Things We learned From Therapy and Doctors (by the Amorpha Household)

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The Amorpha Household, who sometimes comment here, put together a great list of things they’ve learned from their therapist. Much like Everything I Needed to Know About Life I Learned from my Behavioral Therapist, it’s a sarcastic list, and very funny. Much of this describes well the reasons I won’t have anything to do with psychiatry, at least no more than I absolutely have to (“have to” entails bureaucratic reasons, such as SSI reviews, not emotional ones).

I should note, also, that many of the reasons that I don’t trust laws that say “You only get locked up if you’re a danger to self, others, or gravely disabled,” are encompassed in here. (Besides the fact that what is done to you after you are declared those things, is not good even if you are any of those things.) Many people don’t realize how if you’re the wrong kind of person, that law gets bent and bent and bent and bent, and that the “determination” of such things is a matter of having a box checked off on a form while they’re already admitting you. I’ve gotten “danger to self” for such atrocities as picking scabs or having chapped lips that bled easily. When’s the last time you’ve been committed or tied down for absentmindedly picking a scab? It all depends on what kind of person you’re already judged to be.

This letter by Zilari for Autistic Pride Day also reminds me of it.

Anyway, I’ll shut up now and present Amorpha’s list, everything below the line is theirs (here’s a link back to their post):


Traditionally, a lot of recovery-type multiples have put lists on their pages of stuff like “Things I Learned From My Therapist.” Here’s our list of what we learned from therapy and doctors.

