Stigma Articles

The World’s Most Eye-Opening Psychiatrist Appointment

Thursday, July 10th, 2014


Finally, after more than a year, I got to see a psychiatrist yesterday. Forgive my negativity, but…I was not expecting much, and the good doctor did not disappoint. He did not exactly come highly recommended. He just happened to be taking new patients.

I was greeted with a half-hearted handshake, directed to a couch, and told in no uncertain terms that our appointment would be 45 minutes and not a minute longer.

“I’m going to ask you a lot of questions but don’t go into detail because we don’t have time for that. Going forward, you should know that all of your future appointments will be exactly 15 minutes. I will not spend time with you or really even check to see how you’re doing. I will check your medications and you will leave. I’m not saying it’s right, it’s actually very wrong, but that’s how we do it.”

It had already been a long day. My husband is sick. I drove with my parking brake on and thought there was something seriously wrong with my car for, like, 20 minutes before I figured it out. When I went to get gas, I pulled up to the pump on the wrong side…twice.

Remember that old country song, “Did I Shave My Legs for This”? I’ve been singing it in my head ever since I got home. Thirty seconds into my appointment and he had already done everything but win me over.

So he went over a long list of rapid-fire questions, none of which were out of the DSM. Nowhere in the DSM does it ask: “Do you talk to aliens or ghosts flying around your head?” Nowhere does it say: “Have you ever been found wandering the street naked and talking to yourself?”

If I hesitated for even a second on any of the questions, he motioned at me with his hands to hurry up. Everything was very black and white. No room for explanation or interpretation. He said there’s nothing wrong with being “crazy” or with choosing not to get treatment for being “crazy.”

He confirmed what I already …

Mixed Messages About Getting Help for Mental Illness

Monday, May 5th, 2014


This blog does not necessarily reflect the views of

I spoke to a friend last week who was in an emotional state of upheaval.
She has battled anxiety and depression for most of her life, has been prescribed numerous drugs, but never sticks with them long enough to find out if they work. She is starting to accept that she needs more help than just meditation and a Bible study at church.

She went to see a new psychiatrist (she moved to a different state several months ago) and he prescribed a brand new drug – one I’d never heard of, and that’s rare in my line of work. I’ve written about more drugs than you can shake a stick at, but this one hasn’t even caused a blip on my radar. That’s because, I found out, the drug is so new that no one has had a chance to file any lawsuits over it yet. (The sad but true reality.) My friend called me to find out what I knew, and I couldn’t help her.

Because the drug is so new, my friend’s insurance won’t pay for it. Her psychiatrist is trying to fix that, but in the meantime, the antidepressant is very expensive and my friend, because of her move, is short on cash and not sure how she’ll pay for it. She explained this to her psychiatrist, who gave her some samples and a coupon.

I am definitely concerned about the potential side effects of a brand new medication, but I’m more concerned that a psychiatrist has started my friend on a brain drug (because that’s what these things are, think about it) that she may or may not be able to keep up with. She is taking a pill that is altering her brain chemistry, and if she can’t afford to continue taking it…then what?

We live in a country of mixed messages when it comes to mental illness.
The list of psychiatric medication is growing and it’s not likely to slow down anytime soon.
The only time we hear about mental illness in America is when …

Know Your Medications, Options, and Risks

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Interest's ConflictsCreative Commons License David Goehring via CompfightNo drug is risk-free. Know your stuff before you pop that pill.

On May 5, 2006, I realized that I was happy. I remember the date because May 5 is my birthday, and there is no greater birthday present than the feeling of true joy. Maybe cash? I digress…

Up until that point, I’d struggled to find a combination of medication that helped my bipolar disorder AND helped me sleep. Insomnia has been my worst enemy for as far back as I can remember, and a lack of sleep just makes mental illness worse. But as I stood in the sunshine under a cloudless sky on that unseasonably warm morning, watching my nephew’s Little League team struggle to get a hit (they were only 5), I realized that my medication was actually working. I also realized that I had never felt that good before, which is sort of sad, considering I was 27. That’s a lot of years of unhappiness.

My “wonder drug” is Seroquel. Though it took a while to pair it up with Lithium and eventually Effexor, I knew the Seroquel was helping almost immediately. Of course, it made me gain about 50 pounds.

Oh, and I went from being pre-diabetic to full-blown diabetic. And it wasn’t always easy staying awake…which is part of the reason I’m not self-employed.

