I cited an alarming statistic in my post Is Psychology A Science Part 1 (which you can read at the given link) that one of my research professors cited: there are about 40,000 psychological research papers published each year, and, on average, clinical psychologists read about 1 a month. That’s .03% of all research papers. I unfortunately don’t have a statistic for psychiatrists. I’ll work on getting one.
If our doctors are not keeping up with current successful treatments, it means they are also not keeping up with current unsuccessful treatments, which get weeded out in research as well. Remember, the whole point of science is to prove ourselves wrong so we may find what is right. But if we go around thinking we know what’s right (i.e, relying solely on intuition and clinical arrogance), we’ll never investigate what’s wrong. And that’s so backward.
And so the question becomes what can we do to make up for this deficit?
This requires us to think differently. Many of us are deep in our pain, and that’s okay. It’s okay to hurt, it’s okay to lack the ability (right now) to do everything you need for yourself. Your goal, at this very moment, is to be kind and compassion to your needs.
Part of being compassionate to your needs is caring for your health. And in order to do that, we often rely on the knowledge of our doctors. This can be more unhealthy behavior however, because it’s giving up our sense of independence and ability to navigate our mind by ourselves.
Some of us don’t have any other option at the moment and I recognize this. When I got released from the hospital, I needed my doctors to listen and manage my medication. They at least managed my medication. This was productive for a crisis. But not sustainable as long-term treatment. It’s not studied for long-term treatment.
Educating ourselves and participating in our treatment can enhance our wellness. If you have access to a college student, or are a college student, primary sources are the best form of knowledge. If this is unfamiliar territory to you, take a quick glance at one of my other posts How To Read A Psychological Research Paper.
If you are not a student and don’t know a student or professional with access to journals, contact me if you want articles on a specific topic. I can provide some.
Secondary sources like textbooks and articles online (including mine) can be okay as long as you take careful note of their references and click on the primary sources they’ve cited. If they haven’t cited primary sources or don’t include references, there’s a good chance the information isn’t reliable.
Any researched information you can present to your doctors and psychologists as ways to participate in your treatment.
This is a strange option because there’s a lot of unreal, invalid information on Social Media. But there’s quite a large mental health community on social media, particularly Twitter and Instagram. Facebook, I’m sure, has one as well. There are researchers who post relevant articles and information which you can investigate.
I don’t suggest spending a lot of time on social media if you are prone to depression. There has been lively debate on whether people spend more time online because they are depressed or if being online too much makes people depressed. Studies are showing more and more that feelings of isolation are increased by online use, not the other way around. Here’s one study. I’m sure there are many more.
If you can balance your health and internet usage, I’d suggest finding people online who model wellness. Not only can you find people who have experienced what you experience, but you can find people who have tried different avenues of treatment and have other perspectives. One of the worst things we can do for ourselves is allow our mindset to be fixed on one perspective.
On social media, there are advocacy groups and pages. You can find programs near you, conventions near you (if that’s something you’re into you), and you can get involved. Giving back can restore a sense of purpose for us, and that is a step in renewing self-esteem.
Think Outside of The Box:
Investigate different perspectives. Build the courage to try new things, not only in treatment but in your everyday experience. For example, my hair was always long, curly, frizzy, and a nice shield between me and the world. I hid behind it in grade school, along with bundling in thick sweaters and baggy jeans, even in the summer. I needed to protect myself because I felt unsafe everywhere and around everyone. When I started shedding sweaters for T-Shirts, I gained a sliver of confidence from it; I was more open and people could sense that. Because people sensed that, they were more likely to smile and/or talk to me.
This month, I chopped off all my hair. The sides are shaved, and the top is a cute, curl-hawk. For me, it symbolized my need to stop hiding. I have to put myself out there, experience new things, make rash decisions, make planned decisions, and enjoy my life. It took 8 solid years of mental health work, psychosis, depression, and deep pain to reach a point in life where I had enough confidence to do this.
And so I encourage all of us to remember if something isn’t working, don’t keep doing. If you are someone who wants to stay on medication and your current medication isn’t working, the next logical step is to try a new one, correct? Treat other therapeutic options the same way. If one type of therapy or therapist or psychiatrist isn’t working, try a different one. If no medication has ever worked, try another option. If you’re tired of living one way, live another.
There is nothing that says we must stay stagnant. There is nothing that says we must endure the same pain over and over again. The only people placing limitations on us is us.
These are only a few things we can do as consumers to promote our own wellness while navigating a system filled with cracks. Feel free to post your own ideas in the comments bellow, or contact me on social media/email. People seem to like DMs on Instagram the best.
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