  • When you are really having problems, nobody believes that you are suffering. When you are all right and working things out on your own, nobody believes that you are not disturbed and suffering.
  • Refusing to commit yourself to any kind of long-term medical relationship with a therapist because s/he was a useless, arrogant, condescending, and/or uncompassionate ass does not mean you are exercising your power of choice as a consumer, it means you’re a snob who thinks they’re too good for anyone. This can be fixed with patronizing, authoritarian lectures and drugs.
  • Waiting to seek help for a problem due to bad past experiences with therapists entitles the therapist to lecture you like a child on how stupid, foolish and irresponsible you are, for not running off to the great pill dispenser the moment you start to feel the slightest bit of unease.
  • If you don’t make eye contact, it means something is wrong with you, or that you’re being dishonest. If you make eye contact, it means something is wrong with you and you’re trying too hard to pretend to be honest when you’re not.
  • If you don’t express enough emotion in your voice, it means you’re a fake who doesn’t really have any of the problems they claim to. If you express too much emotion in your voice, it means you’re a fake who doesn’t really have any of the problems they claim to.
  • The Internet is dangerous to your health. People you meet online should never be trusted and are dangerous to you– somehow more dangerous than people you meet in the 3-D world, even when you have a track record of being taken advantage of due to inability to read other people’s body language well. They might do horrible things like convince you that you’re not being helped by your doctor.
  • If you come in wearing an old shirt because it was the only clean thing, or if your jacket is a little rumpled, you are exhibiting deteriorating self-care skills, and these are symptomatic of your “condition” worsening.
  • If you get too upset and cry too much, it means you want to harm yourself and are at risk of suicide. You can never just be letting things out.
  • If you sit on the couch and look at your feet, you’re depressive. If you get up and pace, you’re manic. If you do both, you’re bipolar.
  • “Group therapy” which consists of letting the other patients verbally abuse and insult you and each other, while the supervising therapist sits around like a potted plant in the corner of the room and occasionally asks “how does that make you feel?”, is somehow supposed to be helpful. Not sure how. But it is. Take it from them.
  • “How does that make you feel?” is somehow the most important question that can ever be answered in a therapy session. Not that, if you can put into words how you feel, anything will ever actually done to help if you’re not feeling so great.
  • If you ever, ever, at any time, even consider the possibility that you might possibly be able to figure out a way to work things out without the use of drugs, this is a dangerous delusion you must be talked out of at once.
  • Anyone with a degree is qualified to speculate on the psychological health of your entire family after a five-minute description of them.
  • If you say something early on in a session, then forget later on that you said it due to the fact that the therapist’s interrogation was making you flustered and nervous and confused, this is symptomatic of a horrible mental problem, although they will never tell you what it is.
  • Always trust the doctor’s perceptions over your own, no matter how much they conflict. Theirs is the Official view of reality. They have achieved total enlightenment in earning their doctorate and now reside on a higher plane from which they view everything with total objectivity.
  • Pills are the solution. Always. If one doesn’t work, just give more of it.
  • If it does exactly the opposite of what it’s supposed to, you also need more of it somehow.
  • If you really feel you need a short term course of a particular drug and ask for it specifically, however, you are just a junkie trying to get the doctor to hand out your fix.
  • Drugs do what the doctor tells you they will, not what the label and warnings say they will. Reality is different inside the doctor’s office than out of it. For example, in the Doctor’s Office Bizarro World, Thorazine is not a high-potency neuroleptic but merely something to alleviate anxiety.
  • Do not ever expect to be given anything resembling a realistic assessment of the possible side effects of any given drug.
  • If you disagree with the doctor’s assessment of whether you need a certain drug, you are being noncompliant. Noncompliance is bad. Noncompliance means you need more drugs.
  • If you disagree with the doctor in any way, seem unsure when agreeing to let them throw more pills at you, look away, look too unhappy, look too happy, look away too much, look at them too much, etc, you are also being noncompliant.
  • Charges of noncompliance can sometimes be deflected by agreeing to let the doctor increase your dosage of something they already have you on (which isn’t doing what it’s supposed to either).
  • Sometimes doctors will decide to arbitrarily up your dosage anyway. No reason. Just don’t argue with them. They’re always right.
  • Many doctors will refuse to prescribe minor tranquilizers, warning you of the possibility of withdrawal symptoms, and will then turn around and try to shove things at you for which the withdrawal symptoms are potentially much, much worse.
  • If you ever state that you don’t need medication or help, or not the kind they’re giving you, anyway, this just means you’re too sick to know how sick you are.
  • Everything you tell the doctor about your personal history will be hacked up and mangled beyond the point of recognizability by the time it gets to your official report in your file. This can range from elimination of very important facts (such as the fact that a past episode of depression resulted from being bullied every day at school), to “re-interpretations” of things you tell them (because, being mentally ill, you can’t be trusted to interpret incidents in your own life accurately), to just making shit up out of thin air.
  • Even if your anxiety or depression stems from something perfectly understandable, such as the death or serious illness of a family member, reacting to it in a way that leaves you unable to perform some daily tasks in the same manner as before doesn’t mean you’re having a natural stress reaction; it’s a symptom of your illness.
  • In fact, any time you have any kind of extremely strong emotional reaction in response to a life event, you’re never really acting in response to that event. It’s just a by-product of a chemical imbalance in your brain.
  • Many doctors will not take “no” for an answer in response to the question of whether you ever want to hurt yourself or others. They’re determined to ferret out the “real” pathological impulses that underlie your actions.
  • Although the doctor is furiously scribbling notes the whole time you’re talking to him, he is, in fact, writing down few or none of the pertinent facts you relate to him. He’s probably writing alliterative verse about his cat or something.
  • Rule of thumb: The nicer the doctor’s office, the more horrible your experience in it is likely to be. If you see soothing, relaxing decor in the waiting room, with rugs on the walls and potted plants and dimmed lights and white noise machines and little miniature waterfalls, turn around and run. Do not walk. Do not pass Go or collect 200 dollars.
  • Never suggest that you might have self-diagnosed. This will get you nothing but smarmy, condescending sneers and “Did you read that on the Internet?”
  • If you get a “learning disability assessment,” if you are female, your chances of being diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder increase by approximately 200%. If you are male, your chances of being diagnosed with ADD or ADHD increase by approximately 200%.
  • Do not ask to see the DSM. Do not ever suggest that you have even read it.
  • Never, ever, ever, ever, answer any of the following questions with “yes”, even if they’re true: “Do you hear voices? Do you get thoughts racing through your head? Do you feel that people are plotting against you?”
  • Never trust anyone who smiles at you in a grandfatherly manner. Say just the wrong thing and they’ll suddenly turn on you, although this is all for your own good, of course.
  • If drugs don’t help you in the way they’re supposed to, or if you ultimately find ways to get along without them, or are forced to find a way because the drugs cause too many problems, this means that you “never actually had that problem to begin with,” even if you had every single “symptom” of it or sounded exactly like someone else’s account of a worst-case scenario, the kind who “need” certain kinds of treatment.
  • And if you talk about your experience of how you learned to deal with things without drugs, you’re harming and undermining “the people who are really sick, not mildly afflicted like you were” (even if, again, their definition of someone who is “really sick” could have fit you exactly at some point in your life).
  • Or if you talk about this, you’re automatically a $cientologist. (Even though $cientologists are all batshit anyhow– more than most “mental health clients,” anyway.)
  • If the Very Scientific Studies By Experts don’t match up with your personal experiences, it’s never that the experts’ studies are the ones that are flawed and failing to account for you. If they don’t represent your experience, it’s because YOUR LIFE IS WRONG! But don’t panic! Diversity of human experience is curable. With modern medical intervention, everyone can be made to be exactly the way They say you ought to.