I write for a large national law firm based in New York City. I’ve become somewhat of an expert on the FDA and drug manufacturers. Drugs are a Godsend, but there is a downside to everything. For example, many people don’t realize that a new drug doesn’t have to go through any studies or clinical trials to be approved by health officials. Using an expedited approval process known as 510(k), the FDA can approve a new drug as long as the manufacturer can prove that it is significantly similar to another product already on the market.

In other words, if the new drug has …

Back to Reality

Monday, June 24th, 2013


I’ve been away for a long time, some of you might have noticed. Gone and somewhat in hiding.

Mental Health Frustrations and Rethinking Church – Kinda

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

whitechurchcrpdThe Mental Health Grace Alliance published a blog post last week entitled 3 Frustrations of Mental Health and the Church; 3 Ways to Re:Think Church.

The post covers:

Spiritual Stigma
unfortunately, pastoral staff members grow frustrated when they don’t understand why their ministry methods are not working.  In response, they unknowingly go into “religious default” mode, which places the blame on the individual, rather than the ministry. Like Job’s friends, it’s assumed that this hardship/ problem is due to the individual’s sin, weak faith, or demonic oppression.  Then, the church often backs away.  One pastor was dealing with a person diagnosed with a mood disorder.  When the pastor didn’t see it go away, he said, “It’s because the sin issues of his youth are finally catching up with him … he just needs to will himself into better choices.”

This is the “biggie” that so many of us deal with. Sometimes it prevents us from seeking help because we already know what the reaction from others is going to be. In my case, these were things I believed about myself, but I didn’t realize other Christians would accuse me of them. How I was naive enough not to think that I will never understand. I have come to realize that I was never accused of deliberate sin or of being a bad person; when someone takes this angle with me, it implies that I have not surrendered my all to God. There is something I must be holding back from Him, and that is why I continue to struggle with emotional problems.

Spiritual Fix or Miracles … often times pastoral support will prescribe biblical counseling and intense discipleship to “overcome” or see “breakthrough”. Some will even insist on “deliverance” ministry or an intensive “inner-healing” ministry designed for immediate breakthrough. The idea is to have the individual do more constructive bible study, prayer, and intensive ministry for an immediate “breakthrough” to “overcome” … to “fix” everything. It forces the individual to “pray” or “believe” harder for a miracle breakthrough. We believe God can …

Talking Faith and Mental Illness

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

confessioncrpdMy friend, Amy Simpson, passed this along to me and today I want to pass it along to all of you.

From blogger and former psychiatrist Adrian Warnock:

The people who run Patheos have asked me to host a broad conversation about Mental Health including bloggers from across Patheos and beyond. You are invited to contribute by answering the question below any time this week. There are also two more questions which will follow.

Bloggers are asked to join in the discussion and answer the questions as they are posted. The first question is:

How has your religious community historically seen mental illness? – And how does your faith, today, shape the way you see mental illness?

Christians don’t have a good track record when it comes to mental illness. We used to assume that mental illness was nothing more than demon possession, and we banned people from church attendance and treated them like the devil itself. In all fairness, humanity, in general, does not have a great track record when it comes to mental illness. People fear what they don’t understand. But the fact that Christians’ reaction to people exhibiting confusing behavior was to treat them like yesterday’s trash is heart-wrenching and pathetic.

Understanding and acceptance has been a slow process for the Christian church. It still seems that while there have been major steps forward in most of society, the church continues to lag behind. Old habits die hard, old fears even harder. There are concepts in the Bible that have been twisted used to push mentally ill believers away (driving a herd of demon-filled pigs off of a cliff does not mean that’s how we should all respond to people with schizophrenia, and hopefully if you’re reading this you don’t believe that.)

My own church is a wonderful place that is on-board with modern-day medicine. They run a theophostic prayer ministry that I attended for some time, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover they believed not only in the existence of mental illness, but in treatment. No pigs careening off a cliff for me. My church believes in …

Wednesday’s Hope Round-Up

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013


Sorry for the week-long break, guys. I was not feeling well most of last week, so a hope round-up is a great way to start a fresh blogging cycle! First up…

Study: Believing in God Helps Treat Mental Health Disorders
I love it when science proves something I already know. :-) A study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders says that people who believe in a “higher power” were more likely to see positive results from treatment. Researchers studied people with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and other disorders and found that “those who expressed believing in God between “moderate” and “high” had better chances of responding well to treatment, while those who said the do not believe in God or only believe in him slightly had a doubled risk of not responding to treatment.”

