Weird things happen to me.
The other nite at about 645 I was handed a sheet of paper . This sheet of paper contained information about my new patient, one I was not likely to meet that evening, because it was so close to the end of my shift, and it’s against our policy to bring patients up to the floor at the changing of the guards, it’s an extremely busy time, and considered “dangerous!” Safety first. Still, it can happen. In any case I was handed this patient info sheet to pass on to the night nurse who would likely be admitting her. I would come back and care for her in the morning.
I saw the name and said out loud, “no way!” This name is a common name, like Susan Brown, but different. This is a name that has been imprinted into my psyche with a big hot branding iron. It couldn’t be. But it was. I pulled up her name on the computer, and found what I was looking for. It was most definitely her. Wackytown.
I was going to be caring for the psychiatrist whose couch I layed on for almost ten years. A decade ago. I told my supervisor about our past relationship, and I asked if it was unethical in any way. ” As long as your not currently under her care, why not?” , she then began to tell me about how she once took care of her kindergarten teacher, but I couldn’t pay attention to her story, cause I was having a past attack, followed by a fit of futurizing. Hells Bells!
I used to have major meltdowns at least once a month. I was 22 and in the midst of a great love affair with a very tolerant young man named Brent. The emotional tornadoes came through about two weeks before my period, and lasted more or less, until “Aunt Flow” came to visit. I thought it was normal to have “pms”, but maybe it wasn’t normal to break up with your botfriend once a month and throw thick hand blown glasses full of water at him, while screaming once again, ” get out, it’s over!!!!” , and other unsavory slurs, I’m sure. I can’t remember what triggered my explosions, but I’m certain my reaction to the stimuli was greatly over inflated, Obviously. I always missed my target, well, my physical target that is. The weapons made of words and passion always hit their mark. Brent always came right back, well except that ONE time. He had enough, he needed a break. Shit.
I promised to never do it again. He slowly came closer. I promised again. He loved me, he came back.
I was insightful enough to consider professional help. Always somewhat self aware, these emotional avalanches worried me. I was out of control, I was drunk on chemicals, and I had no way of controlling the rate or amount of the drip flowing into my blood. This wasn’t normal. What if the next time Brent didn’t come back? We were on shaky ground, and there were plenty of other pretty young things waiting and watching, ready to snatch up my boyfriend supreme topped with extra sweetness, smartness, cuteness, and big a side of ambition. He was a catch. I needed help.
I was a cocktail waitress at a fancy club in Scottsdale, I made mounds of cash, and I saved mounds of it too. I bought my very own medical insurance, and shopped for my very own psychiatrist. I called several from my list of providers, leaving messages, talking to receptionists. Shrink shopping. Finally, one of them called me back herself. I told her my problem, and she said she thought she could help. I liked that she called me back, she didn’t have a middleman make an appointment. This was how I chose my psychological savior.
“Susan” had an office near The Biltmore, it was on the second floor, and the waiting room was well stocked with what I considered good reading material. Current issues of National Geographic, Glamour, and Readers Digest were neatly fanned out on a glass coffee table for my reading pleasure. Susan was tall and sixties-ish. She had short, smart curly grey hair, and she wore long flowing skirts, scarfs, and flat sensible shoes. She reminded me of Katherine Hepburn, elegant, sophisticated, old, and wise.
Susan sat in her tall backed chair with pen and paper, poised to dig in to my troubled mind. I sat, and sometimes layed, on a comfy pastel colored couch. Oh yes, there was a couch. I would have been disappointed if there wasn’t one. How can one be properly psychoanalyzed without a couch? I do not know. I’m glad I didn’t have to add this to my list of concerns.
In the twentienth century, it wasn’t unusual to find a psychiatrist actually practicing real psychiatry. Actually spending a full fifty minutes practicing psychotherapy. You can’t find this anymore. You now see the psychiatrist for your fifteen minute “med check”, and you see a psychologist, or some other variety of therapist for the actual therapy. That’s if you even decide to to the real work of therapy. I know plenty of folks that take powerful mind altering drugs without really knowing what in the hell got them in the psychiatrists office to begin with. Not REALLY knowing. I think it’s a form of malpractice, but that’s just one girls opinion.
Susan prescribed drugs, but she also spent time talking to me, letting me pour my guts out. She would then sift through my spilled guts, and offer helpful insights, and I would come to many of my own under her skillful guidance. It was therapeutic. I always felt better after our visits. My ego left her office padded with new paradigms, and exorcised of old terrorists. Some of them.
And the drugs didn’t hurt. They helped. For a while.
I was diagnosed with late luteal phase dysphoric dysfunction. LLPDD. This is basically PMS on steroids. Really powerful steroids. This super PMS has even been honored with a home in the DSM. Nowadays it’s called PMDD, and there is a very hip little birth control pill that promises not only to keep you from being attacked by a baby, but it may also keep your boyfriend from being attacked by you, and it also has another lovely side effect…clear skin! Miracles of 21st century pharmacology. Oh, and I think I got a diagnosis of depression not otherwise specified at no extra charge.
