The importance psychiatric empathy and engagement in patient /doctor relationship

Today I had a routine FaceTime appointment with my psychiatrist. I wasn’t expecting much. We were just going to discuss the usual.

Yet, the first thing he told me

was “I read your blog”.

I was taken back for so many reasons. I had no idea he would have such interest in his patients, or have the time really.

What is interesting is that I had written my last entry on how I am suffering from the side effects of the meds I am taking, especially how I have lost hope, and how I feel disabled mostly because of the antipsychotic quetiapine of which I take a significant dose. Although I had shared this with him before, reading my words seemed to have had a different impact on him I would discover.

Yes. My doctor told me something I would have never ever have imagined any medical practitioner to ever say. He told me I have failed to treat you.

I could not believe what I just heard. First of all we are far from being done. I am still being treated. And I am a thousand times better my dear doctor than the first time I saw you. I cannot even find words to describe the state I was in when I first talked to you and you said yes I will take you as my patient. I could barely speak, yet you were able to translate my pain and understood me.

Today my doctor showed me how he truly listens to his patients. I had talked to him over and over again about reducing the dose of my antipsychotic. He had refused categorically on many different occasions and told me if I did I would relapse. He told me I had to bare the side effects and be patient. He was extremely worried about me.

Today however, he told me that he thought long and hard about my blog piece and decided to change the treatment plan.

He decided to change it to accommodate to my needs and because he had already increased during the past weeks my levothyroxine. [My treatment is based on three pillars: levothyroxine, quetiapine, and rTMS]. I had also a few sessions of rTMS as a back up before this new treatment plan. He also told me that if I don’t respond well to reducing the quetiapine, he would shift me to another antipsychotic. This was all I needed to hear. Hope is the most powerful medicine of all.

I am sharing this story today because it is really a breakthrough on so many levels. I rarely hear of anyone admitting or alluding that they are wrong or even questioning themselves really- especially if they have any kind of authority over you. Two, who has the time to read or listen or care about their patient outside of the 15 minute appointment slot they have? Who cares what they feel, like or dislike? I have seen my share of psychiatrists and usually when I start slightly feeling uncomfortable it means that the relationship is going south and the end is near my friend.

I have all the respect and admiration to you Dr Andy Zamar, a great man, extremely bright and sensitive.

Mind you this is just the top to the iceberg. My admiration for this great doctor has no limit.

I only hope that he has the opportunity to train other fellow psychiatrists.

Thank you for your humanity.

TBC

Bipolar, Quetiapine & side effects

Like many days, I was thinking today long and hard about mental illness. How it infiltrates the body and gets deep into it before you even know what hits you.

You wake up one day and you don’t feel fine. You probably ignore it. How long does it take to develop a mental illness? A few months? A few years? Extenuating circumstances? What do you think?

I was obsessed, trying hard to search in my memory looking for the one moment where I became bipolar. Was it a moment to start with?

I recall anxiety, difficulty coping with everyday demands, depression, but I don’t recall mood swings. I also don’t recall a moment or an incident.

Mental illness is not a common cold. It creeped on me a little by little until I was totally submerged and couldn’t breathe. Only then did I know I was ill. I did not have the tools to detect it earlier. How about you?

This is why recovery is difficult. The longer the illness before detection and treatment (whatever the sort- especially if they screw you up) the longer the road to wellness.

Now am better. At least I know what is wrong with me. I am taking meds that work, albeit the fact that they do have side effects. There is no drug in this world that has no side effect.

My thyroid is inactive. So I take a lot and I mean A LOT of levothyroxine without much trouble. My main problem is Quetiapine of which I take 700 mg. I have gained so much weight on it and can’t lose it. It makes me lethargic, slow, drowsy, and I could sleep on it 14 hours plus naps minimum.

Yes I don’t have mood swings. Yes I am not anxious. Yes I am not depressed. Yes I am not hypomanic. But I have no initiative, my IQ is probably half what it was before, I am just plain yoghurt.

Yes I know all them drugs alienate you. But this one is so subtle. Or maybe it is the high dose that is making me unaware of how different I have become.

You know I just want to be me. I haven’t been me since 2016 when I was 36 and now am 39 and am still this other person I don’t know.

Do you feel the same? Are you on Quetiapine? Are you suffering from its side effects like me? Are you thinking of tapering off? Are you scared? Did you do it? Is the grass greener on the other side? Your experience is highly appreciated here from a fellow survivor to another

TBC