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Being the Expert on Yourself

In looking back, I know that I should have asked him what being a manic-depressive meant and how he determined that should be my diagnosis. Then I could have decided for myself if the diagnosis really fit. I could have asked him if he thought other issues in my life—like being in an abusive relationship, being overworked and overwhelmed much of the time, bad things that happened to me when I was a child, lack of close friends and supporters, or being kept from doing the things I wanted to do with my life—might be causing or worsening my symptoms.

I know now that I definitely should have asked him the possible short- and long-term side effects of the recommended medications, how much water to drink when taking these medications, if there were times I should not take them, what would happen if I took too much of them, etc. Based on what I felt and learned, I could have decided whether I wanted to follow his direction and take the medications at all.

What Others Had To Say

In the years since then, I have reached out to many other sources for help and guidance. They include:

  • A nutritionist, who told me that I needed more B vitamins and some amino acids.
  • A minister, who felt my problems would be eased by more involvement in a religious community—that I was out-of-touch with God.
  • Various counselors, who told me I should try to heal my relationship with my husband, or that I should leave my husband, and tried to direct me in and out of other relationships.
  • A body worker, who told me that my healing was dependent on the thoroughness with which I could remember and share childhood trauma.
  • A family member, who told me that I should “pull myself up by the bootstraps.”
  • A well-meaning friend, who said I should go home and bake pies for my family.
  • A benefits provider, who accused me of malingering and being noncompliant.

When I told a psychiatrist that I wanted to write a book, he told me that I was being “grandiose.” Since then, I have written 10 books and had them published. The same psychiatrist told me I could never lead a workshop. Since then, I have led hundreds of workshops, attended by thousands of people all over the world.

Listening to Myself

The most important lesson that I learned from all of this is that in making decisions about me and about my life, I first must listen to myself. I must ask myself what I know and feel about myself. Then, if I want to, I can reach out to others for their ideas. As each of them shares an opinion or gives advice, I can weigh it carefully and see how it resonates with me; does it feel right to me or doesn’t it? If it feels right, I can do or believe as they suggest. If it doesn’t feel right, I don’t need to think or act in that way.

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Being the Expert on Yourself

Mary Ellen Copeland, Ph.D.

APA Reference
Copeland, M. (2020). Being the Expert on Yourself. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 25, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 14 Jan 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 14 Jan 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.