Tag Archives: psychologist

My hobby

I knew a woman who had TMJ, severe back pain and fibromyalgia. She also suffered from secondary infertility. I felt pity on her. She asked me once to accompany her on an appointment at University of San Francisco. It was about a thirty minute drive, a toll bridge and parking is a huge mess, but we went and waited. When we finally saw the doctor, she took off her shoes and pulled off her socks. She showed the doctor her ankles. One was slightly more swollen than the other. She was in no pain, not even that nameless feeling you get when things just aren’t right. Nothing.

The podiatrist did notice that she had a corn and that she had the choice of whether she wanted to remove it or to hang tight. Of course she signed up for the surgery – her hand almost quivering with excitement. She thought her intuition and God drew her to that place and that it was just wonderful that she had her convictions verified.

I could not believe she went to that effort to fix something that wasn’t broken. The amount of time and money we spent to get there was astounding.

Her hobby was going to the doctor.

I am afraid I have become like her.

Today is Friday. I started the day at the physical therapist, where Megan, Ph.D and I worked on my knee. The knee bothers me more than hurts me. There are a few other things she is working on – including my balance caused by those tumors in my foot and strength in the hips. Thank you, Dr. Megan.

Monday is the day I see my psychiatrist. She adjusts my psychiatric medication and helps with my regime – she loves yoga and likes meditation. If you have religious objections to them that you would like to see addressed, please comment and I can tell you why I think that is cool for me, or any other Christian, to practice them.

Tuesday is Weight Watchers. No doctors there. But I quit eating milk and my face has cleared up. Wonder if all along a milk allergy caused the mess that was my skin. I saw a dermatologist and he gave me two tubes of goo for my face.

Wednesday we visited the marriage counselor, LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) with a Ph.D in Psychology. She is very small and I recognized her because her office is in the same building as my beloved Dr. G (He moved to San Diego.)

Thursday I went to my talk-therapy therapist. The psychologist is arrestingly smart. She earned her Ph.D from University of North Dakota. I talked about my foot problems and how the doctor (A podiatry degree is separate from a MD – but still a doctor.) told me there was nothing he could do. I reluctantly agreed to get a second opinion. But are there enough days in a week to accommodate another doctor?

It’s not a hobby. It’s just what my life is right now, I keep telling myself. It’s not forever, but maybe it’s not. When I was young the family doctor didn’t know my brother had a sister. He managed to get every single childhood illness that is not vaccinated against and some that were. I didn’t. I never broke a bone or needed anti-biotics. Now, I am quite sure he hasn’t been to the doctor for years, while I haven’t been to the doctor in hours. It’s not a contest and being free of bodily disease is not a moral issue. I do my best not to be sick: I wash my hands and brush my teeth and try not to be overweight. Even if I do those things I will always be sick – I will always a close, personal relationship with my pharmacist and the pharmacist techs. (Ah! The pharmacist is a doctor, too!)

Edited to add: I didn’t mention the teeth doctors: Dentist, endodontist and orthodontist.


Happily Ever After

(When I referred to a doctor in this post I am referring to PhD’s in psychology or a related subject.)

First of all, Adelle. I knew nothing about her until peridot (http://greenegem.wordpress.com) turned me on to her. This was after all those silly Grammys. I was happy for her because everyone was talking about how great so was and because she has an old lady name. I had never purposely heard her music before and had no idea what was going on.

I recently lost 34 pounds. I look better. Maybe if I had met Adele sooner I wouldn’t have gone to the trouble, which is ridiculous. She is absolutely gorgeous and supremely talented. I think she looks on the outside like her insides – at least when it comes to music. Not knowing she is almost intolerably beautiful was helpful, in some ways. Some artists are good, but too good looking for anyone to ever hear their music. We’re a shallow group and some of us would never listen to someone pretty. There are some of us that only like artists are pretty. Both groups miss out – but my bet is that you belong to one of them. Think about it.

I am so shallow I almost didn’t hook into my current psychologist. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong until I stepped my ignorant self back and realized it was because she looked so differently than previous counselors. My first real psychologist appeared to dress exclusively in Eileen Fisher. She had a soothing dress, voice, her gray blonde hair was even soothing. Ah, Dr CJ, I will always miss you. It took me a while to find my doc here (in fact I met with an extremely well dressed and well appointed woman in the interim. Not a great therapist, an MFT (Marriage and Family Therapist), but she looked the part. The Social Worker I saw I would not go back to because of unprofessional behavior, including wearing his wrinkled shirt untucked with his sloppy jacket over. He was also unapologetic about making me wait between fifteen and twenty minutes almost every week.) My new doc always wore a crisp suit and tie. Attractive, salt and pepper hair with a well polished wedding ring. I learned so much from them and kinda assumed that was what psychologists looked like.

