You are the best expert on yourself. You have, by far, more knowledge about yourself than anyone else. No one else lives inside your body or inside your brain. No one else has ever experienced exactly what you have experienced. And no one else can know what you want to do with your life—your goals and dreams. (I remember when a vocational counselor showed me my file and it contained goals for my life and how I was going to meet those goals—a document I had never seen. I was flabbergasted!)
If you are like most of us, when you come upon troubling times, experience distressing symptoms or need to make some life changes, you look outside yourself for answers. And you will find that there are many people who will be delighted to direct you, to make decisions for you, to take action on your behalf. You may reach out to your partner or another family member, friends, colleagues, a religious or spiritual advisor, a counselor or therapist, a medical doctor or medical specialist (such as a psychiatrist), a nutritionist, an acupuncturist—the list goes on and on. And while all of these people may be able to provide some help, information or guidance, you may overlook the most important authority—you! If you overlook your own inner guidance as a source of wisdom, your course of action may prove to be less than helpful.
If I Had It to Do Over Again…
In 1976, I was experiencing another deep depression—one of a succession of depressions that have troubled me throughout my life. I had never looked at the possible causes of these depressions. I thought they were something outside of myself and that I couldn’t control them; that these depressions controlled me.
This time, I decided to reach out for help. I went to see a psychiatrist and described my symptoms. He told me that, like my mother, I had manic depression and, if I took lithium and an antidepressant, I would be fine. I accepted his diagnosis and took the medications he prescribed.
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.