What a week.
I've marked 47,372 Seneca College essays. That's a slight exaggeration, but it feels that way. I finished the last one at 12:48 a.m. this morning. A new batch will arrive today. It's mid-term season at Seneca. Don't ever underestimate the teaching profession. It's slugging, slogging, slaving, backbreaking and (sometimes) mind-numbing work.
So first, I have a little celebratory gift for you. Try it. It's fun.
I found it on the Healthier You website of Dr. Ronald Pies.
It's his Random Wit and Wisdom and just keep clicking away. Bookmark it. It's like an emotional antidote for anything that ails you. Bound to make you smile and you know the power of humour and laughter to heal almost any ill. If you're having a bad moment. Let's say you wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Dr. Pies "Random Wit and Wisdom" will brighten your mood. I promise. It's perfectly safe. There are no noxious side effects.
Now then, back to this week and Dr. Ronald Pies. He is a clinical psychiatrist and professor at the Tufts University School of Medicine in and around Boston. He is also the editor-in-chief of Psychiatric Times, and a frequent contributor. As well, Dr. Pies writes articles for PsychCentral, The Boston Globe and The New York Times.
He has also a published volumes of poetry and fiction, has written on philosophy, ethics, and has researched and written several texts on psychopharmacology and other facets of psychiatry.
He's definitely a polymath, who keeps an amazingly low profile. I first saw his name in The New York Times article Redefining Depression as Mere Sadness and posted about it here on September 26 in a post called Depressed about the economy? It's healthy!
Dr. Pies commented, very graciously, correcting a misunderstanding in my post and directed me to a longer version of his column on PsychCentral. It cleared up the confusion.
Then the next day, he commented again, thanking me for writing about his article. This struck me as rather unusual and charming and I also wanted to acknowledge my misunderstanding, so I emailed him back.
Thus began our amazing correspondence which Dr. Pies has given me permission to share with you. It sheds a great deal of light on some of the recurring themes I write about here. More important, it also shows a side of psychiatry we, who see psychiatrists professionally, rarely see. A humility and wisdom that OHIP doesn't certainly cover in my lively interlocutions with my most humane psychiatrist, Dr. Bob.
It begins with this:
"I am sorry to hear that you are dealing with these very difficult health issues. I can also understand how--given your extremely unfortunate experience with lithium--you might be very dubious about the benefits of psychotropic medications. Ironically, for many with bipolar disorder, lithium is literally a life-saving medication. In very rare instances, though, it can cause serious problems, as you well know," wrote Dr. Ronald Pies in his email to me last week. On my birthday, no less. As I was rushing off to my semi-annual kidney transplant clinic.
"On a deeper and more philosophical level," he continued, "I believe you are raising important questions regarding not only the limitations of psychotropic medications, but also as regards the whole relationship between 'brain' and 'mind,' as well as the ultimate causes of what are usually called 'mental illnesses' or 'psychiatric disorders.'
"Nobody, in my view, has all the answers to these questions, and I agree that we have much, much, more to learn. Nobody knows this better, in fact, than psychiatrists! (At least, we should....there are, of course, some in my field, as in any field, who arrogantly believe they have all the answers--these are usually the least knowledgeable members of the profession).
"In truth, very few psychiatrists these days believe that, 'chemical imbalances are the cause of what we know as mental illnesses.' I know this is the line that many pharmaceutical companies push, perhaps because they believe it will sell drugs, or (more charitably) because they think that this 'model' of mental illness will remove the 'self-blame' and stigma that many who suffer with these disorders (or their family members) carry around. Whatever the motives of 'Big Pharma' might be, it is naive and simplistic to claim that 'chemical imbalances' are the sole cause of mental illness."
In my next post, we will continue with Dr. Pies and his wisdom.
Just one note. Do not for a moment think that I am abandoning my focus on the Recovery Movement. I am not. The more we can learn about all points of view and all approaches to "wellness," the healthier we will be.
So, stay tuned. Tomorrow, part two.