Current psychologist is almost six feet tall and slouches. She is always neatly dressed in clean unfashionable clothes and fixes her hair everyday with what appears to be a curling iron. She is well groomed but she doesn’t look like anyone else. She is fiercely smart – this is the woman who said, “Ah – so you don’t like being in the same room with someone smarter than you”.

So what if she was right? Most of my friends are at least as smart as I am. M. The thing I don’t like is people that I have tenuous relationships with being smarter than me. Or when those same people can do things that I do well better than me. Many of my close friends are better writers, and I’m okay with that. I don’t feel threatened. I know they would still like me if all the words fell out of my head or even if my first novel shot up the Best Seller’s list. They would probably still like me if that book wound up in the remainder stack. Those other people? Who knows how or why they cause me such grief. I’m sure one of those doctors would be able to tell me.

I’m reviewing all of this because my husband and I start marriage counseling Monday. I told our potential therapists about these issues:

I’m bipolar
We’re eleven years apart and we have too much father/daughter stuff going on
There is no infidelity that I know of. (I didn’t want to seem naive, but I highly doubt there is.)
We are both committed to staying in the marriage

If we got all of this under control, we could all live Happily Ever After.

Bells Might Ring

A lot of my friends are getting divorced, or want a divorce. It seems kinda funny to me, but I’ve heard this story before. Most of us marry in our twenties. A lot of us divorce in our thirties/early forties. Some of us want to remarry, and divorce with the hope they will find someone better, others swear they will never marry again.

My therapist is about six feet tall and has a Ph.D. She has been married five times and told me that her husband of many years is almost perfect. She says that moving out to California was a challenge before because of her liabilities, namely the height and education. I don’t know if Californians are less intimidating here in California or what, but she met her husband that day she moved here. Good for her. She is a smart cookie and I like her much more than I thought I would.

She rarely works with bipolar patients, but that is okay. She said that I do quite well. Many of her patients lie on the couch and watch t.v. all the day. I do creative, productive things and have relationships. I liked that she said that. I wonder if it is a disguise or what. My illness doesn’t spread over everything I do. There are days I am totally in control, and there are others where I run up a $350 bill on art supplies. Last week I had really bad cycling. I had minutes where I said, “What is bipolar, anyway? I don’t have it, I feel great.” By the time I parked my car I was ready to die. That went on about three days. It was thrilling and disappointing. I wasn’t sure if it what would happen. There was no living in the present. I like that idea, living in the present can be wonderful so some people, but when one is suicidal, there is nothing to comfort yourself in that moment. To live with a mood disorder means living in the next moment, and knowing that the moment will change.

More about that later.

Time cards are for geniuses

For this otherwise glorious job, I have to fill out timecards once every two weeks. I’ve never managed to get it right. I write down the wrote date, forget to give myself credit for hours I’ve worked and once had to pay for days I actually worked because I screwed up so badly. It sucks and I hate it. I wish I had a job with a personal secretary, a competent, good one, because I need it. I need a housekeeper, too. Those are two tasks beyond my level of skills. I think I always thought I’d have those things, so I didn’t focus on two very important tasks. My house remains a mess, and often visits the world of shambles. I am not sure how to handle this well. There is this book my mom got me, “Sidetracked Home Executive” and it is effective. But I have to remember to use it, and not just skip things in to the back of my 3×5 cards labeled with important chores and activities. Some of the things are like: Tidy kitchen. That usually means putting my husband’s eggs away. Other things like: Put on makeup, frequently get ignored. I think I’m prettier at 35 than i was at 25, but I’m really not the one to judge.

I had another bad morning. Yesterday was terrible. I just feel, I don’t know, unusual. It’s like I skipped an important medication, or got treated differently than I am used to be treated. It throws me. It looks like the Malakoa who thought she could do anything was wrong.

I read the other day how bipolar people believe they can do things they cannot do. This is true, and I wished I had known it before. It’s not the same as having dreams, dreams are important. There are some folks with bipolar who think they can fly, or know how to solve California’s budget problems. I believed I could roller skate and invited friends out skating. (I do not roller skate.) The confidence is compelling, so sometimes we get jobs based on claims we make in job interviews. Yes, in college I read 100 pages an hour. Now, I sometimes take 1/2 hour to read three.

I can think of two great big examples of how I screwed my college education up. One was my major. I studied Comparative Literature and thought I could go to graduate school. I spoke pretty competent Spanish but could not read and write it well. I took the Spanish 25 class, which it like English 1A. You are expected to know Spanish, but not be familiar with the skills necessary to write essays or interpret readings. I got a “C”. I didn’t take this as a sign that I should change my major, which required upper division work in Spanish. I just plugged along, got a tutor and kept getting those “C”s. I do not know what I was thinking.

