A change of scenery or a nice hot bubble bath has done nothing to pull you out of your blue mood. While listening to your favorite love songs you actually felt worse, not better. I hope that by now you’ve gone to see your primary doc and are set to see a mental health practitioner. What should you expect? First off, someone who gives you eye contact, so you should do the same. Meet them at eye level, it works. You two should be partners in getting you better and back to being yourself!
Be on the same page-
First off, the practitioner will ask you why you’re there. Different people go for different reasons. The evaluating person needs to know what’s bothering you. We all have different priorities and limits. I’ve sometimes thought a person should be on medication and they’ve been appalled by the idea. The symptoms of depression may be quite intense but you would have to agree. Don’t you think? Sometimes people are radically against medication but don’t tell me that until way late during the session. You may choose to bring it up early. I’m conservative. So while medication most frequently helps a person to climb out of depression it’s not the only strategy. Sometimes, I’ve been the one who’s appalled. There is help on the horizon and if somehow you’ve managed to make it to a prescribing clinician, there’s something important about that. Get the information you need. You can always rethink your decision after you’ve sifted through it. Or not.
Answer what’s asked-
Sounds simple but sometimes it’s not. A person can feel vulnerable answering personal questions about themselves. Sometimes it’s not in one’s culture or tradition to tell what’s really going on. You won’t get a bad grade, if you’re honest, honest. No one is going to contact your job or husband if you spill the beans on what’s really going on in your head. Sometimes people are afraid that it’s going to be on “a record.” Practitioners do keep documents but these are private. There has to be one-otherwise how can they possibly remember all the details that make you who you are? You want them to remember that you began sleepwalking with a particular pill you took that was supposed to help you get a good night. You wouldn’t want them to prescribe it again if they could help it.
Your mental health practitioner is not going to tell anyone anything. Unless, of course, you’re hell bent on hurting yourself or someone else. Your practitioner wants you safe and protected. You may not be able to do that if you are very depressed. That’s what we’re here for, remember? That’s why you came for help. If your mental health doctor thinks someone else should know, they will talk that out with you. Yes, it may lead to the hospital but that’s only if you really need it. Really.
Try not to laugh-
Some people think it’s funny when the practitioner asks whether a person hears voices or sees things they don’t believe others are sharing. It’s what we ask. Guess what? A percentage of people who are depressed actually do experience auditory and visual hallucinations. This type of depression is called Major Depression with Psychotic Features. Yes, you can get better-even if you are a little paranoid. There is medication that will help you and you can get back to enjoying the good things in life. Yippee!
Don’t be shocked-
You will probably be asked how much wine you drink or marijuana you smoke to help you sleep or relax. These are known to be depressants. The practitioner might ask you if you are sexually active or having trouble with intimacy. Sometimes a person’s libido goes south of the border when they’re depressed.
Expect questions about your medical health-
The practitioner will ask about your physical condition, may send you for blood work and may ask for permission to chat with your primary care physician. Sometimes our physical and medical selves get cross-fused. We might think it’s one thing but it’s another. A test or a conversation can help clarify for a safer treatment plan for you.
Bring a list of questions-
I’m not talking about testing your clinician on his or her knowledge of the brain and nervous system, unless for some reason you really need to know. They have licenses and board certification attesting to that knowledge and time is short. Ask about your diagnosis, possible treatments, medications if needed and potential side effects. Ask about how long you may need to be on medication before it’s discontinued. Question whether the medication that’s prescribed can be taken if you are planning on attending an extravagant wine testing from Thursday to Sunday. You get my drift. Ask what pertains to you.
Next week I plan to talk about different strategies available for mood disorders.
Are there any other questions you’ve asked or would like addressed? Let me know. Just hit the comment section.
Remember you are never alone!