God, Psychiatry and Me: 2013


First, in the matter of Crowley and Crowley vs. Gottlieb, the trial is scheduled to start March 17 at 8:30 a.m. in Kent County, Michigan. “There are specific allegations for Count 1 – Medical Malpractice; Count 2 – Ordinary Negligence of Richard Gottlieb; Count 3 – Therapeutic Services, P.C. – Vicarious Liability/Respondeat Superior/Agency; Count 4 – Loss of Consortium.”

In short, clinical social worker and psychotherapist Richard Gottlieb is charged with sexually abusing Mrs.Crowley during counseling sessions while seeing Mr. Crowley in separate counseling sessions. There are reportedly about twenty women who have been victims of Gottlieb’s sexual abuse over a period of years. I have agreed to testify for the Crowley’s but do not expect to be called.

Second, in this year I have come to believe that some small percentage of cases of depression are solely caused by medical/physical issues, e.g., chronic hyperglycemia, chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis. I had previously held the position that all depression was social depression triggered by the perception of powerlessness. I now know that most of depression is, but not all of it.

Third, after having spent eight months in hospitals and nursing homes, it is my observation that the American medical industry exists without God. God’s faithful are mostly working as aides, with some nurses also to be counted among the faithful. Most physicians are not. The chief medical officer of Crouse Hospital, when I spoke of God, gave a polite sneer and said, “If you believe in that kind of thing.”

I had two hospitalists: one self-identified as an atheist and didn’t believe in the mystery or anything that couldn’t be reported on laboratory test results. The other was an Egyptian Coptic Christian (kinda-sorta Catholic) who worshipped God. Likewise, the most devout physician I have met in my entire life also was an Egyptian Coptic Christian. What’s up with that? The other faithful physician I met this year was an American Jewish man.

Among the other dozens of physicians with whom I have spoken this year, most acknowledge that they believe in something greater than themselves but they cannot make any statement of faith or recite any personal creed. As far as I can tell, the majority of physicians simply don’t pay any attention to their spiritual life. This is best summed up by the physician who said, “My wife takes care of our spiritual life—she’s Catholic.”

And why is it that the aides are believers and the physicians aren’t? I used to ride the short bus that stopped at a day program and picked up about eight people who were developmentally disabled. They were kind people. If one person had an after-program snack then he would bring snacks for everyone. They were aware of one another’s distress and would offer comfort. They did not swear. In short, they were model Christians and I came to think of them as residents of the Garden of Eden before the fall.

And what caused the fall from grace? Adam and Eve’s decision that they knew enough that they could disobey God’s directive not to eat of the forbidden fruit. The people on the short bus were innocent of ego problems. They did not think that they were important or powerful or in charge of anything. Contrariwise, consider the average physician. Or, as one physician put it, “In medical school I was taught that God makes mistakes and it’s my job to correct them.”

Arrogance is the greatest sin against God. How many humble physicians have you met? In an instant, I can name three psychologists who are grounded in faith and active participants in religious communities. Psychologists and physicians are equally intelligent but psychologists are not schooled in arrogance. Physicians cannot get out of the way of their own egos in order to see anything greater than themselves.

How many hospitals do you think are run by people of faith? What do you think would happen if hospital presidents stopped serving Caesar and started serving God? The CMO of Crouse told me that keeping me in an isolation room was “medically appropriate,” i.e., Caesar and the NYS Dept. of Health would validate him and back him up right down the line. And when I asked of emotional health, the CMO changed the subject.

God is love. Hospitals are about the physical body, without reference to the emotions, mind or spirit. The greatest Godlessness to be found in this country is in hospitals and the American medical industry. Most of American medicine is about financial profit. That is antithetical to love.

Fourth, in this Year of the Beast of the American medical industry, God and I ceased to communicate. For four months, that was because I ingested oxycodone on a daily basis. Any drugs—specifically including psychotropics—that interfere with messages to the brain also disrupt the God-patient connection. I have seen it many times in myself and others in hospital. God cannot get through the gunk.

