So those of you who have been in therapy, do you ever look back on that experience and wonder if the therapist thought you were crazy? Or maybe diagnosed you with something really debilitating or awful, even if it was just to get your lousy insurance company to pay although – let’s be frank here – that’s probably just rationalization. I mean, if someone was secretly treating you for antisocial behavior disorder or any of the behavior disorders (famous for their doomsday-like prognosis: there ain’t no pill that will stop you from being a narcissist) then they probably actually thought you had said disorder and their reasons for not sharing your own fate with you run the gamut from protecting you from certain despair to plain old ‘just another not very good therapist.’
I remember I saw a therapist just one time – before it became clear that my insurance would NOT pay for her and I was 100% on the line for her outrageous $226 ‘first meeting’ charge, which I paid in small $20 doses even though I technically could have afforded to do it all at once. It was the principle of the thing. And a misguided hope that she would drop the remainder of the bill out of guilt or a sense of not wanting to rip off some nice girl who truly got nothing out of that hour except a giant, unexpected invoice and what I’m about to tell you.
So anyway, at some point near the end of our brief, but pricey meeting she announces that she had decided I was suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), an off-the-cuff and likely worthless diagnosis that made me proud. I have no idea why. I guess because it indicates I’m a survivor. Or someone who did three tours in Nam. I mean, you have to be tough to have PTSD and not be a heroin addict, right? Oh, and it’s fixable, or so I’ve heard. So all in all, I was okay with the prognosis. It was a badge of honor, even. A pat on the back, and a “Better luck next time. You’ve survived your life thus far. Sure, you’re messed up, but you’re still among the living. Hey, at least you’re not schizophrenic.”
That stated. this morning, for reasons unknown, I found myself thinking about this other lady I saw for about six months. She was the only therapist in town that my insurance would be pay for (seriously) and for the hassle, the co-pay was nothing. It was $5.00 a session to see her, and the first five or ten or so were free. As with most things in life, it was a ‘you get what you pay for’ situation. In hindsight (and even at the time), she wasn’t much of a therapist, and she seemed almost impressed with me. I think most traditional therapies ascribe to the school of coping equals wellness, meaning as long as you’re more or less going along without any major blips or addictions or other acting out, then you’re doing well. The whole goal is to get you to cope, and the buck more or less stops there: continue coping for the rest of your life and consider it a job well done.
So truth be told, and if you haven’t already surmised as much, I didn’t have much respect for the woman nor did I think she was helpful in any real way (and later she developed an intense jealousy of my hypnotherapist and even questioned why I kept coming to her for these talk-only sessions and forced me to reveal that it was a) because I liked talking about myself and b) it was cheap. For $5, I can’t even get a friend to listen to me for ten minutes uninterrupted.) So anyway, the woman (whose name I honestly can’t remember. Let’s call her Pam. It may have been Pam, but I”n not sure. Perhaps it started with a P? I recall her face, so it’s weird to me that I can’t remember even her first name.) had had a lengthy career working with patients with borderline personality disorder. For those of you who aren’t familiar, borderline personality disorder is a condition in which a person makes impulsive actions, and has an unstable mood and chaotic relationships.
As for symptoms:
Relationships with others are intense and unstable. They swing wildly from love to hate and back again. People with BPD will frantically try to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
BPD patients may also be uncertain about their identity or self-image. They tend to see things in terms of extremes, either all good or all bad. They also typically view themselves as victims of circumstance and take little responsibility for themselves or their problems.
Other symptoms include:
- Feelings of emptiness and boredom
- Frequent displays of inappropriate anger
- Impulsiveness with money, substance abuse, sexual relationships, binge eating, or shoplifting
- Intolerance of being alone
- Recurrent acts of crisis such as wrist cutting, overdosing, or self-injury (such as cutting)
Books on dealing with these folks have uplifiting titles like “When Hope is Not Enough,” “I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me,” and “Sometimes I Act Crazy.” Needless to say, it’s a wild ride, and probably not a very fun one. On a related note, I’ve been trying (in vain) to remember the name of this book the person we’re calling Pam gave me because I think I was hoping to see if if the methodology within (best described as Buddhist awareness) was the common treatment for some kind of dreadful mental problem that she suspected I had but never had the nerve to tell me. But then again, at the same time, I suppose worrying that you’re crazy is the first clue that you’re probably sane (or sane enough), as most crazy people rarely stop to take note that the voices in their head aren’t actually coming out of anyone’s mouth.
In other semi-relevant news, about a month ago (during the early stages of my four week-long sickness which is FINALLY more or less over) I had a couple glasses of wine and took half an Ambien and apparently got out of bed not once, not twice, but THREE times, the third of which I was found staring out the windows and muttering about how “they’re here.”
Very Poltergeist of me, no?
You hear these horror stories about Ambien (leaving your home, driving down the wrong side of the highway, or – worst of all – consuming thousands of calories and not remembering a single bite of the dry cake mix, beef jerky, raw eggs and shells, and two pounds of macadamia nut binge) and the first time I took it I was so wigged out that I put a chair in front of the hotel room door before going to bed in the hopes that I wouldn’t be able to get out of the room in the night and inadvertently become the lead story on the ten o’clock news.
To explain, I only have the stuff because when I used to travel East for work, I’d have a hell of time adjusting my sleep schedule, so I’d finally calm down and doze off around 4am, and then have to be up at 6am and work all day, and after about three days of this, I was more or less hallucinating.
Enter a now five-year old prescription of Ambien that still has about twelve pills and is maybe used once a year. Also, it’s the old school kind (not the continuous release) associated with all the bizarre and unpredictable sleepwalking-plus behavior. It kind of brings to mind an idea for an experiment where maybe I’d booze it up and then take an Ambien and fill my place with motion sensor cameras and see what kind of trouble I get into? That could make an interesting reality show, at least in theory.
Finally, I do feel rather badly about neglecting the hell out of this blog (and you!) and have no real excuses minus my lingering illness and overall lack of riveting content, but presuming you’re okay with lengthy and pointless musings on whether or not a therapist I saw three or four years ago secretly thought I was insane, then I promise to provide much more regular, but still totally worthless, updates.
In fact, my intentions are so strong that I will come through on this promise that I’m not even going to wish you a Merry Christmas in the hopes that I an conjure up some more cheerful, holiday-appropriate content and share it with you again then.
But just in case, Feliz Navidad.