Reader Feedback on the Depression Series
The Stress Doc turns to readers for their responses to his depression and Prozac series. And you don't let him down. He shares a number of provocative, personal, poignant and playful observations.
Encouraging Depressing Feedback
With the completion of my six-part depression and Prozac series, there's only one thing left to do: reader feedback. And I must say, most of it was very affirming. Believe me, this helps. At times, in front of the computer screen, I wonder if I'm not pulling down my personal and family history, if not my symbolic cyberpants.
As indicated, many folks seem to support what I call, "Confronting the Intimate FOE: Fear of Exposure." However, there was some questioning feedback from members of my profession. But before the readers' responses, here are the titles of the series:
- Running On Fifty
- Going Postal
- Weird Wired: A Family Affair
- Trial By Prozac
- The Prozac Paradigm Shift
- Coming Out of the Depression Closet
If you missed any of these essays, e-mail me at:firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first comment is from Bogie email@example.com, Co-Director of The Isalene Family Counseling Service. I also write a column for his offline newsletter, CONNECTION. (Throughout, I've italicized reader reaction.):
Your article, "Weird Wired: A Family Affair," was passed around to the members who are mostly psychologists and psychotherapists with Ph.Ds. They felt that your article was well written and intellectually honest, but wondered if it was wise to let yourself seem so vulnerable to your readers who they presume are potential clients. What do you think?
Here's my reply:
Thanks for the feedback. Well at least they thought it was honest and well-written, even if my motivation was questionable. Actually, I don't see the people reading my work as clients. I mostly see myself as responding to an inner compulsion: what I can write about with passion and integrity. Occasionally, I write on request, e.g., for CONNECTION; however, I always try to have a personal slant. With your newsletter, I try to be more conscious of the audience than I might usually. Though, with long-standing experience in radio and TV, I've probably internalized some sense of boundaries and awareness of the audience. I just like pushing the boundaries.
So I see myself more as an artist than as a therapist when I write. It so happens that I write about psychological matters. Actually, I write about what I've learned in my travels with my self, my family, my own therapy, my readings, my individual and organizational clients, my loves and losses, my geographic and cultural meanderings -- NYC, New Orleans, DC, etc. And, if you see those psychologists again, you can tell them that many people appreciate the heartfelt sharing.
And in a subsequent interchange with Bogie 361, I continued:
For me, maybe for other professionals, the issue is have I done the hard work to discover and accept my whole self - past and present, good, bad and ugly. And if I've achieved a basic state of awareness and acceptance, then anything shared is clean and will be refreshing and invigorating for those seeking honest and honorable approaches to expanding their horizons. And if I can find the absurdity or express some humor...then we're talking nirvana, baby.
As a psychiatrist, Kris, wrote: "What was once feared and is now mastered is laughed at." And as I penned: "People enjoy and are more receptive to a serious message that's gift-wrapped with humor." (Especially, when delivered with self-effacing humor.) So long live us fellow psychohumorists!
The common thread of the subsequent reader notes are an appreciation for my honesty and vulnerability and how this makes it "okay" for others to grapple with their inner conflicts. Here's one from a woman, firstname.lastname@example.org, who combines both a corporate background and a deep interest in new age healing:
I'm really excited to read the pieces on depression you've been writing lately. I think it's great that you can be so open, so transparent, so real with it all! That's one thing I really admire and enjoy about you, Mark, and I'm sure your honesty factor alone is very helpful to many of your readers. They see that it's ok to have 'demons', struggles, to be human, which will hopefully assist in facilitating the removal of their own facades or heart-guards. I hope someday I'll feel publicly ok about being so revealing about my own life, but at the moment, think I'm still getting comfy with where I've been and figuring out what to do with it all.
Then a poignant exchange with an online friend and spiritual mentor, SylHartman@aol.com, whose words have graced my column before. Syl was wondering if I wasn't giving myself enough credit for having grown beyond my past. I shared how writing was therapeutic and transcending, a reflection of psychological evolution:
Hope you understand that writing helps me to relive and integrate the past on a richer level. And when I can add some humor it just shows, as a psychiatrist once said (probably the smartest thing a psychiatrist ever said): "What was once feared and is now mastered is laughed at." And as I inverted: "What was once feared and is laughed at is no longer a master." ...
Of course, I don't see my readers, in general, as potential clients. Just as readers and seekers. I respond to them with information I feel they can use and, hopefully, that folks will find stimulating and even entertaining despite or, maybe, because of the serious subject matter...I wanted to be a little on the edge. Risk exposing my history a bit. See what response it would evoke. But, also, I believe sharing can be helpful to others. Not too many shrinks write openly about their own struggles with mental illness. And I think it's a needed perspective and we can, if we've done our headwork and heartwork, be role models.
Upon my explanation, Syl's poignant observation:
I think that humanizing treatment sometimes enhances recovery...not that everyone has to "bear all," but you have a masterful mix of sharing with and being the professional with your readers...Yup, I too think that it helps to take something and examine it several times over...past experiences included. It's really cool when you can look at a thing, knowing its behind you, knowing that its effect on you has lapsed.
And two other notes from a health professional who wished to remain anonymous;
Just wanted to write and let you know that in my opinion ("The Prozac Paradigm Shift") was an exceptional piece of work. I've known many people that suffer from depression, myself upon occasion but, hey, you didn't hear that from me! I'm currently taking St. John's Wort; you know they are calling it " Nature's Prozac" and I can honestly say I didn't feel that stressed out before, but the wonderful feelings of contentment I'm now enjoying are purely amazing. I can only imagine what the wonders of the drug must be like for those that need the "real stuff." It must be extremely liberating. Anyway, just wanted to let you know that you had my undivided attention with this article and think you will reach many that may need it and those that may not even realize they need it. Are you attaching samples? : ) ...
I think the articles that you open up more about your self or others with real problems really reach out and grab the readers' attention because so many of us have troubles that we never speak of, afraid if we do it makes us "not normal." But when the "Doc" admits hey, I'm human, I have problems and I'm still a "Doc," then you some how make it acceptable for the rest of us to "talk" about it.
And finally, this note almost left me speechless. Thank you, email@example.com:
I'm impressed I didn't think you crazy dudes ever came out of your closets. Now I know for sure all the things they tell me about psychology - or is it psychiatry? - students are true. Tee hee...smile, you deserve to. What I can not understand though is why someone who is depressed is going to want to work with others of like nature? Is it because "misery loves company"? I better watch my plagiarism. Now I'm off track. I did mean to only write and tell you I think you're pretty neat.
In addition to reader feedback, a measure of the series' reach was the many questions raised or observations shared about a personal experience with depression and medication. Again, thanks for supporting my attempts to capture the lows and highs of living on the edge. You help me feel I'm in good company. And just remember... Practice Safe Stress!
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Feedback Segment: How about sharing your thoughts on how you, friends or colleagues use humor in dealing with stress, conflict or moods, yours or others, in your personal life, at home or at work? HFTE will run the best stories and, of course, credit you. E-mail me at StressDoc@aol.com.