In 2011, I made a drastic shift in my psychiatry practice when I began to administer ketamine infusions for treatment-resistant depression patients. As an early adopter of what was considered controversial, I felt compelled to help those who did not respond to standard treatments. This compulsion to alleviate suffering is why I chose to become a psychiatrist, and I try not to forget to share five important sentiments with patients who struggle to find relief when seeing a psychiatrist for depression.
1. I do not have all the answers.
You may hope I know exactly what ails you and what will relieve the indescribable pain you feel. Unfortunately, this is not true. Unlike many conditions, mental illnesses are elusive in their origins and cures. Every day we get closer to understanding these conditions, but at the moment, I do not have all the answers. A good psychiatrist, however, is an expert in the treatments most likely to help the depressive symptoms you are experiencing.
2. I may not know how to help you.
I am uncertain that any one treatment will help you. Though we are getting closer to personalizing an extensive list of available medications, there is currently no way of knowing how someone may respond to any particular option. Unfortunately, our work is often trial and error, but with years of experience, I anticipate this possibility for all of my patients. With every one treatment that doesn’t work, there’s another to try.
3. Hang on.
Medication trials can be difficult. Some people experience severe side effects; others feel nothing at all. The process of finding the right match can take time. Hang on to see the day when the pain subsides and you’re able to think and feel with clarity. We may not get it right the first time, but we will get there, and you will feel better. I’m going to stick with you until we figure it out. Hang on.
4. I am on your side.
You may forget I’m on your side, especially when we hit a rough patch in treatment. Even though we may not speak daily, you are on my mind outside of our sessions. You matter to me. Nothing would be more professionally satisfying than seeing less of you because you’re busy living a happier life outside our sessions. Our goal is the same. I am on your side.
5. Do not stop at medication.
When we get to a good place, it’s important to remember there are currently no cures and you may deal with mental health difficulties on and off for the foreseeable future. Being in a good place, however, is the best time to engage in preventative medicine. Developing coping skills, eating well, minimizing your consumption of harmful substances and exercising are just a few measures that increase the odds of staying well. Do not stop at medication. Celebrate being well by doing everything to stay well.
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re not a patient of mine. That’s OK. These sentiments are shared by the majority of psychiatrists who are doctors second to being human beings. You matter to us; hang on; we are on your side.
If you have questions for Dr. Levine, be sure to leave us a comment below and we will do our best to respond.