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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Now that You're Sane, What Do you Think was Your Diagnosis?

A fellow therapist and long-time friend asked me at a high-school reunion recently, "You have done such a great job on yourself. Now that you are sane, as a therapist, what would you say your diagnosis was.

"I was suffering from ignorance."

"No, seriously. What would you say your "real" diagnosis was, looking back."

People still insist that these so called "real" DSM diagnoses, such as  manic depression (now called bipolar) have some kind of credibility. My friend knew that I suffered for years with depression and crazy manic behavior. She also knows how hard I have worked to "get sane." And I am a sane, sober, cheerful, happy person after being, what my husband called "someone who sees herself as a tragic figure," for so many years.

But my friend and fellow therapist dismissed out of hand my explanation that I suffered from ignorance and, even worse, that I suffered from misinformation. However, I do think that was always the problem. That certainly was the problem with my father and brother who were also diagnosed with manic depression. They believed the psychiatrists and entered into decades of various types and combinations of anti-depressants that, as far as I could see over the years, never helped them in any way. The medication only helped the people around them who were happy to see them "calmed down."

I began to distrust psychiatry after a decade or so. And I never got a decent enough explanation for why I should take the anti-depressants when no one could explain to me what, exactly, they did to my brain. They frankly said nobody knew exactly how they worked. And then they always mumbled something about low levels of serotonin. So I refused, during all my years of suffering, to take any medication. Now, of course decades later, they are starting to see antidepressants don't really work any better than placebos. (See Newsweek Jan 6, 2010 cover story.)

No, I suffered depression because I didn't know what my options were. I didn't know how my own brain worked. I didn't know the real function of serotonin in the brain. I didn't know depression only existed in the subcortex of the brain and there was never any depression in the neocortex and I could function from the neocortex rather than be stuck down in the depression of the subcortex and all it took was a simple mind exercise to make the switch. I didn't know about the process of pain perception. I didn't know I suffered from a boatload of repressed fear. I didn't know that blame is the way we avoid the pain of our own fear (my apologies to my poor husband.) And no one ever told me that it was not necessary to be depressed, that I could choose to think something else and the depression would disappear and fade away in a few minutes. I was crazy for all those years because I was ignorant and misinformed. That was my real "diagnosis."

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