Anna the Embed: How I Got Diagnosed with Narcissism (Part III)

            The Embed doesn’t want to hear it.  If I am alone, it is my fault.  It is not the fault of a parachute that didn’t open, a doctor who didn’t know what she was doing, or wisdom that caused me to decide I’d rather be alone than kill someone on the highway.  If I am alone, it is because I need help.  The Embed talks a lot about how I need help; “help” is a big word with her.  Can she help me, she asks.  Do I want help?  Am I ready to help myself? 

Honey, I think, the biggest help you could give me would be a chauffeured limousine.  Get me the hell out of my home and into where people are.  I can make friends with anything that walks or talks—or crawls or mumbles, or rides in a wheelchair and uses sign language, for that matter.

So the Embed wants me to stop externalizing and start internalizing:  I am the center of the universe.  Everything that happens to me is a result of my behavior.  Apparently, in the Embed’s version of my history, I pack parachutes, went to medical school, and can transport by yelling, “Beam me up, Scotty!”

            There is one thing the Embed and I agree on:  you can’t change the world.  This is an absolute truth.  I know because I’ve tried and failed.  On this the Embed and I agree, so I’m thinking that maybe, despite our difference in worldviews, we still have something to talk about.  What I want to do is learn dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills.  One of the one’s I remember has to do with whether the person you are talking to has the power to do what you want.

I remembered this recently when I was getting frustrated and then angry because I needed some medical equipment adjusted and the receptionist wasn’t doing a damn thing for me.  Then I realized that it required a doctor’s order and all the receptionist had the power to do was give the doctor a message.  DBT teaches you useful things like this and I want to learn more.  I’m sick and tired of having to get angry to get anyone to do anything.

            The Embed talks about my anger; psychologists do that a lot, which pisses me off.  She is insistent that I must learn ways to control my anger or not get angry.  I am equally insistent that I want to learn ways to get my needs met without having to get angry.  The Embed wants to change the emotion; I want to change the life circumstances that precipitate the emotion.  The emotion is healthy, God-given, and necessary:  contemporary American medicine is a quagmire and only works when you yell at it.

            The Embed wants me to declare myself sick and in need of help; I want to declare myself ignorant and in need of an education.  The most profound therapeutic experience I ever had was with a person who never said I was sick.  He said I made mistakes because I had never been properly taught and now he would teach me.

            The Embed has been getting progressively chillier and now she rests her papers in her lap and tells me she doesn’t think this will work, this idea of me being in her group.  I am conciliatory and speak softly.  I ask her why she thinks it won’t work.  She implies that my attitude would be hurtful to others in the group.

            I remind her that I have post-traumatic stress disorder induced by the medical profession in general and psychiatry in specific.  I point out that she is a doctor sitting in a hospital office located in a psychiatric center and it is an extreme trigger for me.  I point out to her that she has never seen me in the context of a group or relating to any other people.  She has no way of knowing how generous, kind and considerate I am with my peers.

            The Embed tells me she just really doesn’t think this is going to work.  She says her heart is pounding and she is feeling hurt.

            ‘Holy shit, lady,’ I think.  ‘How do you think I’ve been feeling for the past fifteen minutes?  Was I supposed to tell you?  What would you have done?  Anything that would have been nice for me?  Or would you just have noted it for clinical purposes?’

            I speak to her quietly and try to comfort her.  I reassure her.  I contemplate this odd development and try to think when, in the past decade of a hundred doctors, one has ever told me of feeling hurt and anxious.


            What would happen if doctors acted like human beings and spoke up when they feel hurt?  What would contemporary medicine be like if “professional” behavior wasn’t synonymous with inhuman behavior?  What would malpractice insurance cost if doctors and patients talked to each other about the pain they both feel?  Do doctors have the capacity to feel pain?  What would happen if we admitted that we all inflict and receive pain?

            After a decade of abuse at the hands of the medical industry—times when I’ve yelled, “You’re hurting me!” and they’ve ignored me—I have taught myself retaliatory hurt:

  • If your doctor hurts you because she doesn’t listen to you, then you file a complaint against her with the Office of Professional Medical Conduct, which can revoke her license.
  • If your psychotherapist is hurting you because he won’t listen to you, then you threaten to file a complaint against him with the Office of Education, which holds his license.
  • If your medical equipment company endangers you by refusing to follow a doctor’s order, then you file a complaint against the company with the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals, which holds their license.  (To be continued)

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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