Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My Counselor Just Points at the Tissue Box

I recently made an appointment with my PCP.

My entire life, I have been a sad person. It's not really a big deal, I feel like I've successfully presented the image of a happy person, an in control person, even when I feel I'm not.

When I went through my divorce seven years ago, I decided to give therapy a shot. I wasn't expecting anything in terms of medication. I was only saying, "Hey, this is how I've always been and today I feel like a new person, like I have a new shot and I don't want to screw it up."

Six weeks after starting therapy, my counselor told me that, while I could continue to see her if I chose, it was time to visit the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist had a clipboard with paper on it. Presumably, the paper held questions she should ask. And, so she did. She asked questions. I answered them. I had never met this woman before and fifteen minutes after walking into her office, I had prescriptions for four different medications. 

Xanax would help me with my anxiety.
Ambien would help me sleep.
Wellbutrin would help me with my depression.
Lamictal would help me with my mood swings.

"LAMICTAL?!" my best friend vehemently questioned over the phone.
"Lamictal is a medication used to treat epilepsy! Don't take it."

Should I ask my doctor about the epilepsy meds? The psychiatrist who had never met me and gave me four prescriptions in fifteen minutes? No, thanks. I don't even remember her name.

So I Googled it.

Lamictal is a medication used to treat epilepsy that, coupled with anti-depressants, has been found to be effective at treating bi-polar mood swings.

Now, so far as I knew, I was just depressed. My fifteen minute psychiatrist never gave me a diagnosis.

I took the meds. Aside from the Ambien and the Xanax, I didn't feel any real changes in my root problems. Six weeks later, I told this to my psychiatrist (whom I hadn't seen in six weeks but, it would seem, is obligated to check up on my meds). She increased the dose of Wellbutrin and kicked me out of her office very politely within five minutes.

I got divorced. I had no insurance. I stopped taking the meds. I stopped treatment. I never noticed a difference anyhow.

Nine months ago, I decided to start counseling again, having recently stumbled upon good insurance. I told her from the beginning that I was looking for organic solutions to my problems and that I was very put off by the previous grand total of twenty minutes I had spent with a psychiatrist who had put me on meds knowing very little about me.

After this nine months, I'm finding that my pesticide-free treatment is bull shit.

I basically go talk to a stranger every couple of weeks who listens compassionately and can't judge me and my decisions the way my friends would if I said the same things to them.

She is so convinced that mantras are the way to change my life that it is everything I can do to talk myself into going to see her. "My insurance pays 100% of counseling. My insurance pays 100% of counseling. My insurance pays 100% of counseling."

But after yapping my problems for 45 minutes every two weeks, attempting some new inspiring mantra, taking my husband to counseling with me, etc., I am still sad.

Larger than life

And I thought about my last experience with the psychiatrist. I thought, please don't let that happen again.

So, instead, I called my PCP. Because I trust him and he has a weird kind of stake in my health.

When he asked me what was wrong, I immediately started to cry. He handed me the tissue box so kindly and I thought, 'my counselor just points at the tissue box.'

I told him that if I could just get something for my anxiety, I could deal with the sadness because I've always dealt with it. I told him I was seeing a counselor and had been trying organic solutions and they didn't work. I told him I'm so scared because it's affecting my relationships.

"Is it affecting your marriage?"

Yes. And, quite frankly, that is why I went. That is why I went to counseling again.

I told him that my husband is an unemotional man and he has never had any kind of experience with people with depression like me. He doesn't think it's real.

My doctor asked me several assessment questions which I answered honestly.

And this is what he told me.

I have bi-polar disorder. He can't treat it because it is very dangerous for someone who doesn't specialize in mood disorders to treat. There are chemical imbalances existing within me that no test can pinpoint. The best thing that can be done is to try different medications until the right combination is discovered for me. And, quite frankly, he'd rather treat schizophrenia than bi-polar disorder.

He had to refer me to a psychiatrist and he promised me that this one would spend more time with me than fifteen minutes. But the trick of the whole thing is that I had to get in as soon as possible because my issues are dangerous. And the other trick is that I have to remember to take my medicine.

As soon as possible turns out to be three months away. 

So, for the next three months, I just continue to be who I was before.

But my doctor said something that made me so hopeful.

"Melissa, when you get this right, everything will be so clear. You will have clarity that you didn't know was possible and everything will be right."

Tonight, even though I think drinking is bad for me, I drank to clarity. I always know what I should do, but I can't ever do it. I mean, for real, I CAN'T DO IT. I can't.

Maybe, sometime after the months following October 2, I will. "I can't" won't mean the same thing it does now.
That would really be out of this world, don't you think?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Keine Angst

Be happy!

Yes, that was a command. So, just do it.

Be happy.

Pretend there isn't a hole every other day and that even though you know it's there, you don't fall into it anyway.

Because it's dark. And dark is a comfortable place to be when you don't want to see.

And even though it's dark and cold, it's warm. Because dark wraps itself around you like the softest, fuzziest fleece blanket.

And even though that hole is never ending, you feel like you're sitting on the ground, for fuck's sake.

The ground!

You're grounded.

And even though you genuinely smiled yesterday, genuinely, like you meant it, the dark sure does know you.

It knows you.

And, if you're happy, it waits.

It waits in a way that happy never does.

Dark waits.

And you open your arms because, when you aren't happy, comfortable is the best you've got.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Saturday 6:45 a.m.: Car broke down seconds before pulling in to the parking lot at work. Not broke-down-wouldn't-move, broke-down-probably-shouldn't-drive-it-home. That's kind of what you get when you drive a 20 year old car and the only thing classic about it is how old it is.

