photo (6)I can’t believe I haven’t written about my therapist yet. After all these years: we’ve been partners in this odd relationship since 1999 or so. On and off, but still. She’s seen me through some fearsome places. She tells me now how much better I am, and I believe her, because she’s been there for me when I wasn’t.

Back then around the turn of this latest century, I was a pretty busy humanoid indeed. I had just moved to beautiful Western North Carolina from even more beautiful Northern Utah, ostensibly because I wanted to spend more time with my father, who had just suffered a minor heart attack and got a stent for his trouble.

In reality, I had been having job trouble. I know that when you’re bipolar you’re supposed to have job trouble, but this wasn’t that kind. I was working for genuine crooks, who paid me a fancy salary to be their high class medical whore, and I was fed up with being expected to dance a fine line between good and bad medicine in order to fill their pockets.

It happened that the town my parents live in was fresh out of a pediatrician at that time. They offered me a quaint little building and half of my present salary to start up a practice from scratch. It was great. I loved it.

But I wasn’t taking any medicine. Didn’t have time, etc. and of course with the stress and long hours I began to slide. And slide. And then A_ showed up in my life, to make things more dramatic and exciting, because I didn’t have enough to do, running a solo pediatrics practice.

Oh, and I forgot about R_, who was already making things exciting, but in a more quiet way, not the kind of roller coaster drama that would really get my blood racing. So there were the two of them, cordially duking it out for my hand, while I played my hand down the middle and went to work seven days a week, ten hours a day.

The therapist? She entered the picture when A_ asked me to marry him and I thought it might be a good idea to get some premarital counseling. I was seeing a psychiatrist, finally, because I had become so depressed that I was having to pop into my private office and cry between patients. Since I schedule six patients an hour, that was throwing my schedule off something fierce, so I thought it might be time to do something about it. The shrink I hit upon turned out to be terrible, threw big awful SSRIs at me, not having picked up on my bipolarism, and I could barely function. All of this, and big A_ was in the same boat, being an undiscovered bipolar himself. So there we both were, tossing about in a stormy sea of mental illness and discontent. R_ sadly yet wisely excused himself from the dysfunctional trio, and he was much the better for it.

We went to my therapist because she was listed in the insurance guide book as doing premarital couples counseling. She was milder and pleasanter than anyone I had ever encountered in my life. She evinced tole painting and warm brownies and snow globes shaken up with the flakes all coming down around the quiet church. After the session, as we were all filing out of the office, she laid her hand on my arm and said, smiling, “May I see you for a minute?”

I watched A_ recede into the waiting room as I was drawn back into the therapy room. I sat back down. I waited.

“I don’t normally see people for individual therapy,” my therapist said. “But I want to see you by yourself. Would you be willing to come and see me for several, let’s say six, sessions?”

I said that I would.

I can one hundred percent tell you that she saved my life. The confluence of influences that was brewing at that moment very soon blew itself into a full blown conflagration. I was hospitalized twice. I spent every waking moment, and many non-waking ones, thinking about ways to kill myself, more refined, better, less messy, undetectable, etc.

And here we are, thirteen years later. I’ve been lots of places and done lots of things since then, some of them more functional, some of them less. I landed back here in Western North Carolina s year and a half ago: my father is older and much sicker, want to spend time with him. I was overjoyed to find my therapist still in practice, very part time, and willing to take me back! For, dear reader, I am going to need her. I need her now, but I feel the rumble of distant thunder that informs my consciousness of impending tempest, upheaval, and without good and proper intervention, potential disaster. So I take my medicines and I go to therapy. And I hope to be able to give you all a good report, as we all roll along life’s trajectory, doing our best to keep it between the ditches, right side up.

© Laura P. Schulman, M.D., M.A. and A Canvas Of The Minds 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Laura P. Schulman, M.D., M.A. and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

7 thoughts on “Therapy

  1. Laura, I am so glad you’ve written this. It astonishes me to think about how little we have posted to date concerning therapy, we focus so much on other aspects of treatment: psychiatrists, medication, etc. While discussing all of that isn’t a bad thing, it seems like we aren’t striking a balance; Lulu and I actually just spoke this morning about how important it is that therapy and medication treatment are hand in glove, if you will.

    (Now I am a terrible person for discussing anything about therapy, because, in my mother’s words, “They just don’t know what to do with you.” The only therapist I was ever comfortable with and genuinely liked and trusted, once she realized what she had on her hands in me, did the responsible thing and sent me straight to a psychiatrist, because she was “just” a LCSW, and didn’t feel like her training was adequate to deal with the likes of me. While she was quite right, I will always miss her. . . Her name was Laura, as it happens. 😉 )

  2. It’s so nice to hear a “good therapist” story. It seems like many are very average and that’s not quite good enough for a lot of us. Mine is OK, but that’s a damn sight better than the previous ones, which flat-out sucked.

    I’m learning that the personal qualities I need in a therapist – other than therapeutic goodness – are not easy to find, especially since it’s hard to pin down what those things are.

    • It often takes a lot of “shopping” to find the right therapist. I found that it was crucial to overcome the “it must be me, I just have to grin and bear it” voices, to have the chutzpah to actually fire a shitty therapist and go on to the next one and the next one. As in all relationships made in heaven, this one chose ME.

  3. It’s a tough ride but sounds like you are succeeding. Keep up the hard work.

    Great post.

    All the best.

    • Thank you! It ain’t easy by a long shot, but then there were no guarantees when they booted us out of wherever we came from and into this crazy life. I’m just trying to do the best I can with what I’ve been given. That’s all any of us can be expected to do, right?

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