A Profound Psychiatrist’s Appointment

So we had a psychiatrist’s appointment today. Originally, our psychiatrist had asked to see our husband too, but he didn’t want to come. I was a little late due to transportation issues, but we still covered many profound topics.

First, we went into why our husband didn’t want to come to the appointment with us. The psychiatrist was careful not to let me speak through her for my husband or vice versa. I liked this.

Then we went into our treatment goals and why we’re going extremely slowly with the dialectical behavior therapy program we’re following. Our nurse practitioner had already explained that he’d like us to fully understand the concepts before moving on to the next chapter, so that’s why in three months we’ve not gotten beyond the second chapter, which covers core mindfulness skills. There are 24 chapters in the course. Normally, BPD clients in group therapy do one chapter for each session and so they can finish the course within six months.

I started to explain how I find it incredibly hard to apply the skills into my daily life. Like, there’s one skill called observe, which is intended for taking a little distance (without dissociating) from an overwhelming emotion. For example, you can start by observing what you feel or think without describing it. I thought an example of this distance-taking was to do arithmetic in your head. My psychiatrist says that’s a step too far, as we first need to observe that we’re experiencing an overwhelming emotion (or physical sensation). Then we can take a step back and decide what to do with it. I mentioned the physical sensation of needing to use the toilet, which commonly overwhelms me to the point where I can no longer act fully functionally. (Because I am blind, in most places, going to the loo requires me to ask someone to show me where it is, which requires communication we don’t have access to when overwhelmed.) The psychiatrist told me that, if I do observe this feeling on time, I can still decide what to do with it out of my Wise Mind (DBT jargon for the right combo of feeling and thinking).

Then we went on to discuss the “pieces”, as we call the alters qwhen our mental health team are around (as to avoid self-diagnosing). Our psychiatrist asked us to describe some experiences relating to them, like how many are there (around 25) and what happens when we switch. She then asked whether all of us could agree that there is just one body, whether we like it or not. This was a truly profound question. First, she had us clap our hands and asked whether any of us are still convinced they could use those hands to cover their ears and not listen to what she had to say. That didn’t work, as we still dissociated a little. Then, she held our right hand and asked the same, repeatedly. This brought on a ton of emotional reactions, mostly wonder. We couldn’t say much, but later, when in the taxi back home, some of us were like: “I may not be able to cover my ears w ith those hands, but I can still run from that psychiatrist. Oh no, I can’t, as she’s holding my hand.”

We also went into how to do treatment from here on. We sort of sarcastically said maybe it’s going to take us five years. Our psychiatrist said that, if we truly want to make this work, to count on it that it’ll take that long indeed. I’m not sure how we feel about this. I mean, when we first started DBT a year ago, we were told by this same psychiatrist to do one chapter every two weeks and finish in a year. Of course, we found out pretty soon that this wasn’t working and a lot of other issues got in the way, so we restarted about three months ago.

We’ll meet with our psychiatrist and nurse practitioner together someday in September. Our psychiatrist will then explain a little about how to go from here and then we can hopefully decide whether we want this or not.

At the end, the psychiatrist shook our hand and said: “Now I’m giving you (plural) a hand and say goodbye.” That was such a validating experience. It was good to be validated like we’re multiple minds but also contained in that we only have this one body. As a side note, neither of us ever mentioned DID or dissociation. We think that’s a good thing, in that we don’t need to conform (yet) to any diagnostic box. After all, we don’t “want” to be DID, but we are multiple whether we want it or not.

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