Ninth Time Lucky?

Before I started therapy, I didn’t realise that with different people, silence can sound different.

I met Psychiatrist #9 yesterday, and it didn’t start well. After I walked in and said hello, she proceeded to read the full referral letter from my GP aloud, then said “All right…take it away!

I laughed a little incredulously (um, really?), and when she didn’t step in to prompt with a question, I immediately started seething with rage. If I could have set her editions of the DSM aflame with the power of my gaze, I would have. I was furious at her for not doing anything to put me at ease and for not just asking me what my parents do for a living like every other fucking psychiatrist, and I was furious that I was here doing this again and again it was bad and hard and not fair.

And then…the anger just dissipated. There was no expectation in the air. No sense that she was waiting for me to say something. She was just sitting, still, gaze resting on the floor to my right. Not fidgeting, not reading, not tapping her pen. Just sitting.

It gave me space to settle myself. I noticed the tension in my shoulders, took a breath and consciously let them relax. I let myself see my resistance and discomfort and anxieties about having to take the lead. It felt like longer, but I only held out for two minutes before I said:”I’ve done this so many times I’m bored of my own story, to be honest.”

It was a cheat – saying something without really saying anything, to get her to respond so I wouldn’t have to take the initiative. I didn’t want to just regurgitate my history, but I didn’t know what to say. Her response annoyed me, but I was impressed – she knew exactly what I was doing and she held firm.

I was truthful when I said I’m patient. When people do this sort of work they do it at their own pace.” She paused, then added “So if you want to sit there and just reflect on things quietly, we can do that for as long as you want.”

For the next five minutes, we did exactly that. I looked over her bookshelf, gazed out the window, counted the drawers in her shelving unit, and I thought; why am I here? what is happening in my life, right now? what do I want to share?

Eventually, I broke the silence with a brief explanation about my self-harm. I don’t want that to be the first topic of conversation, the thing that defines me, but it’s the most obvious place to start. We spoke about it a little, then lapsed into silence for almost ten minutes. She only ever looked at me when I was seeking eye contact. As soon as I broke her gaze, she’d look away. I liked that.

I should have been prepared for the conversation to turn to Anna – after all, Anna had contacted #9 when she terminated with me – but for whatever stupid, stupid reason, I hadn’t thought about it at all. #9 had forgotten about her call with Anna until the subject came up, and flipped to her notes to refresh her memory.

I’ve finished my therapy with a difficult self-harming patient,” she started to read aloud, and I felt my whole body tense and my face flinch, in the split second before I took a step back and detached from my body, letting a mask slide down over my face. Hearing Anna describe me as “difficult” hurt, so much.

She read through the next part silently, lips pressed together, then started to narrate aloud again. “Bright lawyer……hospitalised a couple of times this year with self-harm, very rigid views and belief systems…very controlling about what can be said and what’s said…

The mask almost slipped at the word “controlling”, but I imagined a flame against my skin, and I stayed outwardly calm. Just wait until you get home, I told myself. You can burn as soon as you get home. 

She’s the fourth therapist I’ve told the story of Anna and Aisha to, and every time, I’ve stayed bland and unemotional. If she couldn’t help, then I’m glad that she told me. And I liked her a lot, but it was difficult via Skype. There’s so much shame in admitting how much I hurt when they left. I trusted them and I depended on them but to them, I was just a difficult client. Whenever I think about telling Nikki the truth, about how my voice would wobble and my face would scrunch and – oh jesus – how I’d cry, my mind flashes to an image of blood dripping down my arm. Can I move past the hurt and betrayal without expressing it out loud, having it witnessed and understood? I don’t know.

We didn’t talk about anything of substance for the rest of the session. She warned me a few minutes before the end (another point in her favour), and asked me if I had any questions for her. And I surprised myself – for the first time ever, I did.

Her answers were good. I felt a little bit of fluttering in my chest when she talked about the first year being focused on containing self-destructive behaviours – she knows how long this is going to take. She talked about creating a safe contained space, and about working with people whose histories make it difficult for them to function in the world.

I’m definitely not sold on her yet. There’s a lot I like about her, but I question how wise it was to read me comments from my last therapist in our first session. And I’m horrified that she charges $480 for a 35 minute initial appointment. It’s not about spending the money; it’s the concept of somebody in a helping profession charging an exorbitant fee that would prohibit a lot of people from being able to access help. There’s probably a reason for it, but it doesn’t sit well with my values.

So, we’ll see. But for once, I’m not dreading my next appointment.

I’m finding it interesting, comparing the transference with Nikki to the transference with the psychiatrists. I’m getting attached to Nikki, for the wrong reasons. She’s competent enough, I guess, but I don’t care all that much about her therapeutic skills, really. I just want to be nurtured.

