The first time I call the crisis team, I hang up as soon as someone picks up the phone. I take a breath, laugh at myself internally, then call again and leave my name.
When I get a call back 10 minutes later, it’s Flora, and I’m relieved. I wouldn’t say I like her, exactly, but I know her, at least. She’s done all my home visits, before I figured out that I’m allowed to refuse, and some of my you-still-alive? phone calls. I last saw her in January the day after I was released from the hospital, and she seemed concerned though a little unsure of what to do with me.
She doesn’t give any indication that she remembers me, but I know she has my file in front of her.
What can we do for you? she asks, businesslike.
I’m looking for a psychiatrist and I haven’t had much luck, I tell her, so I was hoping you could suggest some for me.
There’s a long pause. Ohhhkay, she says slowly. Umm….now….was there a specific requirement?
I’m feeling awkward, and confused, and embarrassed. Yeah, I’m looking for someone who does psychotherapy, I force out. There are a whole lot of other things I wanted to tell her, like I want to see someone who can see me long-term, who will let me bring Everest, preferably who has some experience with dissociation or self harm or something relevant to me, but I already feel like I’m demanding something I’m not entitled to just by calling and I can’t bear the thought of being even more demanding by outlining a whole list of things I want. Anyway, the words won’t come out.
And have you spoken to any of your current service providers to see if they’ve got any suggestions? she asks, and I immediately start welling up with tears.
I don’t have any.
What about any psychologists? she asks, and I’m annoyed. First, didn’t I just answer this question? Second, Anna got in touch with them to let them know she was quitting – that’s the whole reason for all the weeks they spent trying to get in touch with me.
My psychologist left over a month ago, and she told me to get in touch with you guys…she got in touch with you as well….I’m stumbling, not sure what to say.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, she says, part acknowledging and part dismissing. So have you tried the leaders from the DBT group?
I’m confused – why would I have asked for a referral from the leaders of a group that finished over two months ago and had no provision for ongoing contact? – but I still feel like I’ve done something wrong.
No, I haven’t.
Okay, she says. I can’t think of any names off the top of my head, but I’ll give you a call back in about fifteen minutes.
She does, and she gives me three names and tells me that if these don’t work out, to get my doctor to call them for some more suggestions. (What I hear is: we don’t want to talk to you.) I’m polite and express gratitude I don’t really feel, then hang up. I’ve already gone into a tailspin of shame and self-loathing and panic and I’m picturing blood oozing from my arm.
State the facts, I tell myself, remembering the DBT skills. I called the crisis team, they asked me some questions, and then they gave me three names of possible psychiatrists. That increases the shame – they gave me exactly what I asked for and I’m still upset. Why do I expect so much from people? Why did I think she would offer me more support than that, after the weeks I spent dodging them?
It’s 9pm and I’ve been in bed all day, asleep for most of it. I still feel exhausted.