Joining discussion groups about bipolar disorder has really inspired a lot of thoughts on the matter. Frankly, I don’t know why I didn’t bother to do it sooner. And on that note, here are some more thoughts. This time they’re about working with doctors when the desire to experiment with meds strikes. Of course, the standard disclaimer applies: these are just my own musings, they shouldn’t be taken as a prescription of any kind, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
I Do Know Thyself
Doctors who think they always know best are crap doctors. Doctors who ask you what you think and don’t assume that they are all-knowing are the ones I want.
In my opinion, there are very few cases where I would be willing to believe that my doctor knows me better than I know myself. However, I must concede (without a second thought!) that I would be getting in way over my head if I try to pretend that I know enough about medications to start tuning my dosage by myself or believe that I have a better understanding about which medications will work better, or worse, for me.
Fact of the matter is only a professional in the field of psychopharmacology could possibly have the knowledge required to make fully informed decisions about those sorts of matters. Any confidence that I may have on the matter is purely delusional. Put a little more graciously, the best I could hope for was a coincidental success.
Trust Thy Treater
The point here is that doctors are there as guides, as confidants, as advice-givers. They are to be consulted because of their expertise in the field, but their advice is not to be taken independant of my own intuition and/or knowledge of myself. If I feel strongly about something, there’s got to be a reason for that; even if that reason is ultimately inconsequential or inaccurate insofar as reality goes the feeling deserves expression. Naturally, that’s true across the board, but it is of particular relevance here because these sorts of feelings frequently come up as the subject of doctor-patient disputes.
So here’s where building a relationship with one’s doctor, psychologist, and/or psychologist is one of the most important things one can do to improve your treatment. Never forget that you are the one in treatment, and always remember to think twice about everything you feel.
The Bottom Line
There’s some between-the-lines advice there, of course, but the bottom line is worth repeating: ask for your doctor’s advice because their advice is always worth considering. Trust that they know more than you do. The final choice, however, (if you have the necessary faculties to make a final choice, and are a legal adult, and those are issues which will not be touched upon here) is yours and yours alone. The gravity of that responsibility must not be lost on you.
To end on a more practical note, everytime I was thinking of tinkering with my meds I asked my doctor what he thought about my experiment. If he responded favorably, I told him I’d like to give it a shot and was seeking advice on how to go about the trial safely and effectively. I actually learned some important things about pharmacology that way.
If he indicated that it was a bad idea, I asked him as many questions as I could think of about why he thinks that way. Usually, I was be able to tell immediately if he was just blowing me hot air or was sincerely considering my questions. I suspect most bipolar people will be sharp enough to pick up on this. We’re known for being super slick at times, after all.
Finally, if he responded indifferently, it was time to go get another doctor.