Patient Blogs | Schizophrenia
Doctors: The Most Important Relationships in My Mental Health Recovery
photo of therapy session

Supportive relationships with healthy boundaries are important to my well-being and mental health recovery. I’ve been lucky to have a solid network of supportive relationships in my life, but the two most important relationships in my life are with my primary care physician and my psychiatrist. I say this because without both of my doctors, I wouldn’t be able to function and be where I am today in my recovery.

Good doctors are not easy to come by, and I should know because it took me a while to find them. Before I was symptomatic, I had private insurance and was able to seek out doctors within my insurance network, but after my first episode of psychosis, I was unable to function or work and lost my private insurance. I had to apply for social security benefits and public aid in order to get treatment.

The system isn’t easy to navigate, and I was assigned a primary care physician and psychiatrist through public aid that I didn’t know. I was still very early in my mental health recovery process and experiencing delusions and hallucinations, so I was scared to meet my new doctors. Due to my symptoms of paranoia, I believed that these new doctors would mean to harm me and report on my every move to the local police and the federal government.

Fortunately for me, my new primary care physician and psychiatrist were able to win me over with their patience and empathy. They both worked with me toward my recovery even when I was too scared to discuss my symptoms and how I felt. When the medication I was prescribed began to give me side effects, they listened to me and worked to help me find the correct medication.

After 2 years of treatment with my psychiatrist, I was heartbroken to learn that she would be moving on to another organization that didn’t accept public aid. I’d been fortunate that I found such a wonderful psychiatrist right out of the gate, but now I was being assigned to a new psychiatrist.

At my next yearly physical appointment, I spoke to my primary care physician about what had happened, and she asked me what I wanted in a psychiatrist. I’d never had anyone ask my opinion about what I wanted. She suggested I write down what I was looking for in a psychiatrist and explained that I did not have to receive treatment from a psychiatrist or physician that I didn’t have a rapport with.

That night I went home and wrote down what I was looking for in both a primary care physician and psychiatrist. I want doctors that I have a good rapport with and who will listen to my opinions about my care objectively and work with me to achieve my best life. Doctors who not only work with me but keep in contact with each other so I receive continuum of care.

When I went into my next appointment with my new psychiatrist I was assigned to. I went in with an open mind and shared with them my list. To my surprise, they listened to what I had to say and made me feel comfortable and heard. As I progressed in my mental health recovery process and became more confident, I learned to speak up and express what I needed from my doctors in order to stay well, mentally and physically.

Since then, I did have to change doctors due to turnover through the organization I was receiving treatment from or because I went back to work and was under a new insurance plan. Today, I have been with my current primary care physician and psychiatrist for the last 8 years. I’m happy that I have found doctors that work with me to achieve overall wellness.

What I learned from this experience is that I have to be an active participant in my recovery process and that I’m part of a team with my doctors. They are the two most important figures to my mental health recovery process and in my support network. Without their support, I would not be able to function. My relationships with both my doctors make it possible for me to be able to stay healthy, enjoy life, work, and have other satisfying relationships with my friends and family.




Photo Credit: PeopleImages / E+ via Getty Images

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Lisa Guardiola

Lisa Guardiola

Diagnosed since 2004

Lisa Guardiola has been living with schizophrenia for 17 years. Passionate about helping others with mental illness, Guardiola is a community outreach and education trainer for the Sertoma Centre and the Vice President of NAMI South Suburbs of Chicago, where she leads educational and training initiatives. She loves journaling, oil painting, and spending time with her family and cat Loki. Connect with her on Instagram and Twitter.

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