Adventures in Therapy - Episode One: The Phantom Waiting Room
Today I took the day off from work to go get a check-up (which was free! Thanks, Obama!) and also to go to my long awaited First Therapy Appointment. At the time that I made it, I was in a pretty low state and that state had continued for a couple of weeks. I was starting to feel hopeless waiting for the session because I wanted to feel empowered again. Luckily for me, I talk to my friends and family about my craziness a lot and they are awesome and like to help when they can. Kelly sent me a link to MoodGYM, which helps with anxiety and negative, destructive thinking by applying concepts of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It's an amazing (and free) program that has really, really helped me. I'm not done the whole program yet, but just in the week I've been trying it out and doing the various suggested exercises, I really feel like myself again. The program seems to be tailored to my exact issues and I am incredibly thankful for it. If you have felt like you identify with me when I talk about the kind of things I struggle with on a daily basis, I recommend checking it out!
I was especially happy that I found it today when I went to my therapy appointment and had an experience that was almost enough to make believe it omens.
As I said, I made the appointment a month ago and then this past Friday I called to confirm. They told me to go to the Haddonfield office, and so I did. I parked out front and then went to the front door. The door was locked and there was no sign telling me to go around back. Luckily, I am smart or something and figured out how to get in the building. Upon entrance, I was greeted by a completely deserted first floor. I walked through a couple of hallways and then found myself in a deserted waiting room. The reception area had windows with curtains pulled closed and a sign that said that they no longer had a secretary so...if this was your first appointment, fill out an age appropriate "Welcome Pack" and then wait until the person with whom you have an appointment comes to get you. This made me pretty uncomfortable since I had no way to let anyone know that I was there and no way to know if I was actually going to be seen. It's worse than calling an automated answering service, because at least there's some kind of information exchange there...and usually an option to talk to someone in real time. This just made you feel abandoned and unimportant and questioning whether you made your appointment properly or something! The entire place was designed to leave you feeling more mentally unstable than when you arrived.
I went to go sit in the waiting room and then I saw that there was a a board that told you which therapist was where. The person I was supposed to see was apparently on the second floor, so to the second floor I went. When I got up there I found that there was a second waiting room, and this time there were two people waiting in it. Progress!
Well, sort of progress. I think I felt more comfortable in the deserted waiting room. When I came in to sit down, both people waiting there turned to stare at me. One looked very not OK and the other looked suspicious of me or something. I sat down uncomfortable getting the idea that it was very not alright to say anything ever. I was there for 10 minutes and one of them was called in. I was feeling confused about what I was supposed to be doing, if I was in the right place, etc, so I quickly asked the other person if this was the correct waiting room.
"We're not supposed to talk about what services they provide."
"Ok, that's fine. I just want to know if this is the right place to be as I have never been here before."
She was weird for a while and then she explained that it was the right place, and then told me to turn off my cellphone and sign in (on a sign in sheet that was for a different doctor...I didn't do that part). Then she told me that she also had an appointment at 1pm and I feared that we had been triple booked. 45 minutes later, the therapist emerged again and asked me who I was there to see. I told her and she said,
"Oh...did she know that she had an appointment with you?"
"I would hope so? I confirmed with the office on Friday."
"Do you have a phone number to call her? As far as I know I'm the only person here today."
"No, I've never been here before and I don't have a relationship with this therapist yet."
"Oh, for an evaluation?
And then she shrugged and said, "I don't know what to tell you."
I thanked her (for nothing) and got up to leave. I came downstairs to the abandoned waiting room and started to cry. The whole thing felt ridiculous. How does this kind of thing happen? I felt like a fraud for even being there. The whole time I was dealing with the stupidity, I thought, "I'm glad my issues aren't that severe. I probably would be completely losing my shit right not otherwise." So as those thoughts entered my mind, I didn't even know what I was doing there. "What are these people going to even do for me? I'm fine. This is stupid."
As Jessie pointed out though, had this been 2 weeks ago, I would certainly have lost my shit. I would have cried upon getting into the second waiting room probably and I definitely would have not made it to the abandoned waiting room to fall apart when I was shrugged away. It is not easy to make the decision to get help with this kind of stuff, especially if you define yourself in large part by your independence.
So I cried for a while in the car and came home and told this entire tale to Wes and Jessie. They encouraged me to try to make an appointment with someone else. I was calm by then and happy to have a nice afternoon ahead of me...like I said, I am in an upswing at the moment, so I am able to handle things a lot more rationally than when I'm in a downswing. Still, I sat there thinking that I just shouldn't bother with therapy. There are other people who need it more. I can handle this crap on my own. I don't want to go through this again. (Incidentally, this is my attitude about flu shots...I don't talk so loudly about it anymore since getting strep last year...will this be the year?)
And then the person with whom I had an appointment called me. She told me that she had me down for an appointment at the Woodbury office (where she was), not Haddonfield, and that the schedulers totally screwed up. She apologized profusely and said that she wrote a not-happy email to the schedulers. And she said, "Here you are making the not-easy-to-make decision to come for help, and you are left to wait for an hour and then your therapist doesn't show up? My goodness, would that not feel good!" I couldn't really say anything other than, "Um, yeah, that about sums it up." After apologizing some more, she said she would help get me an evening appointment (since I'm out of vacation days now), and then apologized some more.
Of course, this makes me want her to be my therapist, but I just don't have the day time hours to go to her, so it's probably better this way. I really appreciate that she called and explained what happened and completely understood why it was so shitty. Because she did that, I will try again and stay with this particular counseling group and hope for the best. And hopefully next time I'll be able to tell you, "Man oh man, therapy is awesome!"
May Adventures in Therapy - Episode Two be better than Star Wars - Episode Two. That'd be nice.