Will someone please remind me what psychiatrists are for? At one time I thought I knew the answer to this question but a lot of things have become less clear, since I stopped taking the blue pills.
My first psychiatrist impressed me hugely by summarising my life story in short, declarative sentences (about five of them) after a 45 minute consultation. Then, when I'd internalised the implications of this intellectual tour-de-force, I sank deeper into depression. I decided that suicide was the only sensible option and got as far as a wine bar, into which I descended to drink my last bottle of wine. Three bottles of wine later, I had lost the will to die and I went sheepishly home, never to return to work.
Psychiatrist number two operates out of the Priory, a loony bin for the well-insured. She changed my drugs, doubled the doses occasionally and advised me to find a therapist.
Shrink number three is an addiction specialist and has so far succeeded in trampling underfoot the miniscule sense of self worth that had survived the last few years of misery.
Presumably most psychiatrists embark on their careers with a sense of mission. Or perhaps I am being too generous. I really wonder, having suffered at the hands of the profession, whether its practitioners ever ask themselves what they are trying to achieve. Are they trying to minimize their patients' suffering? Are they trying to maximize their happiness? Are they trying to find a socially acceptable way of reintroducing mentally ill people to general society? Are they simply going to work and trying to get through the day without irretrievably fucking up their careers?
The three that I've been exposed to haven't, so far as I can tell, asked themselves this question. No. 1 was more interested in discussing his bond portfolio than my mental health. No.2's over-riding goal was to improve the IRR of The Priory's owner, my employer, RBS. No.3 is messianic in his conviction that substance abuse is the source of all evil, in which respect he is mistaken.
Over the years since I received the cathartic but fateful diagnosis of depression I have encountered dozens of general practitioners, psychiatrists, therapists and psychologists, only one of whom I admire. Only this one person can be said to have done me any good. I cannot help but wonder whether, if the profession of psychiatry were abolished, the quota of good in the world would increase or diminish.