When I was transitioning between insurance situations I had to switch doctors in the process of coming off psych meds. I kept calling doctors and saying, “I am almost all done coming off psych meds with a slow taper, and I just need help finishing the process.” Most said they weren’t interested. I made an appointment with someone who had worked in the same office of a friend. I thought maybe they would have the same philosophy about coming off psych meds. Boy, was I wrong!
He did this horrible exam asking me the details of all my hospitalizations and I told him, “You know, none of that is relevant. What matters is what I do now to get through adversity.”
He said, “No, this is the way we do things.”
So I said, “Well, why don’t we discuss what I do that makes me feel powerful and strong now and helped me put all those hospitalizations in the past.”
He said, “Well, you know, a doctor-patient relationship is one where the doctor asks the patient a bunch of questions, then tells the patient what to do.” I had to laugh at that. He wasn’t interested at all in helping me come off psych meds, or anything else I wanted to work on.
So then I canceled my permission for him to see my records, so he sent me a letter firing me as a patient. I sent him this letter in response. The friend who had recommended that I talk to him about coming off psych meds asked me how it went. I said, “Well, I fired him, and he fired me.”
My friend said, “After one visit?”
The letter firing a doc who wouldn’t talk about coming off psych meds:
February 15, 2009
Dear Dr. R-
I just wanted to write a note of thanks for our appointment while I was looking for help coming off psych meds. I wanted to let you know about my treatment decision, and to advocate for consumer empowerment.
I appreciate you taking the time to meet with me last Tuesday. It was a difficult conversation for me and I thought it might have been for you as well. I appreciate your honesty in telling me that it might be best for me to see someone else who was a better match for me for help coming off psych meds. I am the kind of person that tries to work things out and it was good to know early on there might be a problem.
I was very discouraged after our appointment because it was somewhat defeating to talk so extensively about all the negative things that happened to me. I wanted to talk about some of my aspirations, current successes, personal resources, or success strategies that allow me to plan how I am coming off psych meds. I prefer to tell my recovery story than my illness story, and by the time you said, “Now it’s your turn to talk,” I felt too belittled to have much to contribute. I was especially disheartened to hear the statistic that people have a 90% chance of relapse. When I was more ill I gave up on believing I could have a life, a career, or a family, and that lack of hope very nearly cost me my life.
I remember an exact moment in 2005 when I was two weeks out of my last hospitalization and I was home surfing the internet looking for the odds of recovery. Because I am a scientist, I believed in the medical model. I found about a 13% chance coming up in most of the articles I found in PubMed. Somehow I found the National Empowerment Center’s website where they listed journal articles citing a 58% chance of recovery. I didn’t have the energy to work for 13%, but for 58%, maybe I could make it. This was literally a life or death decision.
I emailed Dan Fisher, their executive director, and he explained the discrepancy and told me “my life was as individual and unique as a snowflake.” [Here is that story.] Of course every article has a different definition of recovery, and your source may have a different definition of relapse. Thank God that no doctor or person in authority told me that 90% figure years ago at that key and crucial turning point in my life. I am including a chapter from the Procovery book about hope building versus hope busting.
I really don’t think it’s possible to rationally talk about coming off psych meds without looking at the evidence base for it. I am including some articles about it. I appreciate that you spent a long time trying to help me to see your point of view. When I came out of the appointment, two other people were in the waiting room and told me that they had been waiting for a while, but that you rarely run late for appointments. I could tell that you had really spent a lot of extra time with me trying to resolve a very difficult situation about coming off psych meds.