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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Frog-hopping: My Journey to the Right Psychiatrist

By Courtney Rundell

Frog Prince

We’ve been together for a little over 6 years – the best years of my life. He’s intelligent, kind and compassionate. He’s a great listener. He knows me, my past, my dreams, my strengths, my weaknesses. He’s always there for me.

No, he’s not my boyfriend. He’s my psychiatrist.

Our relationship is one of the most important in my life. He’s saved my life countless times – I actually don’t think I’d be on this planet if it weren’t for him.

Finding the Prince Charming of psychiatrists wasn’t an easy task. It took 6 years, three frogs and two misdiagnoses, but I finally was lucky enough to stumble upon him.

Once upon a time…

Frog #1 diagnosed me with panic disorder and prescribed Celexa. After 6 weeks, my already intolerable anxiety was worse. So, he directed me to stop taking Celexa and to start taking tranquilizers every day, knowing full well I’d been sober over 2 years.

He didn’t offer another antidepressant, therapy or any other solution beside tranquilizers.

I left his office convinced that they were all the same. They’d all just want me to shut up and take whatever they threw my way. They were the boss, not me. I had no say in our relationship – it was patriarchal. I was just another girl.

Frog #2 diagnosed me with panic disorder and prescribed Lexipro which made my mouth taste like metal, so she switched me to Paxil which wrecked me, so she switched me to Zoloft which worked.

I saw her for 2 years. She was extremely cold, rarely spoke and took copious notes. The only phone number I was given was the appointment line, so we only spoke in sessions.

I left that relationship thinking that was as good as it gets – icy, clinical, lacking any new insights into my internal life. I would never feel warmth or compassion. I would never be understood.

The One Who Got Away was the staff psychiatrist at Northern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services. I was visiting my mother in Reno – 500 miles from home – when I was hospitalized.

He diagnosed me with bipolar 2 disorder and PTSD. Ends up, contrary to the beliefs of Frogs 1 and 2, I never even had panic disorder.

After a long talk, he handed me two prescriptions – one for Lithium and Zoloft and the second for “therapy and 12-step meetings once I got back to LA.” He wrote the second as a prescription to emphasize the importance of not only medication, but treatment as well.

I finally met the perfect match and I couldn’t have him. He was already taken and long distance relationships never worked. What a cruel trick the universe played on me!

Frog #3 did his own scheduling. He didn’t have a waiting room so I sat in the hallway outside his office. When he managed to remember our appointments, I was in his office no more than five minutes – just to get my refills. I spent more time outside his office than I did inside.

The second time he stood me up, I was done. I’d met a prince before, so I had a little spark of faith that he was out there, but it was most certainly not this one. I had enough self-respect to know that we both needed to show up for the relationship.

… and then I found my Prince.

He’s never been late or canceled an appointment. He has a waiting area and an assistant who does his scheduling. He changed my diagnosis from bipolar 1 to 2 after learning more about my cycles and affirmed that PTSD was causing my panic attacks. We did therapy for the first few years. I graduated to med checks, but I’m still in his office at least 20 minutes.

We have conversations. I never feel like I’m being observed. He takes notes after our session is over.

He’s always up on new research and treatment options. He never overmedicates and respects my sobriety. He’s open minded, experienced and human.

He’s walked me through a miscarriage, a pregnancy, suicidal depressions, postpartum OCD and mania and everywhere in between.

…and we lived happily ever after. The End.

The moral of my story can be best expressed with clichés:

1.      If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.

2.      You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.

3.      Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Courtney Rundell is a freelance blogger for the International Bipolar Foundation and the North Hollywood Patch. She speaks all over California about thriving with alcoholism, bipolar, and PTSD. When Courtney was diagnosed bipolar in 2006, a life she never knew was possible began. She’s devoted to inspiring and sparking hope in others now that she’s finally a free woman. Her personal blog can be found at www.BeePea.com.

Photo: iStockphoto

Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 12:26 pm

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