Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer


Posted by Dr. Vollmer on September 26, 2011

   William, sixty-two, wanted to know his diagnosis. “How would that change things for you?” I ask, wondering about why a psychiatric label is something that he is seeking. “I need to know I am not alone. I need to know that there are other people who suffer in the same way that I do,” he responds, tearfully and powerfully. “It sounds like you don’t trust your instincts. You know that you are suffering. You know something is not right in your head, and yet, if I were to give it a name, then you would not need to feel anxious that you are somehow imagining this condition.” I say, understanding that labels cut both ways: they help people looking for support in their condition and they hurt people who feel stigmatized by being part of the mentally ill. “Over time, I would hope that you could use your intuition to reassure yourself that something is wrong, rather than relying on outside sources to tell you that you could feel so much better.” I say, trying to explain that on top of his depressed feelings, he is also feeling insecure, or uneasy about the way he is feeling, because he has never learned to trust his intuition about himself. “That would be nice,” he says with recognition of what I am saying, “but I am not there yet,” he continues. “I am going to go to a support group. It will help me,” he says, listening to my point about his anxieties around his condition, but also saying that he is trusting his intuition in that he knows he does need reassurance so he is going to seek that out. “I am all for it,” I say, collaborating with his desire to help himself, while at the same time appreciating that it would be nice if he knew he was suffering without feeling anxious about that layer of it. The journey is just beginning.

2 Responses to “Insecurity”

  1. Shelly said

    Why is it insecure to want to know the name of one’s diagnosis? How can trusting one’s instincts, if one is not trained in psychiatry, name the name of someone’s mental illness? While William wants to be around others who are like himself (and you are supportive of this effort), you claim that he does not trust his instincts because he needs to know the name of his diagnosis in order to validate that he has something wrong with him. I think you are missing the point. Patients can help one another and can gain alot of information by joining a community of others like themselves. That is not insecurity; that is called self-help.

    • Reading internal distress is a skill that should be taught in childhood, but when this does not happen and children are told to ignore their feelings, then internal signs of discomfort are mistaken for physical symptoms and/or mysterious ailments. “Needing a diagnosis” is sometimes a sign that one is uncertain of one’s feelings and so the diagnosis gives reassurance. I agree that support groups are wonderful experiences for people looking to share their experiences both to help others and to help themselves. In William’s case, his struggle to accept his internal world does come from his family of origin where the world of feelings were dismissed and so he was confused by his emotions. Your comment reminds me that I need to express these ideas more clearly. Thank you.

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