I did it. I went through with the therapy session on Thursday. Reckon it’s past time to update you. But you should know, going in, this is going to be a bitch of a post. Avoid it if you need to.
Have some Portishead for your listening pleasure. This is what I’m listening to while I force myself to get this out.
Pre-Game Panic Attack
The appointment was for 1:00 PM on Thursday, so I was at work all morning leading up to it. You’d think that would be a nice distraction, but it wasn’t. Queen Bitch has impeccable timing and went on her worst rampage yet this past week. (I’ll save work for a separate post to try to keep this semi-coherent.) So I don’t know how much of my pre-appointment nausea and vomiting was from therapy anticipation and fear and how much of it was the extreme stress Queen Bitch had me under.
By the time I got myself to the counseling center, I was a bundle of nerves. I smiled at the receptionist and filled out my paperwork. Thankfully, I was alone in the waiting room. I had so much pent up anxiety, I felt I could literally bounce off of the walls…and not in a fun way. Imagine severe chest pain, heart racing, rapid breathing, roiling stomach, my leg bouncing up and down ninety to nothin’, mouth chewing on a hoodie cord, eyes scanning the room for every minute detail, hands twisting and squeezing each other. That was me, pre-therapy Thursday. It took everything I had to stop myself from bolting.
Off to an Anticlimactic Start
The counselor finally fetched me from the waiting room at around 1:05. (Yeah. That pissed me off.) Let’s call her Diane. Tall, blonde, forty-something Diane. At least she’s older than me, I thought. They nearly placed me with someone who graduated this past May. I cringed. Maybe it seems superficial, but it’s far less about age and more about experience.
Anyway. Friendly enough, on the surface. She smiled and shook my hand, led me to her office. While the waiting room makes the building look new(ish), Diane’s office was poorly appointed. Seriously, her chairs and couch had tears in the upholstery. I kind of approved, because I don’t want to be therapized by someone with a mahogany desk and all leather furniture. She said I could sit anywhere – I just took the chair facing her desk. I asked permission to place my wallet and keys on her desk, then shoved my fists in my hoodie pockets and willed myself to not bounce my leg and look around the room like a crazy person.
I began relaxing a bit at this point, because Diane spent the first few minutes filling out paperwork. A differently formatted document with the exact same information I’d already filled out at reception. Full name? Address? Social Security Number? Bust size? (Kidding, she didn’t ask for my social.) (Got you again. Look, it’s a good sign that I’m at least trying to joke, right?) Then she went over their policies and her personal qualifications. Twenty years as a counselor with this same group. Good sign, right?
I’ve been doing this for a long time, okay? And I’ve worked with every age group, but I no longer work with children. I did for many years, but I had to give that up. I work with people like you now. And don’t worry. You’re perfectly normal. You’re definitely not crazy, right? You’re not crazy. You’re just sad. You’re here because you’re sad.
I hope it doesn’t offend you when I use words like “normal” and “crazy”…
And just like fucking that, she’d formed her opinion and diagnosis of me. I walk through the motherfucking door, am able to show up and shake her hand and be calm and civil. And I’m just sad. Nothing more, nothing less. So glad this process was so fucking easy.
Then she grabs her little legal pad and starts in with her own standard list of questions, the answers to which she notes on her pad:
Have you received counseling or psychiatric treatment before? No.
Do you work? Yes, full-time.
What do you do? I sit at a computer all day.
Oh, do you like it? Yes, it’s so much fun.
*chuckles* Relationship status? Well, it’s like this…
Parents? Married/divorced? Living? Location? Uhm. Uh. Well. Uhm. See. Well. *breathes* They divorced when I was little. They’re both still alive, last I heard. Uhm. Uhm. I think. Maybe. I think. Maybe. My mom is maybe in town again. My father lives in _____.
I see. And what sort of relationship do you have with them? I don’t. *fidgets*
Siblings? One brother and one sister.
Do you want me to give you more details? I’m not sure how detailed you want my responses.
