I went to see a therapist today.
I’m not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I’m a great fan of being Open and Honest about mental illness, because it’s just like any disease and you wouldn’t hesitate to tell the world you had cystitis or fatty degeneration of the heart, now would you? I’ll drop Citalopram into the conversation - any conversation - like it ain’t no thing. (Point of interest? In America it’s called Celexa. Much better name.) I’ll tell you about my phobias any day of the week, as long as it isn’t a day when they’re too severe or even typing or saying the word of the thing of which I’m phobic will make me come over all panicky, because that’s just not pleasant - but actually that hasn’t happened for ages, because it turns out Citalopram is excellent for phobias. Nifty, no? I watched the BBC Planet Earth ‘Deep Oceans’ documentary awhile back and didn’t even blench.
Only, the thing is, I’m not *on* Citalopram any more. Long story short, I got pregnant earlier this year, decided to stay on Citalopram anyway because it seemed better than going crazy, had a miscarriage (don’t recommend it), read up on SSRIs and increased autism risk, decided to come off the drugs before trying to get pregnant again, weaned myself down from two tablets to one to none over several weeks, and went crazy. Man, I really don’t update this blog a lot, do I?
Enter my doctor. Well, I say ‘my’ doctor. My medical centre has a suspiciously high turnover rate. Periodically I’ll get a letter in the post saying my official GP has retired, died or been kidnapped by pirates and my new GP is Dr Indiansoundingsurname. At which I go ‘oh ar’, throw the letter away and get another one six months later. This means I can never remember who ‘my’ doctor actually is, but as he or she is invariably booked up until next week anyway and the only time I visit a doctor is when I need to see one right absolutely now this instant, I end up with the on-call and/or unpopular-enough-to-have-free-time doctor anyway, whose name I do happen to remember because she shares it with a terrorist dictator.
She is not a terrorist dictator. Terrorist dictators get stuff done. My doctor, on the other hand, pooh-poohed any suggestion that my depression and chronic fatigue were even the teensiest problem and told me that because my husband worked from home, my three-hour afternoon naps weren’t actually a problem so much as a creative and satisfactory solution to my natural tiny spot of sleepiness caused, no doubt, by my running after those cute kids: and therefore, I was fine. Better than fine, even. All I needed to do was Nurture Myself.
After a couple of months of this I finally snapped and decided to get a new doctor. This one is nicer. She orders blood tests in a patronising, “I really don’t think this is it, but if it’ll make you feel better…” way, but at least she orders them. Which is how, incidentally, we found out I have a circulating iron level of 5. The very lowest end of normal is 20. 0 is, I presume, dead. Mum says she got down to 3 once while pregnant, but she may be boasting.
Anyway, the good news is, she booked me into a sleep clinic, which should be grand fun. The bad news is, she told me to Nurture Myself. She also told me to see a therapist. How twee, thunk I. How absurdly middle-class. How White Girl Problems. How privileged and gitty and who do I think I am, anyway, when people are being murdered in subways? And why does everyone assume I have situational depression when our family’s brain-cells have managed to revolt in every conceivable circumstance over many generations? And ooh, do they really have couches?
Then she told me it was free, and I said “Oh well, OK then.” Because you don’t turn your back on a bargain, fools.
Still, I feel sort of odd about it. I wasn’t going to bring it up, but then I remembered only about three people read this blog anyway and at least one of them’s legit cuckoo herself (it’s you, Krissy; sorry), so you’ll just have to deal. And after all, mental illness is just a disease like any other and you wouldn’t be ashamed of going to a professional to find out if having a refrigerator mother caused your pancreas to stop producing insulin, now would you?
First off: I went to the wrong street. Nothing like greeting an old man at his door with a cheery “This is probably a random question, but you don’t happen to be a psychologist?” to foster community spirit. He was nice, actually.
Secondly: she did not have a couch. An absurdly squishy chair, yes. Tissues and a bin placed tactfully by. A clipboard. Many pamphlets, some of which she didn’t seem to think much of and crossed bits outta before handing them to me. I admire that.
Thirdly: apparently my depression is ‘quite severe’. I was kind of chuffed to hear that. Last time I did the multiple choice test it was only ‘moderate to severe’, and it’s always nice to feel one isn’t wasting the taxpayers’ dime.
Fourthly: I need to Nurture Myself.
Actually, it was kind of fun. She made me tell her about things that give me pleasure, and then we rated the pleasure out of 10 and compared it to the effort, also out of 10, which it took to achieving said pleasure. The idea is to try to do things which give one maximal pleasure at minimal effort. So, for example, taking a refreshing hike up a mountain might give one a 7 for pleasure, but a 10 for effort, and is therefore not that helpful as one will simply spend the rest of the week lying flat on one’s back with achy thighs and sunburn. But eating a Bounty bar, while it may only give one a 3 for pleasure, takes like 0.5 effort-points, and is therefore… more worthwhile? That doesn’t seem right. Possibly I am drawing the wrong moral here. Anyway, the upshot of it all is that we decided I like baking. Which is hardly a revelation, but I suppose it’s nice to have it professionally confirmed at a low low price.
Going back to Disneyland, sadly, is an uncompromising 10 on the effort scale, and also unsubsidised. Do you think Make a Wish - no, probably not. Shame.
Also, I don’t know how the cool kids are Nurturing Themselves these days, but her suggestions were that I could ‘go get a haircut’ (rude?) or ’sit by myself for half an hour and just breathe’, which I do already, lady, it’s called BEING DEPRESSED. Was that inspiring. I was hoping she’d insist I take up zorbing or paragliding or moving to Oxford to do the occasional paper in children’s literature and punt a lot. (Well, sit in a punt. Not actually punt. Remember the Effort Scale. Also, can’t punt. Can you?)
So…. yup. One session down, three to go. Will keep you apprised. Possibly. Honestly, I might not. And I shall make no promises, because putting Expectations on myself only leads to a Fear of Failure, which is a Negative Thought I should not attempt to Judgmentally Change but merely Acknowledge, on the grounds that Negative Thoughts are like other people’s toddlers and if you stare at them in a fixed, neutral way as they approach, they will get nervous and slink on by. (Which is certainly better than trying to change someone else’s toddler. A nappy joke. Ha-ha! See, I’m better already.)