Last week I told you about my failed trip to see a shrink. Please rest assured that I have finally met her and I had my first visit yesterday. I say ‘first’ because there will be more (perhaps many more).
I walked into her office yesterday afternoon almost expecting Dr. W not to be there. I took a deep breath and turned the door knob. Damn. It’s turning. I thought, Well, I might as well go through with this now that I’m here. I sat by a window and filled out my paperwork. When I was done, I just sat there watching the snow fall. It was very, very soothing.
An older man walked out of Dr. W’s office. I turned to look at him and gave him a smile. He avoided looking at me. That struck me as odd. I was just trying to be friendly.
Finally, Dr. W emerged and led me to her office. She was as grandmotherly as I expected her to be. However, she was a much better dresser than I thought. She was wearing these cute little grey wool pinstriped cropped pants, black patent leather flats, with a grey chunky knit v-neck sweater and a fabulous scarf that pulled it all together. My shrink was a fashionista. I really wouldn’t have it any other way.
I sat down in an uncomfortable chair. She sat across from me, grabbed a file folder and some spare sheets of paper, and started to ask me questions. They started out very basic (how long have you lived here, where are you from, what do you do) and progressed to very personal (are you in a relationship, describe your boyfriend, describe the relationship you have with your mother). I surprised myself with my very honest responses. I suppose therapy is not the place to be lying. However, I often gave out (what I considered to be) too much information. After all, I barely knew this woman. I understood that she is a medical professional who intends to make me better. I put all my faith in this woman (and that scares me).
I told her about my panic attacks, my lack of sleep, my inability to stop my mind from racing uncontrollably. Dr. W determined from what I told her that the attacks seem to occur when I feel that I am missing something or have lost something. “Usually”, Dr. W explained, “these are rooted in a deeper fear of something, something you probably don’t even realize.” Hmmm…I’m not afraid of anything. She continued, “It seems to me, considering your small family support system, the death of your father at a very early age, and the fact that many milestones in your life occurred while you were alone, that you may have a fear of being alone.” Possibly. Dr. W said, “People who have this fear don’t like it when their husbands or boyfriends go away on trips, leaving them alone.” Ummm…when did I tell her about my separation anxiety? That hadn’t come up yet. As if she knew everything about me, Dr. W continued, “In fact when left alone, you lose all desire to do anything, like eat, sleep, going out.” Holy crap. Was she secretly taping my life? How did she know these things?
I left her office knowing several things that I didn’t know before seeing Dr. W.
- I do in fact suffer from anxiety and not depression (take that, Dr. E).
- My anxiety stems from my fear of being alone.
- Shrinks can be stylish.
- Therapy isn’t as bad as I thought.
As I walked out of her office, I saw a girl about my age in the waiting room. I smiled at her and she quickly turned away. She looked embarrassed. I felt bad for her.
On my way to the Metro, I wondered why it is that mental illness carries such stigma that people who seek treatment are embarrassed for doing so. The way I see it, mental disorders are illnesses just like diabetes and hypertension. People seek treatment for those (like a healthy diet and prescription drugs).
How is depression or anxiety any different?
And why should you feel ashamed for trying to make yourself better?