Who’s REALLY the expert????

Let me preface this post  by saying, I began my “career” in the mental health field in high school when I developed an eating disorder.  In college, the eating disorder continued, and I was diagnosed with depression (even though I had it since about age 15) and saw therapists and was prescribed medication on and off for those 5 years.  In addition, I had taken Psych 101 and Abnormal Psych because I had intended to have a future in psychiatry.  (I was hoping on the other side of desk though….funny how the tables turn) I was diagnosed with bipolar when I was 25 (about 5 years ago).   Being exposed to all of this since approximately age 15, I feel that I know a pretty good amount about general psychology and about the disorders I have personally experienced.  Don’t you?  At least compared to someone who did not study the subject at all, has had little or no exposure to psychiatrists, and who does not actually live it?

The other day, I was having dinner with a friend and I was talking about the NAMI Convention and the different things I was looking forward to seeing and learning about.  I don’t even know how it came up, but I mentioned the DSM-IV and that I had heard somewhere that the DSM-V is coming out soon.  That is when  I was corrected and was told that when I say “DSM-IV” I am referring to something that is on Axis IV, not IV edition.  We battled back and forth for some time about it, called in Google as our phone a friend, and kept going back and forth about who was right.   (Ok, so we both have backgrounds in the legal field and so every conversation is like oral arguments before a judge)  Toward the end of one of my friend’s rebuttals, they said “As a writer for the website, and going to this convention, don’t you think that you should at least want to know what you are talking about and not look silly in front of all those other people?”  I thought about that for a second and while the dagger was through my stomach, I quickly remembered that my friend has very little experience in the mental health field, and probably doesn’t know what THEY are talking about.  (Yes, I was still perusing Google the whole time trying to find one inkling of truth to what they were saying while they were trying to find the same thing).  Yet, they never waivered from their belief.  I sat there quite dumbfounded because I just couldn’t believe that I was the one trying to defend my belief and the interpretation I had gained from so many years of experience against his little exposure (and as far as Google was showing me, his unproven thought)!!!! 

Now, I don’t claim to know everything.  I sure don’t.  But, clearly mental illness and bipolar disorder, as well as anorexia, bulimia, and depression, are some topics that know a little bit about.  Yet, my friend had me sitting there questioning my own beliefs and things that I had learned as if  I had been a fool all these years for thinking something and believing a thought like mine.  We ended the conversation with the agreement to disagree.

Have you guys ever experienced something like that?  Where someone who  doesn’t know anything about bipolar disorder or depression or mania, comes to you and tries to teach you about it?  What do you do when they try to teach facts that you believe are incorrect?    Do you try to correct them, hoping maybe will learn a little bit from it?  Do you just shrug it off and walk away?  What if its your parents or your significant other?  Would you try harder to get them the correct information?  Would you become obsessed with finding every single possible source that says you are right?  Would you forward every single one of them to that individual? (heee heee. I would NEVER think of doing that! heee heee!)  What about becoming completely obsessed with finding a source that would prove YOURSELF wrong?? 

Has this come up in anyone’s life with their bipolar diagnosis?  Usually people don’t want to talk about it, or have their beliefs and stigmas already and just keep those to themselves.  

I want to hear your stories or your thoughts on this.  Or am I the only one that this kind of stuff happens to????? (That wouldn’t surprise me either! haha)

One thought on “Who’s REALLY the expert????

  1. There seems to be a widespread assumption that the professionals (psychiatrists, psychologists etc) often get it wrong because they are so focussed on their small field of interest. I guess there might be some truth in that and we’d all agree how wrong they can be at times.

    But I still find it surprising when people who know me (or think they know me) feel better qualified to diagnose me than the professionals who have done years of specialised study, have years of practical experience, and have spent hours listening to things about myself that I naturally try to hide from my friends. For instance, I’ve had people (who know absolutely nothing about the disorder except the stereotypes highlighted in the media, and haven’t bothered to do any research of their own) tell me that the psychologist and 2 psychiatrists who have individually diagnosed me, must have got it wrong. I’ve even had someone say, “Why can’t you just accept yourself as a normal person?” It must seem to them like I enjoy making a big deal of myself.

    And yes, even in that kind of scenario when I know that they are simply clueless, I will still begin to question myself and feel a bit stupid. 🙂 I love a good debate and I think I’d feel more confident if they gave me a chance to defend myself and talk about it, but mostly people aren’t interested.

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