a clipboard, asking the nurses if I was doing anything they didn’t like (only one played that game, for whatever reason she didn’t like me), and it seemed I was forever getting called into my supervisor’s office for one thing or another.

It started to upset me.  I became anxious, so I went to my primary care doctor and he prescribed me an antidepressant.

I didn’t notice anything until about a month of taking it, but then…

2 thoughts on “A Long Post/Rant: What’s the Question? What’s the Answer?

  1. charlies5169

    It’s all about the money, isn’t it? Surprise, surprise, surprise!

    Well. you didn’t play the game, so now you’re paying for it. Been there, done that. The story of my life.

    The difference is that you had a lot more at stake, dealing with people’s lives. I just dealt with “things”.

    Still coloring outside the lines at “our age”.

    But you know, as I was reading this, I kept thinking of something a very wise man, my Dad, said to me when I was very young. Despite everything, at the end of the the day, you have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror.

    If you can do that, even if you didn’t “win” the fight, you’re still a winner!

    Great post.


  2. Victoria Post author

    Thanks! I think, though I don’t remember, somewhere along the way my parents must have said something similar to me, it is so deeply ingrained. I won’t just assume it was my dad, though he did some great things – it could have been any adult I interacted with as a child who made an impression: from our favorite pot-smoking Episcopal priest to Dick Gregory. I was blessed to have met many progressive adults in my childhood, something I think stuck because the rest of my life as a child was, quite frankly, horrifically abusive and frightening.

    Anyway, I appreciate the feedback and support, as always! And I know you have made some pretty tough decisions in your life that cost you. It’s one of the many things I like about you. Nearly all my long-time friends have made similar choices.

    But hey! How come I’m the only one who’s poor?? Lol!! Perhaps it won’t always be this way and I can eventually find work that is good for the world, and also allows me to have such luxuries as a car and a place of my own.

    You never know, life’s funny that way and things can change in a heartbeat…



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