Another thing I did was decided I wanted to take a graduate level class in Anglo-Saxon literature. I was not earning good grades and I was not regularly attending class. However, my enthusiastic demeanor earned me a space in the small, exclusive seven person group, filled with the finest English graduate students in the United States, and me. I did horribly in the class. I was asked to drop it, but instead hung around and didn’t quite get why I wasn’t doing well. I never dropped the class, and what’s more I arrive an hour late to the final because I wrote the time down right but read it long. I didn’t take the final at all. The teacher felt “betrayed” and refused to even give me a grade in the class.

It really screwed up my GPA, which wasn’t so great in the first place.

I didn’t know then, but my behavior was classic bipolar nonsense. I can’t go back to school and fix things. I earned my Bachelor’s degree with out commendation and had similar troubles in graduate school. I dream of going back to school and earning a psychology degree so I can work with other mentally ill folks, but the truth is I don’t have the chops. My memory is not good and there are probably not a lot of schools that would take me. National University, maybe? I’m not too proud. But we’re wise enough right now not to go into debit so I can get a degree for a job I may or may not get. I can’t work too much, it’s do much responsibility. I don’t want to be in charge of anyone either. I like my Genesis job. I do not like payroll, but you can’t like everything. If you do, it seems to me, you are not paying attention. It’s silly. Do not always be silly, all your credibility will be gone and no one likes that.

The Parents

The other day my good friend, CH, asked me how my parents reacted to my manic-depression diagnosis. Excellent question, and I know some of you have already heard a part of this story. Nevertheless, here is the answer:

After the psychiatrist confirmed my psychologist’s diagnosis, I wanted to use his phone to call my dad. The doctor wouldn’t let me to privacy reasons, so I drove around until I found a pay phone. (I didn’t believe in cell phones.) I called my dad at work. “Daddy, I have bipolar.” He responded, “This is J. W.” I told him again. I started to cry. I asked him to call my mom. The whole time I was on the phone there was this guy in a dark red truck ogling me. When I got off the phone he asked if he could give me a ride. I almost spit on him, but all I did was give him a dirty look. I knew even then I wouldn’t ever forget him.

My parents rushed home from work, threw some clothing in the car and drove to my house three hours away. By that time I was in the hospital. My eighteen month old was with B. I had secured breastfeeding rights for her, so my parents brought her every morning and every night to nurse. My dad would cry the whole time we were together. I kissed him and tried to soothe him but I couldn’t really do it. I was the cause for his grief. So long as I stayed in the hospital, I could not assuage it.

I think a lot of my dad’s sorrow came from guilt about his family of origin. My uncle had schizophrenia. He died in a mental health facility for disabled veterans. Their mother probably had some sort of mental illness as well. My dad had escaped it, but I hadn’t. I learned later my father was also afraid because of the other patients. Many of them were fresh after a suicide attempt, so they were drugged even further out of their minds. Perhaps I was not as sparkly as I was when I came in, but I wasn’t suicidal any more. At least not that suicidal.

He talked to my therapist once and asked her how did it get so far without him knowing? That question is one I have asked myself many times. Why didn’t they figure it out? I knew I was different than everyone else at a very young age. (We’re talking early elementary school). I started asking for counseling in the seventh grade but my mom told me I didn’t need it. My parents must have thought that I was just quirky and slightly crazy. My severe mood swings were dismissed as part of my personality. I was great fun high, and was mean, spiteful and unthankful when I was low.

My mom is usually more emotionally reserved than my dad, and this instance was no different. She likes to take care of things, and she did. Not only was she caring for my toddler daughter, but she did things like scrub the carpet to get the sizeable stains out of it. She brought me my new clothes to wear in the hospital. (I had gone on a shopping spree the Friday before. I bought a vacuum and about about $1,000 of clothes. In retrospect she had the option of returning them, they still had their tags and I had a receipt. She didn’t, so I got to look cute while most everyone else looked like hell.)

I will always be thankful for them for coming to see me every morning and every night and bringing Small. My thankfulness extendes to their attitude: They were excited to see me and wanted to be there. There was no resentment that the visits were inconvenient or too long. They wanted to stay as long as they could to spend time with me and to let me spend time with their granddaughter.

