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  • Posted on October 9, 2010 at 3:21 AM

Next week I’ll be addressing the issue of bullying.  I’ve been meaning to do so for weeks, but it’s a complicated and an emotional topic.  So I’ve put it off.

Today, I’ll be putting it off one more time.  Earlier this week I spoke to a counselor regarding a matter I’m not going to discuss.  However, in the process of this discussion the topic of bi-polar disorder came up—in relation to me, not my husband.  I got from this discussion a referral to a psychiatrist, who I saw today.

Fifteen minutes into the conversation the psychiatrist was convinced I was not bi-polar.  In going through her notes and the referral, she determined that a likely point of confusion was my use of “cyclical” to describe my depression.  I used cyclical, because I experience depression in semi-predictable cycles throughout the year.  My depression follows a pattern that allows me to recognize when I’m getting depressed, know that I’ll get un-depressed, and recognize when I’m coming out of the depression.  To me, that implies a cycle. 

Apparently, cyclical means something else to psychologists and psychiatrists.  It means seasonal affective disorder, manic-depression, and other disorders that involve a cycle.  But, unless the cycle of depression is attached to seasonal differences, cyclical depression is not recognized as such—they call it recurrent depression instead.

Thus, the interpretations of the experiences I describe can hinge on a single word.

In discussing what I do with the psychiatrist, I also asked if she was familiar with neurodiversity.  She’d heard about it; she’d read about it.  But her interpretation of whatever she’d read was that neurodiversity was anti-psychology and anti-psychiatry.  Admittedly, some people within the greater neurodiversity community are anti-psychology and anti-psychiatry; but I don’t think that reflects the movement as a whole.

What I think the movement does reflect, however, is the willingness to question the authority and expertise of medical professionals.  I’ve encountered some psychologists who regard this as a personal threat or a personal attack and I’ve encountered some psychologists who welcome the scrutiny.  However, in my limited experience, those who resent it seem to dominate the profession.

Personally, I think it’s important to question all of those in authority, not just those in the medical profession.  Not to do so obstinately or just for the sake of being uncooperative, but to do so because human beings—all human beings—are fallible and so are human constructs, including science (and, yes, religions, too).  We are fallible.  Our authority figures and experts are fallible.  And, unless we’re willing to acknowledge that and question beliefs (including our own), we’re going to be stuck with badness—bad science, bad religion, bad societies.

Luckily, I’m familiar enough with both myself and bi-polar disorder that I was highly skeptical of this hypothesis.  I brought that skepticism with me to my appointment today, and found a doctor who was willing to listen.  That’s good.  But I can imagine a situation where expressions of skepticism are unlikely or where the doctor isn’t willing to listen.  I know both happen.  And on such a small thing as two different interpretations of a word a wrong diagnosis can be made when all other evidence indicates that the diagnosis is wrong.

And we’re not supposed to question that?  I just can’t buy that.