Last summer, I realized that it was probably a good idea for me to seek out a therapist to talk to. I’d never been before, though I had considered it in the past. One of the (many many) issues I have is spending money on myself. I am not a good spender. I am way more likely to buy something for someone else, or encourage someone else to spend. I am perpetually worried about money (just ask hub), and I have all kinds of excuses as to why I shouldn’t spend money on myself. They are excuses, I am well aware, but I use them and pretty much believe myself when I do.
Our current insurance, however, has pretty decent mental health coverage, and I decided it was time to use it. I spent a lot of time looking for a local therapist who took our health insurance. I am extremely sad to report that fewer and fewer therapists are taking insurance, for lots of reasons. Ask any therapist and they could give you a long diatribe on why, unfortunately. And I get it, I really do, but for many people paying out-of-pocket is not possible. For me, mentally, it is not. So I sought out and found a therapist that I thought was so perfect for me. Not only did she specialize in treating people with chronic illnesses, but her bio clearly noted that she had a “dog-friendly” office. I am a dog lover, and the idea that not only does the therapist have dogs in her office but that I could also bring my dog in with me…holy crap I’m sold. I contacted her via her email contact, telling her very briefly why I was seeking therapy and what had drawn me to her.
In September 2011, we had to put our beloved dog to sleep, relieving her of a fatal disease. The anniversary of that traumatic event was creeping up on me, and considering how difficult a time I’d had with my grief, I was worried. Add to that the fact that some of my chronic illnesses were beginning to flare up again, I wanted to get ahead of all of it. The therapist told me she was pretty booked, but would try to work me into her schedule to see if we meshed.
When I went into her office for our first appointment, I was pretty nervous. I get a kind of stage fright–mild–about meeting new people. I often feel prematurely judged and I worry that I won’t be liked. I suspect most people have these feelings, but I am likely to do one of two things…either I stop talking or I put on a facade of happiness. I didn’t want to do either of those things with a therapist…I wanted to be open and honest and feel like I was being accepted no matter what I said. I mean, isn’t that what therapy is supposed to be?
Anyway, into her office…it was a mess. And there were no dogs in sight. In fact, I didn’t actually meet her dogs until probably my fourth visit, which was disappointing. Her office was small, and shoved into it were two couches (one of which was absolutely covered in…stuff), a desk, a large filing cabinet, an armoire, a large bookcase, a side table, another side table in the middle of the room, a bean-bag ottoman, and so much stuff piled everywhere. Floating through my head was the saying, “A cluttered room is the sign of a cluttered mind.” But the couch used for the therapy was clean and clear, and the woman who greeted me seemed open and kind and compassionate. So I sat and we talked, and I did my best to be as forthcoming as possible. And near the end of the appointment, she made a comment that hit me hard in a non-therapy kind of way. It was a phrase that I use often that I hardly ever hear anyone else use. To be honest, right at the moment, I can’t remember what it was, but it really struck me. So when she asked if I wanted to make another appointment, I said yes. Because it seemed like the universe was guiding me to this woman, who seemed to match my needs in the most obvious ways. She later told me that she really hadn’t been looking to take on new clients, but that she had been drawn to me and couldn’t turn me away.
I began going to weekly appointments, the first of which were “getting to know you” type appointments. I was surprised at how easily I was able to talk to this woman, but I was somewhat disappointed that she seemed a little scattered. And that she spent time during the appointment looking things up that she wanted me to look at on my own. And she took (a few) calls and/or emails/texts during the appointment. All of which were, of course, urgent. She never failed to apologize for the interruptions, but the appointments didn’t feel focused. Having no experience with a therapist, I thought it was normal. I thought that us sometimes “chatting” like friends was her way of doing therapy. Since I felt comfortable, I figured it was a good setup for me.
One day I asked hub to come in to my appointment with me. He was off of work and although he wasn’t entirely keen on the idea, he did join me. When we left, he asked me if she was always that scattered, and did she always seem to veer off into discussing industry people she knew or had met or had trained with, etc. When I said yes to both, he looked at me in a strange way. Hub has some experience with therapists but we never discussed his therapy. I asked him if his therapy sessions were so different from what he had just seen and his answer was a solid “yes.” But I felt lucky to have found someone who not only seemed to understand me, she also understood my abject grief over our dog’s death, and understood my (and had experience treating) chronic illnesses. And who took our insurance. So I persisted.
There is no question that I liked my therapist, and I feel strongly that she helped me with the PTSD I had over seeing my precious SP put to sleep. But as time went on and I realized that not only did our sessions not seem to be fruitful, but my therapists own illness began to take over. I have the utmost sympathy for my therapist because she was going through a lot when I met her. Not only was she still holding a full schedule, but she was dealing with a life-threatening illness. I didn’t know that when I first met her, but the information snuck out over time. And as her health began to decline, I felt more like a friend than a patient, because our sessions continued to be “chatty” and not fruitful for me. Granted, the insurance was covering the sessions, but it was my time, too.
When I slid into the acute phase of my own illness–landing myself in the ER–my therapist was mired in her own health issues. And although I understand that she couldn’t be available to me the way I needed, I did feel let down by her. She knew that she had health issues and yet she took on a new patient. She knew that she needed to cut back on her schedule so she could see to her own health, but she was not honest with me about it. She couldn’t handle my break down, but instead of saying so, she made me feel like I was intruding on her or asking too much of her. She was curt with hub when he tried to speak to her on my behalf (“I’m always available to you!” — only NOT). On top of that, my hub was furious with her for many of the same reasons.
So when my therapist got back to us after I had a panic attack–the time when she was almost completely unavailable and unsympathetic to my plight–she suggested a “higher level” of care. A therapy office with multiple therapists on staff, and a psychologist who helped coordinate care. But lo and behold, the office did not take insurance. We are lucky in that we have an out-of-network option on our insurance (which we pay out the ass for), so I knew we would get reimbursed somewhat for my care. I also knew from past experience that the payout would be minimal and getting reimbursed would be tedious and painful. But I was really hurting and I had no way (and no energy) to find a new therapist on my own.