She then went into this long spiel explaining the two different ways of approaching counseling: starting from the past and working forward or starting in the present and working backward. She said that people usually had a preference, but she doesn’t. She just looked at me, and I just looked back.
All this time, Diane has been looking down at her phone. Look at me, ask a question, look at phone, note my response on the pad, look at phone, look at me, ask a question, look at phone, note my response….forget what she asked me and ask me again. Yeah.
I finally broke the awkward pause with something like:
Well, I’m not in any danger. I mean, if you want me to start by talking about my childhood, I’ll do that. If you’d rather hear about what’s going on right now, I can do that, too. I don’t know what I need or what’s best, really.
On Unprofessionalism and Suicidal Ideation
It was at this point, this crossroads of sorts, where she finally asked me what had led me to be there that day. She had her checklist and wanted to go by rote, and I wanted to know what we were doing and why. So she asked me. What led you here?
I’ve been depressed for years. And while I managed it best I could for a long time, it’s spiraled out of control over the last couple of years. And now…and now…my thoughts have gotten so dark that they scare me.
“Tell me what you mean by ‘dark thoughts.'”
Suicide. I think about suicide every day. And. But. Well. You see, it’s not so much that I want to kill myself. It’s that I don’t wish to be alive anymore. I don’t want to feel this way, but I can’t seem to make it stop.
“I’d call that danger.”
“You just told me that you aren’t in any danger. And now you’re telling me you think about suicide every day. Ongoing suicidal ideation is serious danger. Do you really think about it every day? Do you have a plan?
Well, I mean I think stuff. Bad stuff. You know. But I don’t have a plan. Like a specific plan. You know, written down. I don’t have a plan. No. And I would never do it. I would never act on it.
“Then tell me what you think about. Specifically. Tell me exactly what goes through your mind in your so-called dark thoughts. What do your suicidal thoughts look like?”
Well. I mean. Okay. Okay. There’s a gun. In the closet. And. Well. I think about the gun. And I think about…you know… (I’m crying now, talking softly. twisting my hands so much they’re throbbing in pain.)…I think about how it would affect other people. And I don’t want to make it hard on someone who finds me and has to clean up after me. So….so I wouldn’t do it in the house. I’d go outside. To the backyard. And…and I’d do it there. So I wouldn’t make a mess of the house or damage it or make it hard to sell after I’m dead. You know? That’s not really a plan is it? I guess that’s a plan.
But I wouldn’t do it. I’d miss or something and end up disfigured and living in a convalescent home.
She wrote “gun” and “plan” and something else on her pad. “You have a gun in the house?”
“What else do you think? Are there other ideas?”
Well. This one. This one’s really bad, and I don’t…I don’t think I should tell you. It’s horrible. (tears are streaming down my face) But. Well. I imagine. You know. I imagine getting in my car. Getting onto the interstate late at night. Driving dangerously fast. Turning my headlights off. Closing my eyes.
But I would never do it. I swear I would never do that, because it would hurt someone else. It just pops into my mind completely unbidden.
“What else? Is there more?”
My arthritis medicine. I get it in three-month quantities. I’ve thought about taking them. All of them. At once. But I know that’s useless. I would just end up with my stomach pumped.
“Stephanie, your name is Stephanie right? Those are plans. Specific plans. And you are in serious danger.”
Somewhere in the middle of all of that, she interrupted me. She had been looking at her cell phone off and on the whole time, and at some point – while having me detail my thoughts on suicide – she interrupted me. Told me to hang on, and then texted her son.
I told her again that these are things I think about, but I’m not choosing to think about it. And I fight so hard not to entertain those thoughts or allow them to linger. But they rise up, unbidden, and I can’t always will them into silence.
On Reasons to Live and Hospitalization
“Everyone has to have a reason to live,” Diane pronounces. “You’ve demonstrated you’re strong and have a will to live. You made the appointment. You drove yourself here today. You kept the appointment. All of this was done of your own free will. Tell me what you live for. Tell me the positive things that you cling to in order to keep going and keep those thoughts at bay.”
