On “Guideline is Function”

**I wrote most of this a while ago but totally forgot to post it, so here it is.**

Guideline is function. That’s what Dr. J, my previous ECT doctor, said to me about what the whole purpose of psychiatric treatment was. He explained to me that the process was to get me to reach a point where I can get through daily life and what comes with it. That point where I can perform everyday tasks consistently, without crumbling with every depressive episode.

I’ve been thinking about what he said to me for a while now. (I wish I had taken better notes when we had this conversation. He made the comment when I called him to ask about the sine wave machine issue.) That view seemed so callous and detached at first when he told me. Is that all he wants his patients to aspire to? To just function? Shouldn’t I get to actually like and then “thrive” at this life deal? I mean, I go through ECT and all the other psychiatric treatments only to just “function” like some programmed robot?

Then I remembered that when I was hospitalized five years ago (he was the attending), Dr. J drew me a circular diagram on how to have a balanced life. On that table in the common-area kitchen where the ward patients had their consults with their assigned doctors, he explained that the medication and therapy are only part of my road to building back my life. I think I got a bit annoyed that time five years ago, because I thought I already knew what he was talking about. But now, I realize that I didn’t quite understand how to even function at life then and how crucial it is that I live the balanced life he’s talked to me about. Along with that ‘balanced life’ diagram, his ‘guideline is function’ comment is slowly making more sense to me, though I still think it’s not the most optimistic view on psychiatry.

Functioning at life first.  If I can’t function, I can’t start thriving. It’s not their job to give me some “thriving pill” or whatever. If I can learn to function again, it is up to me to keep it up – with the help of the profession. As much as I’d love for everything to turn around in a flash, now that I’ve started maintenance ECT I’ve come to realize that things take time. And that while the ECT hopefully will change my life for the better, I must do what I can to contribute to make that change ever more possible.

And as for the function I’ve been trying to gain since the first ECT, it looks like I got into graduate school for the fall semester (At least that’s what my status says on the web; I’ll wait for my confirmation via real mail).

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