Other reasons that I did not connect with God: possibly hyperglycemia is as disruptive of God connections as are psychotropics. One of the functions of faith communities is to support and carry congregants who are so sick that they cannot feel God’s love. In hospitals and nursing homes, you are excluded from the faith community.

At Iroquois Nursing Home, the chaplain and I met and liked each other. When she came back for a pastoral visit, she found me angry. Instead of staying with me for comfort or counseling, she ran to the head nurse and reported my angry behavior. The pastor did not work for God; she had aligned herself with Caesar, which is despicable.

I am at home now. God is, and I am loved.

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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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2 Responses to God, Psychiatry and Me: 2013

  1. Brian says:

    ”What do you think would happen if hospital presidents stopped serving Caesar and started serving God”

    I think it would be a tragedy as since all major world religions teach homosexuals are not worthy and other people as well and teach violence towards many groups of people I will never tolerate any hospital president or CEO or whatever serving god in their professional role or blending any religious beliefs in their professional role.

    As a former theology student in the 80’s I know what all the ‘big books’ of the major world religions say about many groups of people and the average ‘pew warmer’ does not. Most are ignorant of what their ‘big book’ states to do to unworthy people.

    Theocratic government and theocratic public hospital presidents are bad news to say the least.
    only 100 years age those with seizures were thought to be demon possessed even by some physicians being theists and exorcism was used by both Rabbi and priest now we know it’s from electrical misfire in the brain and treat with meds not hocus pocus.

    Religion and the God belief has no place in a public hospital setting. This is why they pay a hospital chaplain and patients are welcome to bring in any clergy of their own choosing they like.

    One supposedly well respected nurse practicioner working as a NP intensivist in a NC hospital in the ICU referred to a homosexual man having had a kidney removed due to cancer as a ‘phaggot’ yet she was a self proclaimed ‘christian’. When her one colleague reported her to their mutual superior she was the one ‘disciplined’ as her superior was also a ‘christian’……….. and sided with the nurse having called her patient a derogatory name.

    I thought for a short time your blog or whatever this is called was decent but I see now you are yet another one of those kind of people promoting mythology over science.

    • annecwoodlen says:

      Dear Brian, “a nice guy,”

      What Christianity teaches is love. All major religions preach goodness. The Holy Koran, for example, repeatedly exhorts people to pray multiple times a day and engage in acts of charity. Does every religion also have some sniggling little verse or phrase that mean people can twist to justify hurting others? Yes, but the big picture—the main headline—is always about love and caring for others.

      Why did you leave theology? Why have you chosen to focus on failures instead of successes? The largest chain of hospitals in America is owned and operated by a Roman Catholic order of nuns. “Religion and the God belief” belong in every facet of human life. Jesus healed! And yet you think Jesus should no longer be involved in healing? Hospitals should go forth without God?

      I do not promote mythology over science. I do something that is much more difficult: I work for balance between the mystery and the laboratory test. Science without a sense of the sacred is vile.

      I am a member of the United Church of Christ (UCC), which has about a million and a half congregants, including Bill Moyers and some guy named Obama and his wife. Specifically, I am a member of the Plymouth Congregational Church of the UCC in Syracuse, NY.

      A bunch of years ago we passed an open and affirming resolution specifically welcoming lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Then we took the resolution to the New York State conference and got them to accept it, too. Our church only lost two members because of the LGBT resolution.

      Now everybody in the church just takes it for granted that everybody else is some kind of weird warped sexual freak. What we care about are: can you sing in the choir? Help with Sunday School? Work in the Community Garden? Educate racism out of people? Fill the food pantry? And, yes, we all march in the Gay Pride parade.

      This is not a church that is run by the straights who “let in” LGBT; it is a church that fundamentally belongs to us all. What matters are: worshipping God; growing spiritually; witnessing for justice. The presidents of the Board of Trustees and Board of Deacons are a gay couple.

      If you don’t want to believe in or worship God then that’s your business. I’m not here to tell you what path to follow. But stop blaming the church for your choice. We are here, waiting and welcoming you. Don’t criticize us if you choose not to come in.

      You have chosen your own form of hate. You can change that. You can look for the goodness in others and work for change.

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