Six Reactions I Get When People Learn I’m a Psychiatrist. Especially When They Learn I’m Also Married to a Psychiatrist.

Portrait of the Proud Author in her Power Chair

When people learn I’m a psychiatrist, I usually get one of six reactions. “Don’t Analyze Me!” You think shrinks can see right through you without effort? No, we can’t. Getting around all those cunning booby traps you’ve set to prevent that is hard work. I always smile and say, “Relax. I’m off duty.” “I Couldn’t Listen to All That Misery, Day After Day. How Can You Stand It?” Can’t stand it? I love it. It’s real and compelling and I can’t believe my good fortune. Call me crazy, but I like it when a patient has a life changing Aha! moment because of me.  “What Is It you actually do? You’re just sitting there.” (Patients have been known to ask this too.) I’m not just sitting there. I’m listening. I’m thinking about what I’m hearing. I’m problem-solving how to best help you. “Your Husband is a shrink too. Do you two analyze each other?”

  1. It’s too much work. I’ll say this though. Staying married is harder than being a psychiatrist. Thirty-eight years! Thank you.

“Why Should I pay you to listen to me? That’s what friends are for.” Ask yourself this. Do you have any friends who will give you their full attention for forty-five minutes, think only about what you’re saying, and speak only to what will be of service to you? Me neither. My husband on a good day might give me ten. “That is SO cool. Tell me more.” Strangers trust me to help them, and I do. That is awesome. And there is so much I can do to help. I helped a man who was homebound for over a decade with panic disorder get out of the house and go on to lead a state-wide teacher training program. I helped a woman on the brink of divorce deal with her depression, after which she realized that her husband wasn’t the problem after all—she was. Result: no divorce and no custody battle—family life intact. How gratifying is that? I love making a difference in people’s lives. My skill set helps me take good care of myself too. Of course, I’m no miracle worker. But when all else fails, I can promise you this. If you lose your mind, I’ll help you look for it. Want to know more? You’re in luck. I’ve written a book all about it.   (Daniela Gitlin is a rural psychiatrist and author of Practice, Practice, Practice: This Psychiatrist’s Life, in which a version of this essay appears.)      

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