“Do you believe there is such a thing as a mood disorder?” I asked him.
“Yes,” he replied. “At least in language there is.”
“When and why did you decide to break from conventional medicine and practice a more holistic approach?”
“Eight or nine years ago. I was tired of looking at the lists of medications people were taking. I couldn’t, in good conscience, prescribe meds to treat the side effects of other meds.”
“Do you believe that manic-depressives should stay on their medicine or wean off all synthetic drugs?”
“I think if you’ve had a truly manic experience, it can be dangerous to start weaning off. Each person is different.”
He passed my test. More or less.
This guy is a holistic MD with a license in internal medicine, which means he will prescribe for me the Nature-Thyroid medicine that makes me think more clearly and gives me more energy, but that conventional doctors dismiss as mashed-up animal parts that have no data supporting success.
I am averaging about four new doctors per year because I have four serious issues — a pituitary tumor, thyroid disease, bipolar disorder, and aortic valve regurgitation/arrhythmia — and none of my conventional doctors want to acknowledge anything that lies outside of their “expertise.”
I’m searching for someone who will at least consider peeking at my X-rays and blood tests done for other doctors so that he or she can gain a comprehensive view.
The doctor in front of me has potential. He goes on to evaluate me and hears my heart murmur and arrhythmia.
“I’m not so concerned about that,” I said.
“What are you concerned about?” he asked.
“I haven’t had death thoughts in 45 days. That’s pretty remarkable in my world,” I explained.
He seemed taken aback. Most doctors are, I think, when you afford them a peek inside your brain.
“Do you want copies of these tests?” I asked. I am flipping through a manila folder full of 25 lab results, stool analyses, reports on everything from food intolerances to imbalanced flora in my intestines.
“Yes, please,” he says. He senses my frustration.
I am emotionally withdrawn because I don’t want to get my hopes up again and start believing that doctors have magical powers, that this guy can cure me of my ongoing battle with depression with a winning combination of supplements that line the wall outside his office door. If he prescribes for me the thyroid medicine, that will be worth the $300 my appointment with him costs.
“What are you reading?” he asks me, looking at the book on the couch next me.
“The Way of Serenity,” I say. “It’s about the serenity prayer.”
“The Serenity Prayer is like a triathlon, divided into three legs: swimming, biking, and running,” I begin to explain. I’m not sure why I’m going into this, but he has just asked me if I still get my period every month and how old I am, so I figure why hold back on my take on the Serenity Prayer.
“I need a little help with the first part,” I admit. “Accepting the things I cannot change. I’m much better with the second part — changing the things I can. I mean, I’m here, right?”
If there were a gold medal awarded for whole-hearted attempts on changing the things you can in terms of living with a mood disorder, I think I would be in the running. Not many people have tried over 50 medication combinations, over 50 different natural supplements, acupuncture, and every kind of therapy; eliminated dairy, gluten, alcohol, caffeine and sugar; run or swim every day, drink kale smoothies every morning, use light therapy, and graduated from meditation school; oh yeah, and set up a support group online for people with depression and anxiety.
Yesterday afternoon — the interview, the manila folder full of test results, the fact that I haven’t given up the search for a doctor who can piece together my many ailments in order to offer an integrative perspective — should be proof that I’m continually working the second leg of the Serenity Prayer.
However, the first part? I’m pretty sure I’d be disqualified on that event. My first reaction when something proves to be out of my control is to try harder, to force whatever is derailing my health or my agenda to cooperate through more discipline, better habits, a better policy.
As Jonathan Morris writes in The Way of Serenity, “Letting go of things that really do need fixing can feel like injustice, irresponsibility, or indifference on our part.” Yes. It feels that way to me. If someone writes to me and says he can’t afford my book, I put one in the mail for him. His situation makes me sad, and I want to do something about it.
If I nudge a person to become a member of the online support group that I run and as soon as she does, she is offended by some content and feels violated by some unkind remarks, I take all that to heart and apologize profusely to the woman that she was treated that way. I institute a new policy in the group so that it never happens again.
I tug and tug and tug, like the passage from “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Second Edition” by Steven C. Hayes, Kirk D. Strosahl, and Kelly G. Wilson:
Imagine that the situation you are in is like being in a tug-of-war with a monster. It is big, ugly, and very strong. In between you and the monster is a pit, and, so far as you can tell, it is bottomless. If you lose this tug-of-war, you will fall into the pit and be destroyed. So you pull and pull, but the harder you pull, the harder the monster pulls, and you edge closer and closer to the pit. The hardest thing to see is that our job here is not to win the tug-of-war … Our job is to drop the rope.
I’m so bad at that, dropping the rope.
It’s ironic, really, that I took The Way of Serenity into my appointment, because I had to let go of so many things I wanted to control: like whether he has the same perspective on bipolar disorder that I do; whether he thinks synthetic drugs are evil; whether he can interpret all of my test results with the clarity I hope for. The way he practices medicine is out of my control.
Instead of thinking of more interview questions, I must practice doing nothing: feeling irresponsible, indifferent, and as though I’m causing injustice.
The discomfort I feel in not acting might very well mean I’m getting better at the swim leg of the triathlon, accepting the things I cannot change.
Continue the conversation on Project Beyond Blue, the new community for depression.
Originally posted on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.