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From Survive to Thrive by Margaret S. Chisolm

From Survive to Thrive by Margaret S. Chisolm

Author:Margaret S. Chisolm
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Published: 2021-11-15T00:00:00+00:00


My Case History

I had been doing relatively well managing my life’s demands. I had supported myself through college and withstood enduring the rigors of medical school. But in 1993, along came Clay. As happy as I was to have a healthy baby boy, I soon felt some of the symptoms of what I recognized to be postpartum distress.

This was not the first in my life I’d had trouble dealing with common life events. After the breakup with my boyfriend in college, I went through a difficult time. Think back to our “flow chart” of the dimensional perspective: based on my personality type, I had the potential to be provoked.

And I certainly was when it came to baby Clay.

I worried that a minor sunburn was going to scar my newborn’s skin for life, that a routine heel stick to check for lead exposure was going to cause him unbearable pain, that not responding to every whimper and cry would mean I was a terrible mother.

I could fill this book with all the worries I had as a young mother.

You would think that a person who is today a psychiatrist would have immediately sought help. But that was not the case. I was hesitant to seek professional treatment, given the stigma surrounding mental illness and the further implications it had for me as a health care professional. Moreover, my personality came into play, which fortunately I recognized, having taken, as part of my psychiatry residency training, the NEO-PI.

Through that testing, I had learned that by nature I’m a highly conscientious person, sometimes bordering on perfectionistic. Accepting that I needed to seek help for that reason alone was challenging. However, in this case, my conscientiousness in combination with my neuroticism worked in my favor, as I wished to be the best mother I could be and it was that desire that spurred me to accept my husband’s recommendation to seek help. Being slightly introverted, I am someone who thinks a lot about future consequences, and the last thing I wanted was for my untreated depression and anxiety to have lifelong consequences for my child, which it could have.

Another dimension of my personality helped me here as well. As someone relatively open to new experiences (remember that LSD experimenting in college?), I realized that this could be interesting as well as beneficial. I finally decided to take Richard’s recommendation to see a psychiatrist for help. I was so glad I did.

I’ll explain more about my treatment in the next chapter. But it’s important here to see how understanding the dimensions of my personality—the measurable levels of cognition and temperament—helped me realize why I was in distress and that (with a little push from Richard) help was needed.

The results of my NEO-PI from nearly thirty years ago showed that I was neurotic, far more introverted than extraverted, open, a little more disagreeable than agreeable (surprise to me, but maybe not Richard), and very conscientious. The test’s usefulness and reliability became really evident to me when I took an abbreviated version of the same test twenty years later.



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