Friday, January 23, 2015

When I felt like my brain was broken. Doctor, please try harder!





When I am in a depressive episode it feels like my brain is broken. My first episode (also called age of onset) was when I was twenty nine years old. It lasted a long time and its intensity went from severe to moderate. The year was 1985. My psychiatrist was a retired medical director of a psychiatric hospital. He graciously agreed to see me as an outpatient because I was an ordained pastor.

On one of our visits, I mentioned to my psychiatrist that my mind still had not cleared, that it felt like there was a cloud over it. I also lamented that I was still depressed. His response was, Oh, medications don’t do everything, getting healed involves a lot more than pills. His thinking that a medication only worked partially was painful for me to hear, it did not make sense. I knew how my mind worked before it was broken. It was different and I was afraid it would never be the same. Since medication helped me part of the way, I desired full relief in concrete terms not abstract ones.

Because of my psychiatrist's age, (he was in his 70’s) and because this was 1985, he was steeped in Freudian psychological thought. At one point he talked about the little boy deep down inside me. He also told Robyn and me some of the old treatments for depression. He said that they use to believe that helping depressed people expressing their deep seated anger would help them get over their depression.  This scared me. He told me that one of the strategies used in days gone by was to have depressed people scrubbing the grout between bathroom tiles with a toothbrush, until they were very mad. 
I did not believe him but I was shaken. Anger turned inward is the hallmark of Freudian and Neo-Freudian psychology. Its effect on the overall treatment of depression is discussed in our book, Broken Minds Hope for Healing When You Feel Like You're Losing It, Kregel Publications. It is needless to say that these interpretations only made things worse.

I fired my former doctor who had called antidepressants poison. Robyn and I were living in Scranton PA at the time so I made use of public services offered at the Scranton Counseling Center. At this time I was working two jobs and going to Marywood Graduate School of Social Work.

In my studies for my Master of Social Work and I prepared to write a fifty page discourse on the treatment of mental illness in our time (1985). In my research for the paper I studied many views of mental illness. God, in His loving providence, helped me find an article, The Challenge of Chronic Depressions by Hagisop Askidal, M.D. 

When I told my new doctor that I was still depressed he said, "You are under very much stress, I think this is your problem." I remonstrated, "no;I  cannot accept what you are saying." I told him about the above article and what it said about why people did not receive adequate treatment for depression.The reasons for this were, perhaps the doctor did not raise the medication dosage high enough or did not try a combination of antidepressants and mood stabilizers.
Thankfully, my new psychiatrist decided to give it a try. I was wholly better in two weeks. I could have gone on for a number of years mistreated and suffering needlessly if I had not pushed the envelope.

Today psychiatrists have many tools by which you can be symptom free. Of course, medicine will not help you if you recently lost your girl friend or failed a couple of tests at school. Emotional upheaval and external stresses are not the same as clinical depression. Please consider learning about depression and its treatment. One resource, of course, that we recommend is our book, Broken Minds, Hope for Healing When You Feel Like You're Losing It. You can find some more information and help by visiting the link below.

  http://www.amazon.com/Broken-Minds-Healing-Youre-Losing/dp/0825421187
  "This is a candid and spirit affirming story of a family's personal struggle, not only with mental illness, but also in finding where they fit into the body of Christ and His ministry. Considering that 10% of the world's adult population suffer from some form of mental illness, this book could well be required reading for pastors, elders, and Christian counselors or for anyone who is called to minister with understanding and unbiased care. The book is solidly based on a scriptural foundation with ample clinical information to appeal to the lay person or anyone in a counseling capacity. Informative, honest and helpful, this work shatters the old stigmas and perceptions of mental illness and depression. It is well written with enough heart and hope to balance the seriousness of the subject. Interesting reading. (Sandra Thayer Author's Choice Reviews 2005-12-01)