Plural-Specific:

  • No matter what actual, valid problems you might have, that have nothing to do with your being plural, everyone will always be much more interested in the fact of your multiplicity– no matter how many times you say it isn’t a problem for you– to the point where this overrides any chance of your actually being able to discuss the things that are real problems.
  • If you are a smoothly-functioning system and completely accepting of it, the doctor will get far too fascinated by this, and every therapy session will end up being you on display as the circus freak show.
  • Apparently, there is some nebulous “you” in here whom everyone else is a part of. As in “what part of you feels that way?”, when the person speaking mentions that someone else has an opinion that differs from theirs.
  • It’s okay to have “imaginary people in your head” as long as you never commit the horrible, horrible crime of actually thinking those people are real, or that they’re autonomous persons rather than “parts of you,” or treating them as though they have as many rights as you (the speaker).
  • And, of course, the ultimate goal, even if they are just imaginary, is to integrate them back into “you,” so you no longer need this “way of coping.”
  • If you leave therapy without having integrated, you can never go without the friendly advice of being told to “find another specialist in dissociative disorders” to help you.

(These can be redistributed, at your discretion, with credit given to Amorpha Household in the byline somewhere.)

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Physically and cognitively disabled. Anything you hear in the media or gossip is likely to be oversimplified at best and wildly inaccurate at worst, the only way to get to know me is to actually know me. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died a couple years ago and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

10 responses »

  1. This was just too funny and so true. I have been considered non-compliant by several doctors because I choose not to treat my OCD or supposed chronic depression with medication. And the belittling and bullying – defintely a part of seeing a psychiatrist all right.

  2. As a side-note on the “they can’t commit you unless you’re a danger to yourselves or others” thing– I co-moderate a community where people come in asking all the time “should I disclose this or this to my therapist? I’m afraid they’ll put me away!” Some of these people are underage, to boot. Inevitably, they’ll always get a certain number of pep-talk replies going “Oh, no! You have to be dangerous to yourself or others before they can do that.”– from people who apparently have no idea of the fact that what constitutes “dangerous to self or others” is entirely up to the “discretion” of the therapist, especially in the case of a minor, and people have decided before that just being plural is enough to make someone “dangerous.”

  3. Wonderful. Thank you, people of Amorpha.

    Also:
    The only thing you need to know about neuroleptics is that they aren’t addictive.

    If a medication /does/ help, it will be changed.

    If you are asked a silly question and give a silly answer, you lack insight. If you are asked a silly question and give a sensible answer, staff will make up their own anyway.

    If you don’t hurt yourself, you aren’t in trouble and don’t need help. If you do hurt yourself, you’re manipulative and don’t deserve help.

    Any female friend more than 5 years older than you isn’t a friend but a mother substitute.

    No matter how much like a promise it sounds, any statement made by a psychiatrist is subject to whim. Any explicit request you make of your psychiatrist means exactly the opposite of what you thought it did when you made it.

    Bafflement is not a correct reaction when you (a vegetarian) are asked whether you eat vegetables.

    There are such things as correct reactions. Incorrect reactions are bad.

    What you can’t do is much more important than what you can.

    People who mean well and want to help can be really, really dangerous.

  4. I’m really wondering what the root of all this is — by “this” I mean, “this tendency of psychiatrists to systematically disregard reality when it comes to patient experience”.

    I can’t imagine it’s all money, or that it’s some kind of conspiracy — rather, I’m compelled to think that there’s a sort of deep-rooted prejudice against unfamiliar things and people that is expressed in the language of fear on the part of these doctors.

    Nevertheless, I’m seriously disturbed by all the emphasis (as evidenced by this list, experiences I’ve had, and experiences others have had) on keeping information away from patients about how they themselves operate — exactly what is being threatened by a person having greater understanding of how their own brain works?

