A Psychiatrist Tells His Story to Help Patients


65968208891471edbd46094bf2ed8cc7_f2550Some of the best physicians are wounded healers, those who have walked through the pain of depression themselves only to emerge on the other side to help others. Dr. Thomas Franklin is among them.

Medical director of The Retreat at Sheppard Pratt, he is a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a candidate at the Washington Center for Psychoanalysis. He is Board Certified in Addiction Medicine and Psychiatry, and has extensive experience in psychotherapy, psychopharmacology, and addictions and co-occurring disorders. Dr. Franklin previously served as medical director of Ruxton House, The Retreat’s transitional living program, before assuming the role of medical director of The Retreat in 2014.

The following excerpt is from his his blog on Sheppard Pratt’s blog, Thrive, about telling his story in order to help others, fighting stigma, and becoming an ironman as part of his recovery.

I was a psychiatric intern at the time, and I was depressed. But I couldn’t bring myself to seek treatment. I suffered like that for months until I saw a colleague in consultation, where I described suffering the symptoms of attention deficit disorder, but suggested that a third-line medication for that diagnosis, also used for depression, might help me. I needed so much more than that medication, but my depression, my own inhibitions, and stigma kept me from getting the help I needed. Difficulty concentrating seemed a safer problem to admit to than depression. I was worried that I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a psychiatrist if it became known that I, too, was a patient.

I continued to suffer off and on for years, finally getting into real treatment for the first time after my training was over. A combination of psychotherapy and medications led to the relief of stabilization. Ultimately, psychoanalysis, a more intensive therapy experience, helped me to fundamentally change how I thought about myself and the world, which led to not just relief, but a transformation of how my mind worked. Eventually, I was able to stop taking medicines. The way I had felt only years before seemed so far away. I felt a part of the human race.

Until now, I have kept quiet about my experience. A continued fear of stigma has kept me quiet. I felt that if I was known as a psychiatric patient, even a so-called “cured” one, I would be labeled or disgraced or stereotyped. I thought it might hold back my career.

But the only way to combat stigma is to speak out. This is not easy, but I am inspired by those that have travelled before me on this road and by my current patients. I can’t go on urging them to be courageous, to face down the stigma they were feeling, without doing all I can to fight stigma myself. Only by shining the light of truth on people’s lived experience of mental illness will stigma finally become a thing of the past.

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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2 Responses
  1. Marie

    Dr. Franklin, please help me. I want to live, but not while I already feel dead. No one seems to be able to help me, it’s the same stuff that I’ve been told since I was 15; I’ll be 50 in May -Take your meds, stay in the moment, cry it all out, don’t think about it, try harder, allow the feelings then move on, keep busy, help others and you’ll forget about yourself..rinse and repeat. I just keep ending up where I am again, only it gets worse every time. I just want help. I try my best to keep it a secret because of the stigma attached-you’re a slacker, you’re not going to be rated as highly as your peers (I have 18yrs as mostly high successful at a large pharmaceutical company) do better, you’re just being overly sensitive, its just menopausal, its understandable- just go with it, everyone gets sad shake it off-man up, great- now you’ve brought mental illness to our family, stop embarrassing us and just be happy, stop being so self centered.
    I’ve been to therapists, nurses, social workers, psychiatrists -folks with all kinds of letters after their names. I’m begging for “real help”. Please

  2. Thomas Franklin

    I’m sorry treatment hasn’t worked for you yet. We often see folks with similar stories at my treatment center, the Retreat at Sheppard Pratt. You can discuss admission with someone by calling 410-938-3891. If you need help immediately call your doctor, therapist, or 911. The National Suicide Prevention hotline is 800-273-8255. It can still get better, even after a lifetime of suffering.