I want to curl up on the floor in her office, knees tucked to my chest and leaning against the wall, and I want her to reach across the table to me, silently offering to hold my hand. I want to go for walks with her and colour with her and show her photos of my farm. Basically, I want her to take me home and tuck me into bed and hug me when I wake up with nightmares and spoon-feed me cereal for breakfast. You know, the normal stuff that people want after knowing someone for three weeks.

It feels like I’m trying to re-enact my relationship with Anna. And I’m very aware that even though I’m feeling an intense desire to cling to Nikki, it isn’t really because of her at all. She could be anybody young-ish and pretty-ish and caring. I know that looking to her for comfort isn’t that smart and isn’t that helpful. But fuck my brain. Why does it always get to run the show?

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Ninth Time Lucky?

31 thoughts on “Ninth Time Lucky?

  1. Sirena says:

    Rea, I really like you!!! I love the way you write and think. And I laughed at your wry wit and assertions of people and situations. I think #9 sounds promising. Her fees are exorbitant but at this point, if you can afford it or your insurance covers it… who cares. You need help, you need someone to do a good job. And isn’t it worth it if it means not being lumbered with some of the other freaks and geeks you’ve seen?
    Also, I’m getting a little confused of all the names and people you are currently seeing and what they do, any chance of clarifying that for me? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My heart just grew three sizes! Thank you, that is so awesome to hear.

      Nikki is the psychologist I decided to see for ABSOLUTELY NO MORE THAN 10 SESSIONS and am now wanting to cling to. #9 is a psychiatrist but I’m actually seeing her primarily for psychotherapy. Aisha is the psychologist I saw over Skype for 18 months who stopped answering my emails in March and never even responded to my termination email, and Anna is my last psychologist who abruptly quit in February and crushed my soul into a million tiny pieces. Is that everyone?

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      1. Sirena says:

        You’re welcome 🙂
        Nikki you were only seeing for 10 sessions because….? Did u ever find out why Aisha just stopped responding to you? That’s horrific.

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      2. Because the way our health system works is you can get 10 partial rebates a year for seeing a psychologist and after that you have to pay full fee. Nikki is $200 a session and I don’t have $400 a week to spend on therapy for the next 3 or 4 years. That’s why my options are so limited – I can only afford to see a psychiatrist and there aren’t that many who do psychotherapy. And most of them are assholes.

        Nope. Aisha is still seeing my friend, and when Nikki emailed her to ask if they could talk she responded straight away apparently. So I guess no reason for not responding other than she didn’t want to. Pretty devastating to have her just disappear at the same time Anna terminated.

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      3. Sirena says:

        Why are most psychiatrists assholes? It seems to be the case the world over.
        I’m really sorry that happened to you, I can’t even imagine the pain of two disappearing at the same time.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Sirena says:

        I don’t blame you. I will say this, in my experience (having been dumped abruptly by 2 separate therapist’s in the space of 18 months. ) that when I finally found Sienna there was something innately trustworthy about her. No games, totally honest and upfront. When #9 read out the email she’d got, it reminded me of Sienna, that’s what she would do in the interest of honesty and transparency. I hope #9 is similar in that way.

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      5. I got the impression from #9 that she’s more absent-minded than transparent but hopefully I’m wrong. I’m glad you found Sienna, she seems pretty perfectly suited to you.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Is it really wrong to want to be nurtured? Wanting nurturing and having a therapist enact poor boundaries are not the same – I think your want and need for it are not wrong or bad. That kind of is what therapy is.
    #9 does seem decent – also a little odd about reading the notes. Likely she has no idea or comprehension of how triggering that relationship/ending was/is for you. Psychiatrists… however, I liked hearing you were able to settle in and the silence helped.
    Hope your brother is okay. How is the arm healing? I had a dream the other night and you were in it – you had a cast and were on the back of a motorcycle with a man who had one hand amputated. (thought the oddness might bring a smile, which is why I shared 🙂 )

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    1. I know it’s not wrong to want nurturing (even though it FEELS wrong) but it’s not really healthy to be seeking it from Nikki, is it? I’m supposed to be mothering myself and seeking support from other relationships, right? I’m not, but I probably should be.

      My brother is not doing well at all, but he’s alive and I’m overwhelmingly grateful for that. Poor C – dealing with two suicidal siblings at once with no parental support. He’s pretty amazing.

      That dream made me laugh! Thank you for sharing. It reminds me of my cousin taking me for a motorbike ride on my birthday last year, which is a really happy memory. I had my cast removed yesterday! The saw was very triggering and my hand and wrist are surprisingly painful but I’m doing okay.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The need comes out so strongly in therapy, I think it is unreasonable to think we wouldn’t be seeking it from them exclusively, until we have better grounding. The therapist becomes mommy so fast, so fast. That is just the nature of therapy.
        I’m sorry your parents can’t support the three of you. That makes me feel sad.
        Glad you’re doing okay post-cast. Hopefully the pain doesn’t last too long.

