Thursday, April 30, 2015

Psychology 101

I've always been interested in psychology.  I've taken numerous classes about it.  I love reading about abnormal psychology; diseases like Dissociative Identity Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, all the things they make movies about.  I have been deeply interested in these topics since I went to my first psychologist at age 10.  I've always wanted to know what makes people tick.  Why they do the things they do.  Until I recently realized, for me, it is all a bunch of bullshit.

I've been in and out of therapy for nearly 30 years.  I've been diagnosed with Severe Depression - inability to cope with life.  I've been depressed my whole life I guess, and never truly happy.  Then we moved to the most surreal place, with a lake and nature and quiet.  I've been able to reflect and think and I've actually become quite happy and content with my life (obviously except for the days I'm a total Crohn's or Fibromyalgia patient.  That's always there.)  So I'm happy now.  Things started clicking in my brain and making sense for the first time. The fog lifted. I want to be outside and enjoy nature, (if this daft Ohio weather ever turns warm for more than five minutes.) I want to paint different rooms in our new home.  I want to cook dinner for my family and talk with my husband.  I want to know what my daughter is doing in school.  I want to be there for my nieces who are both about to have new babies.  I'm genuinely interested in life for the first time in as long as I can remember.  I look forward to getting up in the morning (okay, most days - let's not get crazy here!)  My mind wanders at night about things I want to do the next day.  I feel happy.  This is happiness.  It's not that I don't have worries because I do.  Those are always there, just not so prominent in my thinking anymore.  I mean seriously, I live in a place where most people go to for a weekend getaway or a vacation.  It's bliss!

But then, I saw my psychiatrist.  I told her how I was feeling.  I said I felt better.  The depression was there but not so pronounced.  Not so much of a black cloud hanging over me.  I feel I can breathe.  I told her I had creative ideas flooding my brain instead of doom and gloom thoughts and was excited to think about everything I could do.  And I might have noticed I was talking a bit faster than normal.  She wrote me a prescription for Depakote and diagnosed me with bipolar disorder!  I shouldn't feel this way apparently.  Happy is wrong.  So fine, I played the game and took the Depakote.  For two straight weeks I didn't care about anything.  I was fighting with myself to get out of bed.  I stopped doing everything and didn't even give it a second thought.  I was miserable and angry and all I wanted to do was be left alone a sleep.  Except I couldn't sleep.  For two weeks I got about three hours of very broken sleep a night.  I called the doctor and explained that I felt worse on the medication.  I felt depressed and wasn't sleeping.  I was angry all the time and felt frustrated.  And then the reality of psychiatry became clear.

I was told I was only irritable and angry because I wasn't sleeping and I needed to continue the medicine.  I was taken off of an antidepressant to go on the Depakote and now the doctor wanted to add a small does of that same medicine back into the regimen to help me sleep.  It wasn't helping me sleep before at the high dose so what was a smaller dose going to do?  I could not wrap my head around why I was supposed to continue a medication that made me feel like crap and restart taking a medication I had to stop, in order to start taking the new medication.  What the heck was this doctor trying to do to me?  My bliss was gone.  She took it away with two little pills, just like that.  And I was supposed to feel like that.  Except I didn't.  I stopped taking the Depakote altogether because I hated it.  I finally had a taste of true freedom in happiness and I didn't want to ever go back again.  I did restart the antidepressant I was on at the lower dose and I feel great.  My happy is back.

Until I have to go see the psychiatrist again in a few weeks and then I really will look like I'm bipolar because I stopped taking the bipolar pills.  Typical bipolar - quit taking your meds.  It's a horrible never ending cycle. And now, even writing this post I feel like it's one big, run-on bipolar thought put into sentences.  I have a complex about my behavior and trying to explain why I may not actually be bipolar.  Why is being happy and having ideas and creativity and excitement about things a bad thing?  I've waited my whole life to feel this way emotionally.  Everyone always said that one day things will get better and I finally feel like they have gotten better.  But because of psychology I am not supposed to feel this way?  I don't think so.  I declare shenanigans.

Upon all of this revelation, I started thinking about all the therapy I've had in my life.  My husband and I figured it up and I've seen, at least, 12 different psychiatrists/psychologists/therapists in the last 30 years.  I explained to him that I've always had to talk about the same thing with every one of them.  Nothing can be looked at in my life that is currently happening to me because, well, my father died when I was 15 after an extended illness.  Apparently, even though I feel fine about it, psychology says I'm not over it.  Here's the typical conversation in every therapy session I have ever had - verbatim:

Therapist:  Tell me about your childhood.  Did any major events happen while you were a child?

