Thursday, September 29, 2011

Insight and Intelligence

In the past three days, I've been three times to the office of my new psychologist. He runs a large practice (I think at one point he said there are forty-odd people who spend some time in his offices each week), but I have primarily been interacting with the owner and director of the practice. Today I met with Barry (let's call him Barry) and my mother to interpret the results of the battery of tests I took yesterday. Aside from the obvious ("You're really depressed!"), there were a few things I've been thinking about since I left his office.

Barry commented that the tests showed I was both very intelligent and very insightful. I've heard this from multiple therapists and psychologists before, and where it once made me feel proud and hopeful, now it's mostly just annoying. I talked about it with my mother as I drove her to the airport: what good does it do to know that I'm bright and insightful, if I'm still miserable? What good is it to be bright and insightful?

Well, the insight I know rationally is a positive good: I don't, for instance, make the same kinds of mistakes that I made three or four years ago. Because I'm observant of my moods and behaviors, and report them fairly accurately to the professionals whom I see for treatment, I've been able to curtail some behaviors and thought patterns that caused me pain in the past. But insight has not been enough: there is no amount of insight-based or skills-based therapy that will cure me of bipolar disorder.

So I get tired and frustrated when I hear psychologists become excited over how intelligent! and insightful! I am. I'm sure I'm a more pleasant patient to see than one who is dull-witted, combative, and incapable of recognizing harmful patterns in behavior, but it's not much comfort to me in the moment when I'm experiencing a depression that I know, rationally, is chemically and biologically based but which still feels as though it's rooted in circumstances and in my character and personality.

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