I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder 16 years ago and since that time I have never stopped raging against the diagnosis and the requisite pharma-therapy, which for the past 15 years or so, since Big Pharma began sponsoring the necessary extended education credits for all practicing psychiatrists has been the recommended treatment for all affective and mental imbalances.
For years, before I lost my health care coverage my weekly visits to the psychiatrist, and the 3-4 medications which constitute the pharma-cocktail that supposedly keeps me functioning in the world were covered. Now, nadda.
Over the years, my doctor and I have developed an extraordinarily complex relationship. We butt heads over politics, world view, she ususally trying to brand me as paranoid, not trusting. Me standing my ground, because I’m an information junkie, always seeking truth, always searching for solid ground. What she considers my overly negative and symptomological worldview, I consider my redemption. No bogey men waiting for me. I’m onto them.
But nothing prepared me for yesterday’s session.
Admittedly, my psychiatrist’s first encounter with me was horrific. I had refused for years and years despite worsening bouts with soul crippling anxiety and delusion psychotic thinking not to seek assistance from Western Medicine. When I finally agreed to see a psychiatrist I was at the bottom, sleepless for weeks, exhibiting psychotic symptoms and a total melt-down of my entire nervous system, characterized by electric shocks through my body, numbness in my arms and legs, intrusive suicidal ideations and a preoccupation with death which bordered on the macabre.
Right off the bat, I got the dreaded label: Psychotic depression with borderline personality disorder. Needless to say, through years of work with my doctor, I have managed to rebuild a sense of self, and being the consummate researcher I am have battled her over the years about alternative treatments: yoga, meditation, exercise, sound therapy, nutritional supplements).
Also over the years, I have managed during the sanest times to hold down for a while some of the best jobs I’ve ever had, earn an MA in Education, and work my way ¾ through a novel.
The thing is, my family back in New York knows none of this. They don’t believe in ‘mental illness’ and so during the worst times I remained distant, often for six-month periods when my sanity hung in the balance and I didn’t have a safe spot inside to operate from.
I’ve argued with my therapist about the advertising in her waiting room for drug companies and she ended up removing all the literature. I barraged her relentlessly with information I gleaned studying my illness, information she plain lacks the time and inclination to seek out herself. Sometimes I have felt I knew more about the nature of what ails me than she does, that I have a better grip on what might constitute a cure than she. And she has respected my battle, standing by me in numerous attempts to wean off medicine, replacing it with ivengar yoga, agility training, guided meditation and reiki.
Trips back to New York since after 911 have been excruciating. I am branded the ‘air head’ Californian who can’t hold onto a job. I’m told continuously that I know nothing about real life. That I read “commie’ publications.
Given this, what credibility do I have when this past summer I argue with my father when he claims “it’s a fact” that blacks are genetically intellectually inferior than everyone else(why even Pat Moynihan wrote a book about it) and witness the standardized test scores that show blacks regularly performing lower than any other group.No matter, that my educational background focused extensively on the reasons for the disparities in test scores because they have to do with sociology and cultural anthropology and these are not REAL SUBJECTS nor are professors anything more than liberal antagonists. So I remain shellshocked and silent as he watches the Beijing track and field events and marvels “God, those people are fast.”
This is the stuff of my infrequent visits to my family back in New York. Arguments with a sister in law (a Masters in NYU in urban Planning) who asks “When are they going to get up off their butts and start doing something?”; who (a veteran of numerous trips to developing countries on 5 star guided tours) decries the presence of Spanish options on ATM machines; and with a godchild (a recent Villanova graduate) who refers to Italians as ‘guidos’?
What do you say to people who still believes Gore said he invented the internet? Who still equate internet news with Drudge?
Which brings me to yesterday and the surreal monthly therapy session (due to losing my insurance.
I walked in as usual wearing my battered pre-Iowa caucus Obama cap.
“That’s going to be a collector’s item, It looks like your candidate is going to win,” she said, shaking her head. It’s pretty obvious she’s sad. She’s made no bones about how she and her husband voted for Bush both times and plan to support McCain.
“If they don’t steal it,” I say. “They’ve purged millions of new voters from the rolls. And they’re engaging in such a shameless dishonest campaign.”
We’re doing fine until she mentions how the media and the Democrats have been engaged in ‘smearing Joe The Plumber.” I begin the counter-spin And then .. and then … she referred to my ‘fringe’ beliefs.
I respond that the only way she could state that the Dems were sliming Joe was if she got that meme from Faux news, who are engaged in promoting AND initiating the disgusting lies about Obama, who by the way is now not only a Muslim but also a socialist and a murderer of born alive fetuses). And that it is very difficult for me to accept her calling my opinions ‘fringe’ when her thoughts are totally unresearched regurgitations of the right wing talking points.
For about five minutes things are really ugly. She is asking me why I am so angry? (Typical right wing framing) and she’s trying to make the case that she has tried to explain herself but I’m not listening and it appears that I don’t trust her. And I say “How can I trust someone who says something that I know they heard on Fox News and are saying it as if it were true without looking into it? How can I trust you when you’re like their lap dog? Fox if fringe. I’m NOT fringe.
Finally, she says “The America that I lived in has ceased to exist. I am terrified about what is going to happen in this country.”
“We all are. And what makes it even more terrifying is that so many people in this country are buying the notion that the media is pro Obama, and that they are willing to engage in this disgusting character assassination of a man who is running for President of the United States. That they are willing to further divide the country. That they actually want chaos in the streets, they’re trying to incite violence.” I throw in a couple of examples about what Obama supporters have been facing across the country since Palin was set loose. I tell her about the lady who called him a socialist just as she felt he was a closet Muslim, and how indicative this is of how utterly void of reason, how the 2 concepts (from the Islamic fundametalist perception whih is what we are apparetly afraid of) are diametrically opposed. “Reality is totally skewed. These people are brainwashed.”
She talks about how the country is hipe for a charismatic leader to lead us into fascism and I tell her of course that the Bush Administration has already done that, that they have stripped away our Constitutional rights, that they have so disrespected Congress by using executive privilige to allow Rove, Meyers et al to NOT respond to subpoenas that now CEOs of AIG and Lehman are disrespectful of our Congressional leaders. They’re not gonna do anything anyway. I tell her the America she fears is already here. She just blindly believed.
We talk about the impact of the Obama tax plan on her income. I tell her taxes would go back to what they were before the Bush tax cuts. She tells me she won’t be able to run her life the way she does, sharing her wealth with friends, doing pro bonos, giving to charity. She said she is afraid of the “white trash’ Americans who were going to be getting handouts. I replied that the ‘white trash’ Americans she is afraid of are actually more likely the low information voters buying into the MCain smut.
Than, in what truly is a miraculous moment, I lean forward in my chair and say: “Look, the point is we are all afraid. Everyones life is going to change. But there is more that unites us than divides us. We both know each other, and at the core we both know we are good people. We are all really afraid of the same things. We know that we will help each other and others through this and we know that we are all in this together”
This was an awesome moment, for both of us.
By now we were out of time (you know, those now 40 minute sessions) and for the first time ever I approach her and we hug, for a real long time. “I just can’t believe how much dishonesty there is in America,” she says. “It is just so terrifying.
We walk through the waiting room to the front door still talking, even as a new patient comes in. As she holds the front door for me she brings up the Powell endorsement.
“I mean he made Obama sound like the Messiah,” she says.
The door closes. I gulp. So much more work to do.
Who the fuck is the patient here?