  5. zilari: The percieved power balance between the psychiatrist and xyr ‘patient’, for one thing. The possibility of questions arising that xe cannot answer with the confidence most of them think is a prerequisite to ‘helping’ a person.

  6. People who mean well and want to help can be really, really dangerous.

    I’ve said this before in response to people who characterize certain doctors as “quacks”– the word quack implies that the doctors in question are aware that their methods are ineffective, but promote them anyway just for the sake of turning a profit. I don’t doubt that this happens; doctors and counselors are often given financial incentives to “recruit” teenagers and have them institutionalized, so the institutions and doctors could pick up the insurance benefits. However, I actually think that the people who genuinely believe they are doing good, whether in the psychiatric establishment, in religious organizations, in schools, or in families, can be the most dangerous of all. After all, those who are in it just for the money will stop if their financial incentive is taken away; those who are motivated by a belief in their own truly benevolent nature and in their subjects’ need for them will continue to do so regardless of what they get for it. Amanda mentioned animal hoarders in one of her other posts– people who end up keeping huge numbers of animals that they can’t possibly take care of, at detriment to their own property and health, because they are honestly convinced that no one else can love the animals as much as them, even when the numbers of starving, sick, and dead animals in their “care” attest otherwise. Good intentions are not a substitute for good works. Good intentions do not necessarily naturally lead to good works. And wanting the best for someone does not necessarily make you a good judge of what is truly best for them.
    I don’t know, for instance, whether the doctor who diagnosed us with “bipolar disorder” because we paced and repeated his words while he was allegedly evaluating us, had any financial incentive for doing so. I doubt it, however, because the only thing he was getting money for was a “learning disability assessment”– it was a one-time thing, so even if he thought we needed to be drugged up, he wasn’t going to be the one to prescribe those drugs. He was just hoping that someone else would agree with him about it. It was more likely that he’d simply trained himself to view everyone’s behavior in terms of pathology, and responded to us as being merely another pathetic crazy. His official report about us was full of bullshit that had little or no relation to anything we’d actually stated to him in the interview.

    And I think he really did believe all of this implicitly– he was viewing everything through a mental lens which caused him to systematically discard all of the client’s explanations for their own behavior, and replace it with his own ideas of why they did things. As with a cult, people believe and are told they are doing good if they are “following the teachings,” no matter how cruel or unreasonable those teachings might seem– they’re just curing mental illness instead of saving souls, this time around.

    And according to them, we are the ones who are delusional and have a distorted picture of reality. Huh.

  7. Having had (thankfully) exceedingly minimal first-hand experience with most of this stuff, but many peripheral brushes with it and the experiences of my friends and people on the Internet, this is a scary phenomenon. Claiming “mentally ill’ or “danger to self and/or others” are easy outs to disregard the person has having any rights or credibility.

    As far as my peripheral experience has been, I was given an antidepressant once, and when I told of getting suddenly depressed and wanting to kill myself since a couple weeks after starting it, then the first thing I was asked was, “Have you felt like this before the drug?” I had actually been pretty severely depressed and sometimes suicidal during earlier times in reaction to negative life events, but I gave a firm, “No” – particularly since this was one of the better years of my life (the drug, incidentally, was given off-label for seizures — even though it’s contraindicated against seizure history!)

    The rest of my experience with this sort of nonsense stems from my encounters with my junior high guidance counselor, who seemed to treat me, when I went to her office to request witness reports of abuse from other students (which were all refused), as if she were a psychiatrist and I was her ‘hopelessly ill patient who clearly is the cause of her mistreatment’. I remember even one time when she was talking with another counselor about a student they suspected as being autistic, while I was in the room the whole time (an experience I brought to mind as resonating with when you described in Being an Un-person).

    This list is a great satire (is that the right word?) of the serious yet ridiculously absurd state of ‘mental health care’.

  8. Pingback: Things we learned from therapy « reSISTERance

  9. Great list. I am supposed to be mentally ill because
    I have a career despite being the child of alcoholics. Not having an alcohol problem myself and having a lot of interests in my life is a symptom of “denial.” Being incapacitated and on drugs would be “healthier” because it would be “truer to my reality.” Or so I am told!!!

  10. Pingback: Biopsychiatry and critical thinking « Urocyon's Meanderings

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