About a year ago, I sat in bed and cried into my bong while I sang Adele, and asked myself what the hell is wrong with me. If that sounds pathetic, it’s because it was. I was in an extremely bad place; so much so that if I didn’t find my way out of it, it was going to start affecting my life, marriage, and overall health. I decided then that there would be no more unexplained crying into my bong allowed, and that it’s time I get serious about attempting therapy. I understand most of what’s wrong with me, I just need some pointers on coping with it.
My previous experiences with therapy were rather futile, so any progress I’ve made regarding my mental health has been purely on my own. I went to one appointment when I was 18 because I ‘figured’ I should, but I never made a subsequent appointment because the therapist actually told me she’s “not sure why” I came. My next two experiences were on an emergency basis when I saw troubling signs in myself, but they were only a few sessions when I had hit bottom. So last year I made a promise to you and myself that I would give it an honest try to take the first step to improved mental health.
Making a phone call sounds simple enough, right? Well, when you have depression (especially my particular brand) the simplest of tasks can feel like climbing Everest. I began thinking about future conversations I’d have with said therapist and I even made notes about topics I feel we should discuss, but locating a therapist AND calling them ended up being another thing I’d get to ‘someday.’
Fast-forward, it took me an entire year to make that phone call. After having yet another bout of “I’ve had enough” with myself, I finally powered through a list of in-network providers on our insurance website to find the right person for me. I know myself, so I know which parameters to look for.
First, if any appointment is not within 5-10 minutes of my house, I dread going to it. So I KNOW that if I have a weekly commitment, it HAS to be nearby or I’ll want to cancel every time. (I didn’t say I make sense, I simply said I know myself.) Also, I know I have some serious issues, so I need an apt and qualified therapist. I need someone with extensive education, but not one that was achieved in 1960 because I want their methods and knowledge to be current. I figured I should look for someone old enough to have plenty of experience, but young enough so that they can still relate to what I’m going through at my age.
After forever, I finally chose a mental health facility that offers outpatient services. I called and spoke to an older woman who took all of my information and logged me into the system. I gave her my name, SSN, phone number, address, insurance numbers, husband’s name, husband’s SSN, and practically the names of all of our unborn children. After 10 minutes of playing ’20 Questions,’ she says, “OK, great. We’re scheduling appointments for 6-8 weeks from now, someone will call you for a consultation.”
Fucking. Awesome. Really glad I spent 10 minutes rattling off information for you to tell me I won’t get my mental health appointment for almost 2 months. She really could have led with that; glad I wasn’t going to kill myself.
So I waited, then of course I missed the call when it came. I called back, left a message. No one called me back. I called again, left a message. Someone eventually called back but actually sounded quite bitchy in the voicemail, so between that and having to wait 2 months for an appointment, I decided to move on.
Of course I didn’t choose a Plan B therapist, so back to the giant list of therapists and credentials I went. I settled on a guy close to my house, and when I called him I immediately felt better. On the phone I told him a little about why I want to see him. I told him it actually took me a year to make this call, and when he said “Well, you’re doing great,” it was the support I needed and I knew I’d be in good hands.
In preparation for my appointment, I nerded out and actually typed and printed a timeline of significant events that have contributed to my depression, along with a list of topics I felt he should know about to understand me. His office is in a beautiful, historic, Victorian mansion, and I actually felt pretty comfortable with him. He let me take the reins, so I covered a range of topics and gave him a copy of my typed timeline for his notes. I’m prone to tears when discussing a few things that are close to my heart, so I cried for the last half of the session. I made another appointment on my way out, and I left feeling incredibly hopeful.
My parents had just been in a car accident, so my mother was scheduled to get an MRI and a CT scan the same day as my appointment, so I had to cancel to accompany her. Therapists don’t seem able to answer their phones since they’re in session all day, so I left a voicemail with dates I can reschedule on. I missed his call that evening, so I left him another voicemail with my available dates and even left him my email address as I figured it would be easier for communication.
Well, this was weeks ago and I’m still waiting for him to return my call or shoot me an email. Paranoid Me even triple checked my outgoing calls to ensure I didn’t imagine calling him.
I must say I am completely flabbergasted by the behavior of these two offices – especially for this line of work. Perhaps it’s just me, but I feel that mental healthcare providers should have an unspoken obligation to treat their patients with a little more care than I’ve received. How can you possibly run a mental health facility and not tell patients there’s a 1.5-2 month wait upfront, not call people back until they’ve called twice, then cop an attitude when you finally call back? And how can a therapist completely vanish on his patient?
Honestly, I feel abandoned. It’s not as though we’d never met and he didn’t return my call, we spent an entire hour together where I told him my deepest issues and concerns. Even if his phone exploded and he never received that last voicemail from me, I would expect a therapist to check on his patient to see why they disappeared and if they’re OK. I really can’t understand this.
So a year later, I’m exactly where I started again. Even though I’ve gone through the difficulties of finding two therapists, making appointments, and even attending one, I still have no therapist and no better ways of coping with my life. Thankfully, I’m incredibly tough and I’ve started over before in my life, so I’ll do it again. I’m just very thankful that I am this type of person, I can’t imagine a suicidal person making it through the process I’ve been through.