Great Idea, Rea, Go Ahead And Make Some More Dumb Decisions

Two more days until the appointment, and I’m afraid that if she asks me about what happened with my last therapists, I’ll cry. It feels very important that I not cry.

One option is to cut myself, soon enough before the appointment that it’s still fresh, but long enough that I don’t bleed through the bandage and onto my clothes. Somewhere that my hand naturally rests, the top of my thigh maybe, or the side of my ribs, so that I can press into it, hard, when I start feeling emotional.

My preference would be a chemical burn. To soak a cloth in bleach and tape it to my skin, so that it hurts throughout the appointment, keeps me sharp and clear. It’s risky, though; I can’t think of a good explanation for the smell (removing nail polish?) and it might bleach through my clothes. Plus chemical burns are usually too superficial to really help, and they itch like crazy.

I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to be calm and detached and pretend I don’t care if she can’t help me. And I don’t want to be honest and vulnerable and open myself up to hurting myself badly when she decides she can’t see me (see psychiatrist #4 below). I’m frustrated with myself for “making this into such a big deal“, but it is a big deal for me. It probably wouldn’t be for other people, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is for me. And I’m being stupid, because I wouldn’t be anywhere near so anxious about this if I could take Everest with me, and one of the other practitioners at this clinic has a therapy dog, so it quite possibly wouldn’t be an issue. But I can’t make myself ask my brother to call and check, because I’m convinced that I’ll seem impossibly high maintenance and ruin any possible chance I have of her seeing me again.

She asked me to bring a list of the psychiatrists I’ve already seen, presumably so she can cross them off the list of possible referrals. This seemed like the right moment to reflect on 2015 and the 6 experiences it brought me.

#1. After 5 minutes, he decided it would be more productive if I went and sat in the waiting room and he took my history from R instead. For the whole 50 minute consult. I went out obligingly then thought “wait…what the fuck?“. Even then, I still went back for a second appointment, during which he repeatedly told me he was only a baby psychiatrist so I couldn’t expect too much from him, and informed me that he would need to speak with my parents about their perspective of my issues. (I was 24.) I did not go back.

#2. To borrow a phrase from La Quemada, a NAPIWET of the highest order. We were late and she got into an argument with R in the waiting room over the (apparently ridiculous) suggestion that perhaps the receptionist had given us the address to a different office where she also consults. Her tiny office had a huge desk between me and the door (panic panic panic!) and she was cold and clinical. At the end of the 50 minutes she informed me that I definitely had borderline personality disorder because all people who self harm do (not true) and that I needed to get into a DBT program that would teach me that the rejection I was perceiving from medical staff wasn’t really happening and was all in my head (Really? Comments like “You need stitches but I’m not going to waste my time because you’re just going to cut again anyway” were just me reading too much into things?). She referred me on to #3.

#3. I still feel bad about cancelling my second appointment with her. She didn’t do anything wrong – she listened, didn’t show any signs of exasperation when I didn’t share much, and she really thought about what other resources she could refer me to (like a low-cost psychotherapy program). Probably I should call and find out if she could see me again. The reason I didn’t go back is because she often didn’t understand what I was saying, and asked me to repeat myself or asked questions that made it clear she’d misunderstood. This may have been partly because English is her second language, or because of my style of speaking – I’m a sesquipedalian and tend to use very formal, rigid English when I feel uncomfortable (which is probably why my third psychologist, Gemma, told me I came across as arrogant in my first session with her). 

#4. I was so excited about her. She was a psychiatrist who did psychotherapy, and I’d spoken to her on the phone when I made the appointment and really liked her.  Things felt a little off during our first session, but I really wanted to believe that she was the one, my therapy soulmate, so I kept stretching myself, and I told her more than anybody I’d seen before. Towards the end of the session, she told me – in a tone that indicated it should be obvious – that she couldn’t see me on an ongoing basis, but if I wanted to make another appointment in a month (a month!) she could call around and see if she could find someone who would see me. I barely made it through the rest of the session, and when I got home, I burnt myself beyond my body’s capacity to heal. I believed that there had to be something truly, fundamentally wrong with me for so many practitioners to reject me and I was so distressed I could hardly feel the flame touching my skin. A week after I got out of the hospital, from surgery to fix the burn, she called me and said she was sorry to hear about my injuries (the hospital had called her to confirm that I had an upcoming appointment), but that she hadn’t been able to find anybody who’d take me on so there was no point me coming in next week. She wrote a letter to my GP, and S offered to print me a copy then took a look at it on the screen and said “Oh, wait…better not“. I still wonder what was in that letter.

