The Ambivalence Trap

The Ambivalence Trap

Liberating Ourselves from the Pursuit of Perfection

By Linda Gask

September/October 2021

Each morning and evening, when I push an antidepressant capsule out of the foil strip, the same conversation goes on in my head.

Do you really need to take these? You’ve been fine for a couple of years now. Surely, you can start reducing them.

But you’re well on them. That’s why your psychiatrist said you should stay on them, at least for a little longer.

Yes, but is this the real you? What would you be like without them? Wouldn’t that be the real you?

But this is the real you. Why can’t you accept that? That despairing individual isn’t who you really are!

I’m a psychiatrist who’s experienced recurrent episodes of depression, sometimes quite severe, since my 20s. At medical school, I was extremely anxious and needed psychiatric help. Nonetheless, I found it easy to speak to patients with mental health problems—which encouraged me to pursue a career in psychiatry myself.

During the 33 years that I practiced, when I was well, I was always certain that psychiatry was the right career for me; at other times, I’ve considered myself to be a total failure, despite evidence of my success as a doctor and academic. There were even periods when life no longer seemed worth living.

Since then, psychodynamic and cognitive behavioral therapy have helped me make many necessary changes in my life, but they’ve been insufficient in preventing relapses. And while medication has helped me considerably—and I’ve seen…

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