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  3. Number 9 actually seems different from your other experiencess. Maybe thats a good thing? I can see why Nikki would be so appealing. You deserve nurturing and care and all that. At the same time I can also see why you aren’t so sure about it. Do you have to make a decision right now? And what the hell is up with those exorbitant fees? Seriously! Those are walk on water rates, and you could expect to be healed by merely breathing in their presence :-/

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    1. This cracked me up – yes, not only should I be healed, but I should get a free gift bag on my way out the door. #9 is going on holidays for a month after 2 more sessions, so I don’t have to decide yet. Aaargh I hate decisions.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think decisions are the worst, but you have time to make them… more info is always a good thing and you will feel yourself leaning more one way or the other. At least that’s how it works for me once I take the pressure off of trying to make the RIGHT decision right NOW! Could you take a sabatical from any one of them as needed, sort of keeping your options open and as a backup plan?

        For sure a gift bag! And complimentary snacks and a masseuse on site for after decompression. Therapy should be like a spa day! What would you like in your gift bag? 🙂

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      2. Hmm…a magazine…some art supplies…a puzzle…nail polish…a CD of cheesy Scottish music…a cute piece of fabric…

        Actually, you’ve given me an idea. I think maybe I’ll give him some money and ask him to buy me a bunch of little things like this and wrap them up, so that when I’m feeling major self harm urges I can open one. I think I’d be more committed to following through with doing a distraction activity like a puzzle or painting if it was kind of an agreement with C. No contracts, but a way to bring someone else into the self care without making him responsible for me. Thanks E!

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  4. One more reason to hate cell phones: mine apparently ate the long reply I painstakingly types out to you on tiny keys on my phone yesterday. I am falling asleep tonight so I’ll come back later to try to reconstruct it. But in brief:

    1. I want to echo what Sirena said: you are supremely likeable, and I love the way you write about your experiences (though I don’t love all the experiences you write about!)
    2. I am SO MAD that you can’t get propoer insurance coverage to have a long-term relationship with a psychologist.
    3. I am glad you felt better about #9 than about some of the others but I have so little faith that psychiatrists know anything about the all-important therapeutic relationship. So I remain skeptical (as I see you do, too). I hope, I hope, that she is skilled. You deserve competent care.

    Good night. Know I’m thinking about you.

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    1. Sometimes cell phones really deserve to be drowned in a toilet.

      I am bashfully delighted – I love your writing, and so it means a lot to hear that you like mine, and even more to know that you’re thinking about me. Thank you, so much. I have my second session with #9 tomorrow, and I’m worried, but I feel a lot less afraid knowing that whatever happens I can write about it here, and people will understand.

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  5. Sadly, just like in any other profession, there are bad psychologists and good ones. I hope your good relationship continues. I read another article but couldn’t find it again to comment. The reason to not self-harm it may not always be easily visible and present, but the desire to do better than before (obviously you have it or you wouldn’t be going to #9). You want to get better. It’s okay to want that.

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  6. Also, a psychiatrist is an MD, like a physician. This is why they’re covered by insurance and focus on medication instead of therapy. Myself, I am a psychologist. I have an MS in Psychology and I’m working on a PsyD (others in my field may be working on a PhD). Fyi 🙂

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    1. Yes, true, though psychology in my country has been shifted from the Arts faculty to the sciences faculty to make some limited rebates available. Better than nothing! Psychiatrist #9 I’m seeing specializes in psychotherapy and I have the impression she doesn’t do meds management but I’ll have to ask at some point, if I ever manage to actually SAY anything during sessions.

      That’s great! What is the topic of your PsyD?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My undergraduate thesis was medical cannabis for minors with ADHD autism, seizure disorders, cancer, etc. My doc thesis is a working title of Forever VS Disposable Relationships: The state of relationships in modern society 🙂

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      2. Pros and cons, I guess! The recommended fee for a 50 minute consult with a psychologist here is $240, and even with private insurance (which I have) that only comes down to $195…from what I’ve heard from other bloggers, the co-pay is much, much lower in the US. But I’m very lucky and very grateful to have access to a psychiatrist and I know there are many people in the US who wouldn’t have that luxury.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It’s so challenging, for all of us – I know my psychologist hates the fact that money is a barrier, but it’s a reality of life. Good mental health care is so important, I’m sorry the US doesn’t make it a priority.

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  7. Oh my goodness. I’ve been reading through a few of your old posts (hope that’s not weird!) and all I can say is I relate to this SO much. About what happened with Anna, and how you feel now about Nikki. I don’t really have any words for either of us right now except that I’m glad we’ve found each other on this journey… xx ❤

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