I got out of the hospital and resumed living, only with doctors or therapist appointments three times a week and a handful of drugs morning and night. Life was difficult. Only B saw the grueling pace I was working at. No one else could fathom it. I wanted my parents to know, and to understand, though. For a while there, if they were around when it was time, I’d sort my pills in to pill boxes in front of them. I wanted to show them how serious this illness can be. I have a lot of bottles of pills. Most recently I’ve added an anti-nausea drug because my B-100 pill makes me throw up several times a month. That brings my prescription bottles up to a grand total of seven. This is not counting the vitamins. I asked the pharmacy tech if I had more prescriptions than any other customer and she said, “for a young person, yes.” They even know me by name.

But back to my parents. My mom lives with us four days a week. I know part of the reason is that she wants to keep her eye on me. She and my dad are getting a grip on all this means. Bipolar can be fatal and I feel like, even if I have long stretches of stability, The way I see it I am always going be on the brink of a episode. A mood swing can be triggered by just about anything, it’s just a matter of how the symptoms present themselves. Sometimes I’ll be elated and deflated, up and down, in a day’s time. Sometimes I’ll sleep until 10 (we’re normally awake at 6:30). Sometimes I’ll buy everything in the mall that is my size. Sometimes no symptoms will present themselves, and my new goal is to try to at least look like I’ve got it together the way I used to when I worked full time. If I work hard I won’t do most of those things most of the time, but, aside from death, I can guarantee that no episode will be my last.

I do want to be well. I rarely miss a dose of my medicine, no matter how unpleasant it to do so. I am on a diet that helps regulate my mood and I make an effort to exercise. (Not enough of an effort, if you ask B, and he is right.) I try to do little things, like go to bed at the same time every night and follow doctor’s orders. I’ve stopped overeating, for the most part, and started dieting and losing weight. All these little things contribute to a centered life and a healthy brain. I think my parents know that I usually am doing my best and working my hardest, and they do a lot to help us along.

So there is my answer. My parents were grieved, but strong and generous in their response to finding out about my illness. It is hard to ask for more.

Ah, f@#$-it

I had a kind, warm, funny psychologist that left me for San Diego.  He had a great laugh so I tried to make him laugh as much as I could.  He was articulate and insightful and everything a psychologist should be.

One day we were talking about food.  He said most of his clients, when faced with the choice between something like a doughnut and not something like a doughnut, they stare at the doughnut for a moment, then say, “Ah, f@#$ it.”

So, I’m dieting, and losing weight (nine pounds since December 5 – but who’s counting?) even though I am having days where I eat whatever all day long.  In honor of the psychologist that cast me away, I call them, “F@#% it Days.”  Today I ate two doughnuts with iced coffee for breakfast, a big ole bowl of fruit salad, a taco, burrito and french fries with Arnold Palmers at lunch and a bunch of calamari with spaghetti with meat sauce.  Approximately 4,543 calories.

I am still losing weight.  Probably a big reason is that I’m not eating like that everyday, like I used to.  (Picture me looking around sheepishly.)  Now I’m eating a banana yogurt smoothie for breakfast, snacking on fruit, making my fabulous onion dip but dipping in to it with veggies and just generally being aware of what’s going in  to my mouth.  Nine pounds is the size Small was when she was born.

Onion Dip Recipe

Take some olive oil and butter and melt them together

add a chopped up onion.  Saute until the onions are translucent and about 1/3 are caramelized.

Stir in to sour cream,  along with Lowry’s Seasoning Salt.

Refrigerate over night.

Eat with those Hawaiian style potato chips, or veggies.

So delicious


Depression’s tricks

Depression makes you feel fat.  Or way to thin.  Your breasts are too large, too small, or too long.  You are dumb.  Your mom is dumb.

Then the suicidal thoughts creep in.

But what comes before the suicidal thoughts is the scariest.  It’s the feeling that you are utterly and completely alone.  No one understands you and no one ever will be able to.  You are the only one with the urge to strangle your child.  No one else has ever hated themselves.  No one has ever been where you are now.

The last one might be the most dangerous.  When I was in the hospital, I heard a woman grill the facilitator telling her she didn’t know what it meant to be depressed.  The facilitator brushed her off, saying that it wasn’t about her own experiences.  Then the ninety year old patient stomped out with her walker.

I want to be one of those facilitator.  I think I’ve been a lot of the places they have been.  I’m been on the verge of suicide, I’ve shown up at work totally drunk, I lost someone I loved more than anyone before.  I’ve heard voices, saw things out of the corner of my eye that were not there, I’ve eaten an entire bag of potato chips.

There are many things I haven’t done.  Meth.  Time.  Multiple marriages.  But I don’t think that disqualifies me from empathy or compassion.

I’ve hear two people say that they don’t feel comfortable talking to counselors, as they are only listening to them talk for money.

It’s not a lot of money.  If I get the therapist’s job I want I will probably make about $20,000 less a year than my husband.  It’s not just money.

No more tonight.  Feeling super ADHD.  Back later