#5. He was lovely and he tried really hard to connect with me. Our first session wasn’t great; as usual, he assumed I have borderline personality disorder, and started telling me not to go home thinking that he’s terrible because things aren’t black and white and he’s not all bad. Which made me angry, because that isn’t how I think, and there’s such arrogance in the assumption that you can predict anybody’s thoughts after knowing them for less than an hour. But I was sick of searching and he seemed okay, so I kept going. Honestly, (and this is embarrassing), if he had been a woman then I would probably have been able to connect with him, and would be happy to keep seeing him. But he wasn’t the mother figure I wanted, so I never warmed to him, and I wouldn’t share anything with him. 

#6. I liked her dog? I very reluctantly went to see her shortly after being released from hospital following a suicide attempt because #5 wanted a second opinion. No idea what happened with that – I never heard from her.

Anna was so different. At the very start of our first session, she observed that she could tell I wasn’t feeling grounded and that was okay, admitted that she was feeling nervous too, and told me that she’d warmed up a heat bag in case I wanted something to hold onto to help me stay more present. (I didn’t, but the care and thought in that gesture…it still amazes me.) She asked me if I was happy sitting on the chairs, or whether I would prefer to sit on the ground, or on the desk, or stand. I felt uncomfortable (holy shit, so uncomfortable) but she was really attuned to me in a way that was more comforting than scary.

Still, though, I have to reluctantly admit that my history with psychiatrists is not as bad as the story I tell myself. Two of them were objectively terrible. One was horribly disappointing, but because of how I reacted to her, not because of her. I wrote one of them off too soon, and the other just had the misfortune of being the wrong gender. All in all, not sufficient reason for the total terror I have about seeing another one.

But really, the reason I’ve calmed down a little is because I’ve decided to make an appointment with one of the psychologists I’ve found online who look empathetic and a good fit for me. This is probably a stupid decision. I have two appointments this week with two different psychiatrists, and with a third later in June. Should I really be adding another person I can only (and barely) afford to see for 10 sessions? Shouldn’t I at least wait and see how it goes with the other people first?

Fuck. Of course I should. But I’m desperate for some empathetic connection. Desperate is such a dirty word, to me, but I am. I feel like I have to sit in a room with someone who understands the pain and fear and overwhelm I’m experiencing and cares about it, or I’m going to self-destruct. In my experience, psychiatrists don’t do that. I don’t care about making progress or learning new skills, I just want to spend an hour a week feeling less alone.

Stupid. Pathetic. I think I’m going to do it anyway.

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Great Idea, Rea, Go Ahead And Make Some More Dumb Decisions

21 thoughts on “Great Idea, Rea, Go Ahead And Make Some More Dumb Decisions

  1. I don’t hear any dumb decisions, or anything stupid or pathetic about your decision to make a decision with the psychologist. It sounds wise to me. You are in such a painful, delicate place, and really need support and empathy and validation and not to feel alone. This is vital. Your experiences with psychiatrists (who aren’t really trained so much in empathy, anyways) have proven disappointing and you have little faith that they will work out. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Shopping around, expanding options, finding someone who gets you and hears you, are all wise decisions.

    I’m sorry you’ve had such negative experiences seeking support. I wish it was easier to find affordable, competent, ethical support. You aren’t bad or messed up and that is not why you’ve had trouble. There is nothing you could do, to cast away someone who is able to help. They will do it because they want to, not because you are a certain way or withhold information or don’t act a certain way. I know it is hard to believe that (given I can’t really absorb that myself fully), and I get the fear. So if you make 10 appointments, great. Whatever it takes to keep you returning and trying.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I guess I’m worried that I’m making a decision based on what I want RIGHT NOW that’s going to make things worse for me down the track. If she’s awful, then that’s not helpful (and part of me thinks she’s not really going to bother much if she knows I’m only coming for a couple of months). If she’s great, I’m going to really struggle with leaving after I use up my 10 subsidized sessions and I can’t afford to see her anymore, and I’m going to judge any psychiatrists I see more harshly by comparison. Or maybe she’ll help me get through the short term and I’ll find a psychiatrist who’s great, but I probably shouldn’t count on that being the outcome.

