Yesterday I had a first appointment with a new psych doc. Never something I look forward to, but just like the search for a good care-provider of any type – massage therapist, chiropractor, general practitioner, gynecologist – sometimes finding Doctor Right takes some time.
As with ending any relationship – getting fired from a job, losing a best friend, an ugly break-up – there’s often trepidation about starting a new one. And, the clinician/client relationship holds its own special challenges.
After years of dealing with a mental health diagnosis, and finally finding myself ready to deal with it the right way, I’ve learned a few things:
- 1. I’m tired of my own story.
2. I’m afraid of the power-differential between doctor and patient.
3. I don’t ever want to work with a clinician who’s crazier than I am again.
That last one should be a no-brainer, right? But surprisingly (or not so) there are many totally loony-bins, whack-job, lunatic fringe, damaged goods psych providers out there.
Point number two is a Big Deal – probably for many of us. The invisible agreement that the doc knows better than I do about my wellbeing.
First there’s the pre-appointment stress. But after years of hectic fear of the first face-to-face, I’ve learned an important technique; I write down everything I need to make sure I say, knowing by now that if I get too rattled I forget important elements…really important elements…like relevant symptoms, or past meds that messed me up more than they helped.
Then there’s the fear factor that comes up; yesterday I cried before the appointment, because my previous clinician was such a med-pusher that I was on a chemically induced rollercoaster for six months!
Talk about building up the charge of an already stressful situation; learning to live with a life-long disability is no walk in the park. Add in basically coercive medication roulette, and you’ve got fear in a bottle. A pill bottle. Again and again.
Point number one…that’s a little more complicated.
During the interview/first appointment, there’s a kind of haphazard tossing out of (very intimate) details of my life, from early childhood to recent events. Here I am, telling a complete stranger details and memories I wouldn’t easily tell even my closest friend.
Then there’s the post-interview reflection; what did the stories I chose from my grab-bag of memories and anecdotes and tossed on the table say about me?
What about what I wore (whatever was clean enough, and fit the weather – not much more thought went into the decision than that) – how could that be read? Did my clothing mix with the self-revelatory, bite-sized pieces of my tore-up heart in a way that could have been read as compounding my apparent level of injury?
I’m happy – and more than a little relieved – to report that yesterday’s interview went well.
Dr. G—- asked the right questions, and made the right statements. He even made a joke. He asked how often my previous clinician had seen me. I told him, “Well, once a week to once a month.” He said, “Hm! I guess that you make an interesting patient!” We quickly agreed that I didn’t need to be that interesting to him.
I came out of my appointment with newfound hope; this doc let me tell him only the parts of my story that I needed to share. He didn’t press for more information on topics that I was recalcitrant about. He told me he cared less about diagnosis, and more about finding solutions. He told me he wasn’t afraid to speak up – and I saw that that didn’t mean he felt like the need to “speak up” when he really had nothing to say.
I left my appointment with Dr. G—- with a sense that I was in control of my treatment, if not totally in control of my disorder. (God only knows when, or even if, that will happen.) I left empowered enough to allow for the realization that this was his interview for a job I was hiring for, not the other way around.
Wow! A true “Eureka!” moment!
After this less-than-traumatic session with a brand-new-to-me doc, I realized that in the interim between my previous clinician and this new one, I had formulated an idea that I wasn’t even really consciously aware of about what I wanted in a psych doc.
These desired elements were, and are, a lot of the same things I want in any relationship in my life; clear communication, even when there’s a possibility of disagreement. Strength without force. Sensitivity. Mutual respect. Good, appropriate boundaries. The possibility of this becoming a long-term commitment.
I’m done with fly-by-night clinicians. I’m even MORE done with flying-by-the-seat-of-their-pants clinicians.
In the light of this newly forming clinician/client bond, I’ve already learned a lot. In my opinion, any increase in awareness provided by the meeting of two minds is a good sign.
I’m not going to jump the gun and say I’ve found “the one”, but I’m happy to say I have a pretty good feeling that this thing just might work out. And, I’m going to cross my fingers and hope that it does. Here’s to hoping!
Maybe, just maybe, I’ve finally found my Dr. Right.