Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

The Psychiatric Guide to Annapolis

One of my many book ideas: “The Psychiatric Guide to Annapolis: An Atlas of Shrinks in the Sailing Capital of the World.”

Do you like it?

My research was quite painful. Having a medical file with almost all of the head doctors in the area (or is it the same file, in which case I never ever want to read it), I could divulge the skinny on each one…like which diagnosis each psychiatrist favors (some docs bookmark the DSM-IV–the latest edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders”–to a certain page), and which are his favorite drugs (i.e., which pharmaceutical rep is the cutest).


I’m sounding bitter, like I hate all psychiatrists, and that is so not true. The physicians who evaluated me at Johns Hopkins saved my life; I’m forever indebted to Dr. Smith, my current psychiatrist, for leading me to good health. But I do think that a depressive has to be VERY careful in selecting a doctor. Because she has to trust her psychiatrist with her life, and together as a team (patient and doctor) they have to tackle some really challenging stuff. Dr. Smith was my seventh doctor (not that I was counting), and she was (as Goldilocks would say) “just right.”

Here’s a summary of the first six:


Doctor One: “You’re a writer? Could you help me put together a book proposal?” (Actually, I think I offered–which is even sicker.)

Doctor Two: “You’re clearly ADHD, but your biggest problem is sleep deprivation. Go home, take this Ambien (even though you told me you are a recovering alcoholic and shouldn’t take anything addictive), get some sleep, and check back with me in a few weeks.” (Later I learned he specializes in geriatric psychiatry. No wonder he thought I had ADHD–compared to his other patients I had David’s energy after devouring his entire Easter basket.)


Doctor Three: “I’m in love with Lilly’s schizophrenia drug Zyprexa (or maybe Lilly’s rep), so I’m going to keep on prescribing it in higher and higher dosages until it starts working–even though you’re clearly getting worse, and you aren’t schizophrenic. I am so excited by all these new atypical antipsychotics! I can’t wait to try them out on all my patients so that I can share the success stories (forget about the zombies) in my speaking gigs around the country, as a psychiatrist using cutting edge drugs. And for anxiety, pop an Ativan every half hour if you want (they’re not really addictive), and a Valium or two at night. That way you won’t feel a thing. You may think you need antidepressants, but I’m so afraid of your getting hypomanic (and having a creative thought) that I’d like to keep you suicidal for now.”


Doctor Four: “You have low self-esteem and you had a poor relationship with your dad, so I think you have borderline personality disorder.”

Doctor Five: “What do you think you are–depressed, bipolar, OCD? What would you like to take (and how much)? I’d love to be able to sort all this out, but the insurance folks only allow 2.5 minutes for each patient, so you’re going to have to do a bit of the diagnosis and treatment. Let’s just try out some meds, and see what happens. Okay?”

Doctor Six: “I know you’re suicidal and all that, but let’s wean you off all your meds and try some hypnotic regression (using candlelight), because your condition is undoubtedly a result of childhood issues you haven’t yet addressed in therapy.”


Moral of the story: FIND THE RIGHT DOCTOR! Keep on looking until you find a good fit. Pay attention to your gut if something says “This guy isn’t committed to getting me better.” Remember, you’re on a team–so you should be shooting for the same goal. Be picky and high-maintenance and demanding and annoying. Because finding a good doctor is the difference between life and death.

  • http://HASH(0xd137e60) Linda

    They don’t call them “MDieties” for no reason. I had a doctor tell me I should take Xanex for the anxiety she diagnosed me with…even though I had told her I was in recovery and that I wasn’t going to take it. The same doctor wanted me to take Soma for a pulled muscle in my back…which I also didnt fill. I knew that if the women at the treatment center where I worked couldn’t take it, neither could I. I learned through those experinces that ultimately I am in charge of my recovery and that sometimes we know what is better for us than the doctors we see. I now have the same Nurse prac. that I have followed from office to office and the same with the therapist I have. They know me as a patient/client and so I trust their judgement. Life is too short to spend it all doing the med shuffle and it’s always scary when the combo stops working and I have to adjust again. Just my thorn in the side or cross to bear I guess. Thanks again for this great blog.You rock!

  • Larry Parker

    There must just be something about Annapolis …
    My therapist (LCSW) there in the late 1990s was into self-disclosure — a good instinct, really — but also disclosure to family, not such a good instinct.
    When I told my then-wife, at my LCSW’s urging, the things I did in florid mania, she (my now-ex-wife) never forgave me. (For the record, I didn’t cheat on her; but the things I did do were so strange that she was, I think, genuinely afraid of me.)
    Meanwhile, my psychiatrist was an absolutely wonderful listener — and a horrible psychopharmacologist. When I would tell her I didn’t like the side effects of a drug, if I admitted it might work, she said, “You’re just not used to being happy.” (If Zoloft pushing me into full mania again was “being happy.”) She also refused to prescribe me a mood stabilizer, saying she didn’t “really” think I was bipolar, despite all conceivable evidence to the contrary.
    My last prescription — and last appointment — with her was three days before I ended up in a mental ward. (Sigh.)

  • lady of light

    Theresa – it has been said that seven is the “number of perfection” in the bible – perhaps it was no accident that it took you that many tries to find a “good fit”. I am happy for you – you sure went through it in your search. God bless you.
    Lady of Light

  • Rory James

    THanks for your article. I had Dr. no. 5 Mr. 2.5 minutes. HE actually cut a 40 minute appointment to 15 minutes! I came in Anxious, Obsessive and had a fear of flying. I left Anxious, Obsessive, with a fear of flying and depressed. Thanks, Dr. On to the next one.

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