Rick Warren’s Petition of Hope

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

bubblecrpdIt’s a little late for Wednesday’s Hope Round-Up, but this story gave me a lot of hope: Rick Warren wants what we all want – to urge educators, lawmakers, healthcare professionals, and church congregations to raise the awareness and lower the stigma of mental illness … and support the families that deal with mental illness on a daily basis.

As you may know, Rick Warren’s son, Matthew, committed suicide on April 5 after a long battle with mental illness. Anytime someone uses their personal pain to ease the pain of others, its a reason to celebrate and have hope.

You Can’t Make People Wake Up. Only Evil Coffee Can Do That.

Friday, March 29th, 2013



I had the most interesting conversation the other night on Twitter, and I couldn’t wait to blog about it here, but I had to give it some extra thought, first.

When someone starts talking about demons at Starbucks, my ears prick up. That’s my personality. I’m one of those people who listen in on others’ conversations at Red Robin, and I chime in on conversations at the grocery store. This guy – who leads a ministry with 23,ooo Twitter followers – said that if you need a cup of coffee to get going in the morning, you are an addict and you are possessed by demons. Apparently, the ratio is two demons per cup. Why two? Because God had told him so, that’s why. He addressed my skepticism by saying I needed to talk to God about it, and He would reveal the same thing to me.

Yeah, OK. I was just doing the math. Four cups of coffee a day… that’s eight demons. You’d think I’d be way more disturbed than I am at that rate.

He added that “the average Starbucks is filled with thousands and thousands of demons.” He might be right about that, but only because they charge so much. I wish I’d known I was buying $5 cups of iced Satan all these years. I would have completely switched to Dunkin’ Donuts.

The conversation took a turn and soon we were talking about depression and psychotropic drugs. God had told this person that those, too, were nothing but capsules filled with Beelzebub. Depression is a demon, he said, and we should be praying, not medicating. Demons enter the body through medication, too!

(Scribbling on a napkin…OK 2 demons per cup of coffee…that’s like eight…plus a demon per pill…that’s 11 demons if you include insulin…now we’re up to 13 demons. What about dietary supplements? How many demons are in an Omega 3 capsule? Cinnamon? What about the dreaded children’s Aspirin?)

I did what I shouldn’t have done – I told him that my medication was a gift from God, and that He had used it mightily in …

Help is a Miracle if You Can Find it

Thursday, March 14th, 2013


This post has nothing to do with gun control. The cartoon above is only to show how easy it is for someone to purchase a high-powered weapon compared to how easy it is to find quality mental health care.

Now here’s an all-too-familiar story that is frustrating, sad, and scary.

Pat Milam testified before a panel of law makers and mental health experts about his son, Matt, last week. Matt struggled with severe paranoia and spent most of your his young life going in and out of psychiatric hospitals. The facilities always released him after only a few weeks. During his last hospital stay, he told staff he wanted to kill himself and blow up his house. Even though he was still deeply troubled and his father begged the hospital to let Matt stay, they released him because Pat’s insurance would no longer pay for his treatment.

In October 2011, just a week after his release, 24-year-old Matt blew up his bedroom with gas and propane tanks and finally made good on his promise to kill himself, and he almost killed his parents in the process. Only after losing his son did Pat Milam find out that his doctor at Oschner Hospital wrote that Matt had an “extremely high risk of suicide or another bad outcome.”

Heaven help you – literally – if you need psychiatric help. It’s hard to write a blog that encourages people to get help if they need it when there is so little assistance to be had.

Where I live, the phrase “mental hospital” or “psychiatric facility” makes most people think of one particular place, and they almost always roll their eyes. I refer to it as the “conveyor belt of psychiatry” because they bring patients in, give them a patch job, and send them out the back door. They are known for medicating before evaluating. Sometimes they don’t even evaluate, they just re-prescribe. If you try to advocate for your own welfare and speak up about your concerns over, say, being prescribed a particular drug, you will be told to move along and find …


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Recent Comments
  • goingtothedogs: I am sorry you had this experience. I laughed whole-heartedly while reading your essay, while...
  • Sue: Sometimes when you report a person for misconduct, it becomes hard for you to get another professional to take...
  • Michelle: WOW! That psychiatrist is a complete idiot. I’ve been seeing my psychiatrist for six years and my...
  • Barb: I am an RN working in regulatory enforcement and I urge you to report this man to your state board of medicine...
  • 'tara': CALL YOUR COUNTY MENTAL HEALTH OFFICE!!! they will help you and report that ass____
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