Me:  Typical childhood, I guess.  My dad died when I was fifteen.  I have a awesome step dad though.

Therapist:  Tell me about your dad.

Me:  I don't remember much other than he was sick for about six years with MS and then he died.

Therapist:  I think we need to explore this more

Me:  Why?  That's not the issue.  I'm more concerned about my life with my husband and child and my own health.

Therapist:  This all stems back to you not being able to cope with your father's death.  You need to work through it.

Me:  I have.  I'm good.

Therapist:  You're in denial.  You haven't coped with your father's death.

Me:  I don't want to talk about my dad.  He's dead.  It's over.  I'm good about it.

Therapist:  You're not over it.

Me: When will I be over it? How long will it take?  It's been damn near 25 years.

Therapist:  It's up to you.

Really. Every time, without fail they all want to stick with this.  So they bring up all the crap from my childhood that is totally irrelevant now and I haven't thought about in years. Yes, thinking about my dad dying might bring a tear to my eye but that doesn't mean I'm not over it.  But they don't see it that way.  More therapy, more drugs, more money.  I think I'm over psychology.

***DISCLAIMER - This post is about my personal experience and how I personally feel.  I do not - in any way - mean to say that there are not real people with real bipolar/depression/mania/etc... who need psychological help.  There are those that do.  And psychology does work and is needed in some cases.  But after 30 years, I think I've done my time and I'm done with it.  I'm just saying. ***


Anonymous said...

While I do think there are legitimate mental illnesses that can and do respond to treatment I feel very frustrated for you. We have to fight SO HARD to be heard about our IBD. People make us feel belittled and unheard then you have this experience where they want to attach problems to you that you do not have!?!?! I hope you continue to have your happiness and poop on these people assigning you problems just so they feel important.

Anonymous said...

I came across your blog and wanted to share some info that might be of interest to your blogging community. I work for a company called Acurian. Our mission is to help promote awareness around clinical research studies for select health indications like Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis. I was wondering if you might be interested in sharing information about these studies with your community. You can contact me at if interested.

Jenni Schaeffer said...

Thanks Courtney - I'll be happy to pass along information. Feel free to email me at

Anonymous said...

Hi Jenni,

I am psychology student suffering from IBS. How you deal with all that you've been through amazes me. The reason I'm writing is because I know a lot about psychology, and I know that psychiatrists are VERY prone to giving a label (diagnosis) even when there isn't anything wrong. Don't think that you have bipolar just because your psychiatrist says so. If you are feeling good then feel good. Just feeling happy is not Bipolar Disorder, even if you have depression. Bipolar disorder involves manic episodes where the euphoria actually harms you or someone else (for example a lot of sufferers will go on shopping sprees and spend a ton of money). If you are happy and it is not bothering you or anyone else, THEN BE HAPPY! You deserve it! Just ignore your psychiatrist and don't worry about them judging you. People think doctors and psychiatrists are always right because of their dominant position, but this is not always the case. My brother is 9 and a psychiatrist wanted to put him on Ritalin just because he is an active kid. The psychiatrist said he had ADHD. I doubt that he does. He's a boy! All boys want to be active and play outside. It's ridiculous to assume that just because he can't sit still for 6 hours in class that he has a problem. Alright I'm done my rant. Hope this info helped! I also have a new blog if you want to check it out, it's called sideeffectsandibs on blogspot :)

Take care

Mo said...

I came across your post and boy can I relate to that conversation. Every therapist I meet wants me to have daddy issues. Even if I DID have them (which I don't), they would't have anything to do with the help I need managing my career and illness. Digging in the past can be useful, but a good therapist starts with where you are right now.

I also agree with Cristina in that everyone who sees a mental health professional ends up branded with a mental illness. That couldn't be truer. No wonder there are so many people who don't get help when they really need it.


Julia said...

I didn ´ t read it, just some stuff ´medical history ´ .
I am surgeon, now 30 y, diagnosed year ago for CD.
After some medication I got worse, so I went vegan.
Strictly vegan!!! Try it please. And for depression take niacin and biotin daily. You have nothing to loose.

Julia said...

Try to be strictly vegan for half a year. You have nothing to loose.

Eleanor Helm said...

Very nice article Jenni's Guts Blog .Thank you for sharing your information Use best custom essay writing service