      As always, I appreciate your thoughts and your support.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I hear you, and there isn’t any way to predict the future. This reminds me of last summer, when I knew I needed a new therapist, and my current therapist wasn’t available till mid June. I was in complete crisis mode and had to wait almost a month to meet her. So I went to therapist #2 for a couple weeks, while weaning off Delaney. That last week, I saw all three of them. It helped me, the comparison. Having therapist #2 to compare my current therapist to, helped solidify my choice. And having both, helped really solidify my choice to leave Delaney. I know it isn’t exactly the same, but having comparisons might give a more balanced view than going to someone with such hope and expectation (natural hope and expectation). It could also provide a buffer, this short-term person, if the psychiatrist doesn’t work out. Someone to support you in the process, so hopefully you don’t burn yourself again. Because I know you don’t want to hurt yourself, you just don’t have any other options. Maybe she can be an option, if not long-term, then short-term.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. And, sometimes our “right now” decisions don’t seem so great when we look at them later, but in the moment, it was the best choice for that time. When we are in crisis mode and very activated, it is hard to know what to do. So we make choices with our current ability to, and that is good enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s true, and it is what I’ve been telling myself. Sometimes you have to make the least shitty decision you can in the circumstances, and if the idea of seeing the psychologist eases my urge to hurt myself, then fuck it, I guess I will, and if it makes things worse then I’ll deal with it then, but don’t slaughter the pig before arranging the party. Or something like that.

      In five minutes I’ll probably change my mind again, but it is very normalizing and helpful to hear about therapist #2. Thank you for sharing that.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Any time. I think those of us with very active minds (working memory and processing speed) tend to be able to come up with a lot of possible scenarios. Most of which never play out but cause us significant grief. I felt really self-conscious seeing (and paying for!) three therapists in one week. I don’t regret it. The reality is, you are in a tough spot. Any decision is likely to feel shitty, even if it isn’t a shitty decision. From over here, you aren’t making shitty decisions at all, but I know it doesn’t feel that way to you. Glad I could normalize.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s definitely true – I’ve already had at least 6 or 7 different first sessions with the psychiatrist in my head! Called and made an appointment with the psychologist this morning, and the receptionist told me to pick any day next week, and she was literally free ALL DAY on the one I chose…which concerns me a lot. But keeping an open mind.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. There goes the mind again, being concerned and jumping to a conclusion. Hard not to run away with the worries. Did you see the psychiatrist??

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  3. This.shaking says:

    Dear Rea: Rachel is so right. All I want to do is hold your hand. [But in a sesquipedalian way, of course.] TS

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  4. There are a lot of people who work in mental health who aren’t good at it. A LOT! Unfortunately you seem to have encountered a lot of them. That’s not your fault; it’s not because of a flaw in your character or the hopelessness of your case. It may be that many providers know about things lots of people have (relationship challenges, mild to moderate depression, some anxiety). They may not have the more advanced training to deal with the consequences of severe trauma. I think this may be especially true of psychiatrists. They had to go through medical school and learn a lot of other stuff. And all that chemistry. They don’t have the time (and maybe not the interest) to go deep into the type of therapy you need. So instead they make a lot of silly assumptions based on minimal knowledge.

    This leaves you sometimes with bad choices, choices between two or three possibly inadequate options. So unfair! If that is what happens, please don’t blame yourself for making bad decisions. I would instead admire your courage and persistence in the face of bad past experience and insufficient good choices. There is something very healthy in you that wants real help. It makes me furious that these providers assume otherwise, especially after only a little contact with you!

    I wish I could somehow conjure a therapist like E for you. You deserve that high quality care.

    I’m sending love and hoping that this new person will have the skills and awareness she needs to be helpful to you. Please be gentle with your self–you have suffered so much already.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This is the perspective I’m going to firmly adopt. I wouldn’t take it as a personal affront if I was served slightly soggy shrimp in a restaurant, and just like there are bad chefs, there are bad psychiatrists (or psychiatrists who are great at cooking lasagne but not so good at shrimp). I’ve often wondered whether a full medical degree is really the most suitable training for a psychiatrist – surely they could skip the section on broken bones and spend a little more time on mental illness?

      Thank you for the always welcome mix of common sense and compassion, Q. It’s very grounding.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s not stupid or pathetic to want to spend an hour a week not feeling alone . I’m really glad you are still trying to find the right fit, the person who can help. I do believe they are out there. Xx💟

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  6. I think its absolutely normal that you are anxious. In your position and after such rejection, I would be too. Most psychiatrists are only interested in med management, I am lucky with mine, she is amazing and we do talk therapy weekly, as well as the therapy I do with my psychotherapist. wishing you all the best with this new psychiatrist. I hope it works out for you. XX

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  7. i think it would be awesome if you printed out this list and handed it to any future providers. then I could live vicariously through your awesomeness! 🙂 But I could understand why maybe that isn’t the best idea either….. I don’t think its a stupid idea to hedge your bets, to reach out and seek for some help, and get some support even if it is short term. Its actually rather brave and smart of you.

    Side note- perhaps a male therapist that wouldn’t bring up mother issues might be worth a try? Maybe you would be able to build a different kind of foundation/relationship before being triggered all over the place? Just a thought but you know yourself best.

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