This wasn’t the 21st century, this was the 20th century, and the sexy new birth control pill wasn’t yet available, so I was given a low dose of a little tricyclic antidepressant called Imipramine. It worked. I don’t remember how long it took, but I’m suggestable, psychologically speaking. I believed it would work, so taking this little pill each day was a pleasure, and it seemed to work right away. The world became brighter, I had more energy, my periods would come and go without any blood being spilled, well none of Brent’s anyway.
My relationship with Brent was hunky dory. Hell, everything was hunky dory.
My Mom had her first stroke. I had been in therapy for over a year when Susan asked me to join her womans group. I stopped by the hospital to see my Mom on my way to my group therapy session. I was wearing a flourescent Pucci print minidress, white patent leather platform sandals, and my shoulder length hair was flipped “That Girl” style, a bright orange scarf doing it’s duty as a headband. It was spring, I loved fashion, and I suppose I loved to be noticed. My Mom asked me, “why in the world are you in therapy? Why don’t you just talk to me?” I just laughed , and shook my head. I was proud of my maturity. She hadn’t suffered any obvious insults from her stroke, she was always this way. Incredibly oblivious.
I lasted for 2 sessions of group therapy. There was a woman in this group that hated me. She was about forty years old, and I remember her being very serious, she never smiled. She called me Pollyanna. Right to my face. I shared that I was making lemonade out of lemons, and she despised my sugary potion, dripping from my smiling mouth. I thought perhaps Miss Bitterson should have a medication assessment, because, I didn’t think hers were working. She intimidated the hell out of me, I told myself she was jealous of my youth, my happiness, my susceptability to feeling good through pharmaceutical interventions. Looking back I’d say she was on to something. I never went back to the group.
I went to Susan every time my friend Kristin got a new medication from her doctor. I wanted to try Prozac too! I got a prescription for Prozac. Maybe I have AADD ( Adult Attention Deficit Disorder) too! I went to Susan with the book Driven To Distraction, “This sounds jut like me!” She shared that she hadn’t heard of this disorder in adults, but they gave children Ritalin, so she gave me Ritalin too. That was fun. I created very beautiful, intricate hair styles back then, I got straight A’s , and I made very detailed astrology charts, all hand written and colored for my friends. Then Kristin got a prescription for Adderall. I wanted one too. Bad idea. I got addicted. I would lie to the receptionist when I needed a premature refill, telling her some lame ass story about losing my pills while I was camping, and others less clever than that. I would go to her office and pick up my chershed slip of paper, and off to the pharmacy I would go, smiling all the way.
I have since discovered that I probably don’t have AADD. Most likely my attention problems came from a different acronym, PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from my childhood. Whatever.
Finally, after losing 10 pounds, ( I didn’t need to) and feeling totally out of control, I admitted to Susan I had a problem, I told her about my “issue.” I asked her to please NOT write me any more prescriptions for this drug, as I wasn’t able to manage it. She obeyed me, and I honestly don’t remember her reaction to my confession. I don’t recall her leading me to any great addiction epiphanies, these came through my own searching.
A side note: Adderall gave me zits on my neck. I believe my nervous system was overstimulated, and the breakouts occured along a nerve track. This was an unacceptable side effect. I was much too vain to continue this abuse. I still took my Prozac, on and off that is.
I had started practicing yoga, and taking drugs seemed to contradict my newly forming yogic belief system. ( I no longer believe it matters, but at the time it did, everyone’s path is custom designed just for them.) The drugs actually seemed to stop working. The more yoga I did, the deeper I went into unchartered territories. I was going way beyond my mind, touching places inside of myself that felt more real and more satisfying than anything I had ever experienced before. I stopped taking my Prozac. I wanted to heal myself through yoga! The drugs no longer made me feel good, just numb. I needed to have full access to the world below. This world was for warriors. At the time, I wasn’t yet a warrior. I was a warrior in training, and I suspected this.
I crashed. I went back to Susan and got back on the horse. Being numb was easier than being in pain. This happened several times throughout the years. I couldn’t weather the inevitable emotional storms that came from simply being human and being me. I was digging up all sorts of crazy demons. It was a rollercoaster ride that lasted an eternity. People assume ( and I did too) that yoga will make you “calm, peaceful, and serene”, that you will begin to smell sweet, and butterflies will spring out of your ass. Well, it does, and you do, and they might. But it also shows you what is there. If there is pain, anxiety, fear, it brings it to the surface to be acknowledged, so then it can be let go of. Yoga is a tool you can utilize to relax with yourself and life as it is showing up, good or bad. I was new to the practice and couldn’t handle the other end of the pole. Yet. The darkness seemed darker and scarier than ever. I didn’t stop practicing yoga, I actually went to school to teach it, and the adventure is ongoing. I went on and off antidepressants until I was 29. I remember a trip to Susan’s office right before she retired, I had fallen AGAIN, and I was going back on the drugs, AGAIN. I asked her, “will I always have to be on these drugs?”, I believed that I would. Susan said, “yes, you will.”
That simply wasn’t true. We had underestimated me.
The next morning I went into work, excited to be reaquainted with my psyche doctor. I would be her nurse.
To Be Continued.