Monday, December 20, 2010

One Asshole Headshrink

I saw lots of psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors when I was young.  Most of them were completely clueless, a couple were fairly decent.  None of them "helped" me in any recognizable way.  In fact, very few of them seemed to identify any real "problem" that I needed help with, and not one convinced me of it.  All they did was hear my parents say they were having problems, and slap the "label of the day" on me.

First I was Hyperactive.
Then I was ADD with Hyperactivity.
And I was given an amphetamine that has now proven to cause serious developmental problems in children (funny, because it's only prescribed to children).

I can't help wondering if THEY ever wondered, "maybe the reason this child can't pay attention to me is because I'm boring, and he doesn't want to?"
Nah.  Probably not.  Their own psychological defenses would have prevented that.

Later on, and for many years, I was prone to pretty severe outbursts whenever I was angry or frustrated.  This was, of course, very annoying (to me too) so I saw other "experts" about it.

One very nice doctor finally hooked me up to a variety of wires and suction cups, spent entirely too much time trying various drugs on me (I was taking a whole handful of pills, at one point as many as seven, three times daily, and having blood drawn and tested sometimes twice a day... I think this explains the tattoos), and gave me the latest contemporary label:
Manic Depressive.

I was given more drugs, of course.
Sometimes I even took them.

I remember lots of sessions with this doctor, who I remember quite fondly, and other members of his team.
We talked at great length about my behaviors, my potential, and my feelings.  We discussed strategies for changing that behavior, reaching the potential, and better controlling the feelings.  (By the way, they only worked when they were my idea, but any shrink can tell you that.)

There are things I DON'T remember...
Like how that doctor (and his team) never once sought to find out much about my home life, or my real history.  (Well, we talked about how much I hated my step-dad, but not in much of a productive way.)
He never found out, because he didn't really attempt to, that I had never been taught - never been encouraged, or even allowed - to deal PROPERLY with things that made me angry.
This had caused a compounding problem... just BEING angry or frustrated and not being able to deal with it properly made me MORE angry or frustrated.  Any surprise it led to outbursts?
I don't even have a PHD, and it doesn't surprise me.  Doc wouldn't have been surprised either, had he bothered to find out.

(To any aspiring headshrinks...  you can't just OBSERVE CURRENT BEHAVIOR and think you know anything.  And don't DO anything, with drugs or psychological methods, until you KNOW something.)

By the way, this isn't necessarily a criticism of my parents (well, aside from the fact that the aforementioned step-dad was the cause of 90% of my anger and frustration).  MOST people don't really know how to properly deal with situations that make them angry... how are you supposed to teach your child something you probably don't know yourself?

So really, I'm not "Manic Depressive" (no, this isn't just a self-diagnosis, even though I have respect for self-diagnosis).  I don't have an "anger problem."  Just because for a long time I felt anger or frustration more intensely than I should have it doesn't mean I had a "chemical imbalance" or something wrong with my brain.
We have behaviors we learn, and behaviors we don't.
Sometimes we learn things later than we should, sometimes we never learn.  And I've both learned and continue to.

But here's the problem...
The fucking LABEL.

There's something that happens to OTHER people once you've been labeled:
They cease to be able to see you as "normal."  Their perspective becomes skewed.
When someone knows (thinks/heard the label) I'm Manic Depressive, ANY negative emotion or reaction I have, or statement I make, is BECAUSE OF Manic Depression.  It's like it's not physically possible for me to have a normal reaction to negative stimuli (regardless of what the reaction itself may be). In fact, any "stimuli" whatsoever is completely dismissed by the biased observer.

Every single person in the world reacts emotionally and behaviorally to stimuli.  Most people do so appropriately to a degree.  Bad or negative experiences make us angry or put us in a bad mood.  Good ones make us happy.
Not me.
The only reason I can possibly be angry, or in a bad mood, is because I'm "Manic Depressive."  Whether or not things are going my way today, or something bad or frustrating has happened to me is completely out of the question.  Not even figured into the equation.
And the messed up part is that this is the case even though the "outbursts" have gone away.  I can't, calmy and politely, say "you know, that kinda pissed me off and I'd like to talk about it."  Even THAT is "being Manic Depressive."  (Pretty convenient if you happen to be in a relationship of some kind with a "Manic Depressive" and are less than perfect yourself.)
Just having a negative feeling is a symptom, not an effect.
And guess what?  That's frustrating as hell, too.

So I don't know where I'm going with this.
I'm kinda done, just ranting a bit.
But there is a point.  If, that is, anyone who's a shrink or aspires to be one reads this (or, I guess, if you interact with someone who's been labeled).

I know that "doctor-patient confidentiality" doesn't pertain to anyone who has a legal guardian (children, "mentally unfit").  But when that's the situation, remember that psychological labels (and other illnesses, I'm sure) affect more than one person.  When that's the case, be hesitant to give a person a "label."
The label itself may just cause more problems in a person's life than the "mental illness" you think they have.

Alright... that paragraph was for the doctors.
For anyone else who has a "labeled" person in their life, here's one for you:
Remember, even if someone you love has a real mental illness, it's not ALL THEY ARE.  No one is 100% mentally whacked....  they're ALSO NORMAL.  SOME times their behaviors, feelings and thoughts are influenced by actual, real experiences just like yours.  Do them a favor... don't treat them like they're crazy when they're not.
You'll be a lot more helpful that way, if you can be, and a lot less frustrating if you can't.