Acting as an Empowered Patient

Creating an open, honest two-way dialogue with your treatment providers is the best way to get effective treatment.

I didn’t trust the unprofessional doctor I’d seen for five years so one night I canceled our last session and didn’t go back. I was afraid to tell him what was going on and this jeopardized my treatment and thus my success in recovery.

In 2003, doctors still had live women answering the phones on an answering service to field patients’ telephone calls. I rang, canceled the appointment, and two weeks later scheduled an appointment with Dr. Altman.

A testament to how unstable the other pdoc was is that he followed up with me four months later to see why I hadn’t continued to see him. Not three weeks later. Not one month or two months later. Four months later.

First, he wanted me to switch to an atypical when the Stelazine was effective and there was no justification to change the medication. Second, he kept insinuating that because I was Italian I would send the mafia after him if he kept pressing me to do this and I refused. I kept refusing to switch to an atypical because I didn’t want to gain 50, 60, or 70 pounds on Risperdal, the drug he would’ve switched me to.

As it turned out, the first session with Dr. Altman I was upfront and honest. Dr. A did switch me to Geodon in 2007 and I was lucky I didn’t gain weight from the drug. Instead of committing a “lie” by omitting the truth about what was going on, I was able ever since our first session to tell Dr. A the truth and get premier treatment.

It’s hard not to be intimidated by the ex cathedra nature of the doctor-patient relationship. You see someone in a suit and you confer status on them. You see their degrees taking up the space on the wall and you might not want to question their authority.

I’m here to say that I questioned the authority of the unprofessional doctor. I fled treatment with him when I realized the lack of open, honest dialogue jeopardized my mental health.

I will talk in a coming blog entry about firing a poor performing treatment provider and finding a better professional to treat you.

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Author: Chris Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. She owns a resume writing and career help business. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. As well as an author and activist, Bruni is an artist and a fitness buff.

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