I looked at her, my cheeks tear-stained and my eyes clouded, and I said…
I got nothin’
I don’t have family. I don’t have friends. I hate my job. I don’t want to get out of bed in the mornings. I feel sad when I wake that I made it through another night. I got nothin, Diane.
Well. I recently started blogging. And the people I’ve met there, online, are amazing and have offered so much support.
And. And. (crying and practically whispering) I have this…this vague hope that just won’t die. This vague hope that maybe, just maybe there’s a brighter future for me. A happy ending.
She scribbles “internet” on her little Stephanie page and says, “I’m talking about real life here.”
Social club? Like a book club? No.
Professional memberships? No.
Work friends? No.
Family contact or support? No.
Really? Nothing? Nothing.
She spent the rest of the time between trying to convince me to be hospitalized (she lacks the authority to have me admitted without my consent) and defining “thoughts,” “feelings” and “behaviors” to me. Like I’m a fucking child and don’t know the fucking difference.
Again she told me I’m only sad, and there’s nothing deeply wrong with me. “You’re not crazy; don’t worry.” I tried to tell her there’s a lot more to it. I told her that sometimes I have wild mood swings and get very hyperactive, sometimes happy hyperactive and sometimes angry hyperactive. She said, “Oh, everyone does that. You’re not one of the crazies or you wouldn’t be here today.”
She really wanted me to consent to hospitalization. She said she’d take me in her car, right then and there. She said that no matter how hard people fight their thoughts, that if they’re persistent and ongoing for as long as mine have been, eventually everyone follows through.
Thoughts. Feelings. Behavior. “It is unavoidable. Eventually those thoughts and feelings result in acting out in a behavior. You can’t escape it. It’s ingrained. It is inevitable.”
But I stood my ground. In order to keep her from calling a psychiatrist and having them admit me against my will, I had to agree to some things:
- Get rid of the gun. Or lock it up and give someone else the key.
- Email her Thursday night telling her I had done so.
- Show up for an appointment next Wednesday at noon.
- Get a notebook and log my feelings. Like a motherfucking four year old. I can tell her my feelings. I know my feelings. I know my thoughts. And I know my behaviors. Stupid fucking shit.
As yet, I haven’t done any of those things. Though I have made a note in my phone, which I open occasionally and add a time and feeling to.
She also told me that medication is unnecessary. That too many people are medicated, and it usually gives you brain damage. “You don’t need medication, because you aren’t crazy. Crazy people have brain damage. That’s what it is! It’s brain damage! But you don’t need it, because you’re normal.”
But. “Seeing as you’re suicidal, medication may not be a bad idea to get your moods regulated. Then during talk therapy, I’ll teach you TFB through CBT and you’ll get right off that crazy person medicine.”
I told her I have an appointment with a psychiatrist on December 21. She was shocked, saying it takes months to get in with one. But my insurance company found one for me. Apparently she’s only going to diagnose and medicate, though. So I don’t know how I feel about it. I’ll at least keep the appointment, though.
Diane is crap. She laser focused on one thing and refused to hear anything else about me. And her plan is bullshit and so was her motherfucking brain diagram she scribbled to show me that I’m behaving like an animal on instinct rather than a rational human being. But I know I need help, and if being accountable to that nonsense-spewing unprofessional moron helps me even a small amount? Then it’s worth it. For now.
I just rambled a buncha shit, y’all, and probably forgot most of it. But I just couldn’t muster up the strength to write sooner. To those of you whom I’ve worried, please accept my sincerest apologies. I’ve had an absolute week from hell, and I’ve pretty much been in bed since I got off of work yesterday. I’ll do my best to catch up on emails and things soon. I miss reading y’all, too!
I’ll be back on the upswing soon, you’ll see. (I believe that. I have to.) Maybe a music party tomorrow or somethin’, hey?
Thank you all so much for your thoughtful messages and support. As always, you’re the bestest.