Saturday 12:15 p.m.: Decide 2 minutes into drive home that it's not probably-shouldn't-drive-home, but definitely-shouldn't-drive-home. Since this particular part-time job is 35 minutes from home, I call my in-laws who live nearby to come get me and take me home. My daughter's birthday party was to commence less than 5 hours hence and they were coming anyway. I'll pick up my car the following day, when we come back for a birthday party of their own.

Saturday 9:30 p.m.: Party went well. Food was good, house somehow got clean. I hear Scott outside playing hide-and-seek with the girls in the dark. They have faux but sometimes real screams. It would make me smile if I weren't so tired.

Saturday 11:00 p.m.: Bed is beckoning. In spite of the happiness, it's been a long and tiring day. Husband and I still manage to roll around together. We're newlyweds, after all. I sleep well, in spite of the giggling girls.

Sunday 9:00 a.m.: Making waffles and bacon for the girls and husband. Turn phone on. Text from my mom that my cousin died sometime while I slept soundly. Call her.

I call. And she tells me all.

Such a sad, sad story all by itself.

But sadder when she tells me that she can't come home because she had surgery two days prior to remove melanoma spots on her back. Spots I didn't know she had. Spots she probably wouldn't have told me about if she didn't feel like she'd better have a good excuse for not coming home at a time like this. Spots I shouldn't tell anyone else about.

She probably didn't think it was a big deal. Or she didn't want us to think it was until it was a big deal. Two things about that:

1) When you keep a secret, it's pretty hard to come clean, because then you have to be honest about the secret in the first place.

2) It is a big deal because two years ago, there were spots on her face. And there was chemotherapy. A topical chemotherapy that hurt to look at.

And so there's a history.

And she wasn't going to tell anyone. And I can't tell anyone.

Only I'm angry. And I did tell someone. I told two someones. I told my brother and I told my sister. I told them because, no matter what my mother, my beautiful, smart, wise, hard-working mother thinks, it isn't only her business to tell or not tell. It's our business, too. Even if we didn't love her as much as we do, it's our business. But we do love her as much as we do.
So, I told them.
That's what I want to say tonight.
Monday 8:09 p.m. The Tigers are on. The Lions are on. Both are big deals. But the biggest deal is for me to say to my mom that it is my business and it is my brother's business and it is my sister's business. It belongs to us and all of her friends and to everyone who loves her just as much as it belongs to her. She doesn't get to pick. And honesty hurts so much less in the long run than secrets. That's what I want to say tonight.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Grown Up

This year, my son started 3rd grade. He's going to take the MEAP for the first time (a test in which, contrary to what I'll ever admit to publicly, I do believe in). He is halfway to middle school. He has 100% on all of his spelling tests thus far. He gets himself ready in the morning for the first time.

At 6:45, before I leave to drop my daughter off at her grandma's on my way to work, I wake him up. I make him wake up enough for him to to kiss me goodbye. I'm not sure what happens after that but, based upon what my husband says, my son goes back to sleep.

He forgets what I told him about making sure he puts his homework in his backpack. He forgets that his light is on and he has to get up. He forgets that I squeezed him and told him I love him the most. He goes back to sleep.

And then my husband walks by and wakes him again. He gets up. He gets dressed. He eats breakfast and watches cartoons.

His step-father leaves for work. He puts his bowl by the sink. He watches cartoons some more until his alarm goes off.

He puts his phone in his back pack. He goes to the bus stop. He kicks around at the storm drain until the bus comes.

That little boy is the love of my life.

And I don't have to do everything for him anymore because he can do it and when I get home he doesn't run to hug me because he's too busy getting ready to go outside and play with his friends and he doesn't want to come in until dinner and then he wants to go back out until all his friends are beckoned by their parents who love them the most and then he wants to bathe and watch Disney.

Last and maybe least, he wants to cuddle just 5 minutes before bedtime.

And I miss the time when the first thing he did when he saw me was jump on me like I was the best thing he ever saw.


Monday, August 15, 2011

I Love You

He had to tell me to my face. We were so young, it was so early, so scary. We must have looked so small to passerby. After the struggle of our lives thus far to be together, he looked at me with very serious, sincere eyes and told me that he loved me. So many things happened inside my body in that moment that I could never re-tell it, even if I had gone home and documented it right then.


We were sitting on his couch kissing. I said it first, "I love you." He told me not to say it if I didn't mean it. I didn't. But I lied and told him I did. He was very happy and from that day on for the time it lasted, he said "I love you, babe" like he was the happiest guy alive.


On the phone. We weren't even dating yet, just friends. I was crying and relaying a conflict I was having. He had this inspired we-can-get-through-this speech. When I thanked him and began cheering up, he told me he loved me. I said it back, not even knowing everything it would mean. And we began dating.


Again, on the phone. I just explained something to him he previously did not understand and never would again even though he acted like the sky had opened up. He gave me a seal of approval by telling me he loved me. It was the second happiest I ever was to hear those words.


It was a perfect summer night and we were lying in bed, naked. He was on top of me, I thought he might be slipping into sleep as I ran my nails over his back. Instead, his face still buried in my neck, he said, "I've been thinking and I want to tell you that I love you." There was something so very special and distinctive about the intimacy we shared while maintaining an odd sense of responsibility. I will always remember the ways that man showed me and told me he loved me. And still does.

I'm reading, for the first time: