Wine Diaries Part 1: The Counselor

After you read this you will understand why this glass of wine is much needed and pretty much deserved at this point. It’s Sunday, my husband is asleep, I’m in an over-sized shirt and some cupcake pj pants, and curled up with a glass of wine and my beloved laptop.

So allow me to explain the shit show that began to unfold Tuesday, well, last Friday if you’d like me to be technical.

Last Friday I went to the hospital on base for a medication check and to see if it was possible to up my dosage of Wellbutrin or to try another medication. During my appointment the nurse decided to ask me if I was having any thoughts of suicide or homicide. Now, normally this question is phrased, “Are you having thoughts of harming yourself or others?” You can only imagine the look on my face as I try to process “homicide” and not be a total smart-ass, dark sense of humor I know. I paused for a moment trying to process the word and I looked at the nurse after an awkward pause and said, “Not necessarily…?” It was no surprise the nurse was a bit caught off guard. Later the doctor comes in giving me the routine spiel, and again I tried to refrain from the sarcasm that flows out of my mouth and then he suggests I go to the mental health building for counseling, I agreed… and that was my first mistake.

Tuesday morning 7:26 A.M. I show up to the mental health clinic for my appointment thirty minutes early as requested by the receptionist in order to fill out a form of survey on a computer. After several technical difficulties later, it is about 8:05 and nobody has come to claim me. So, I take a seat and wait… and wait… and, you guessed it, wait. Finally, a woman calls me to follow her to her office. Small talk ensues and we get on the subject about how Nick was the one to house hunt while I was still in Indiana. I told her about Nick opening a box and getting freaked out about my phrenology bust (if you don’t know what phrenology is, google it please) and she asked why I would have that. I explained that I am a third year psychology student.

So, she asks me to take a seat on the couch as she takes a seat in her chair and asks me why I was there today and I explained that I was referred by my doctor after my Wellbutrin was upped. She then discusses how she saw no indication that I was on medication in my file and that my doctor must not have updated it. Then she proceeds to ask the routine, “What brings you in and what kind of problems are you experiencing?” I calmly explain that I am having a very hard time trying to manage my depression and my anxiety. She proceeds to explain that depression and anxiety manifest differently from person to person and wanted me to elaborate on how it manifests for me. I begin to tell her that for my depression, I tend to have days where I don’t want to do anything, that I oversleep or don’t sleep at all, but can’t really find the motivation to leave bed or even complete my homework or tasks around the house, etc. For my anxiety, I explain to her that I tend to fidget, my heart beat begins to increase, I talk fast and sometimes so fast that it comes out as anything other than the English language, etc. Then for both, sometimes I have no real reason to be depressed or anxious, but it ends up overwhelming me. She asks me about my past suicidal thoughts and if I had ever planned on harming myself. I casually explain to this woman that I had self-harmed from about 15-17 and had seriously contemplated suicide at the age of 16. Instead of changing the subject with the basic information she now had, she proceeds to go incredibly in-depth. She proceeds to ask the following questions…

  • How often did you think about suicide?
  • What was your plan?
  • Did you ever attempt your plan?
  • How often did you self-harm?
  • What did you use to self-harm?
  • Why did you self-harm?

Granted, I understand that these questions could be of some importance, but not for an initial appointment and especially because all of these happened almost 4 years ago. The counselor was very irritated that I could not recall specific reasons on why I self-harmed and why it sometimes inconsistent. After the intense interrogation, she told me that what I had put down on my survey was not lining up with what I had been telling her during the appointment. She then proceeded to ask me about my husband and gave the most concerning look when I explained we had dated less than a year, a majority long distance, before getting married. She gave me a look and wrote in her notepad and I felt compelled to explain that he was a friend from high school and that, “It wasn’t like I was marrying a complete stranger.”

After we played twenty questions she explained to me that my fidgeting was not a symptom of anxiety and asked, “How I had come to the conclusion I had anxiety and depression.” With blood boiling, I explained that I had seen a counselor and two different doctors for a diagnosis. She asked what my psychiatrist had felt that I had and what her proper diagnosis was, again I had to explain she was only a counselor, an individual incapable of providing a concrete diagnosis. THEN, this woman, despite being told I have been to 2 different doctors, had the audacity to say, “So you just assume you have anxiety and depression…” I had to explain to someone with a PhD that I had been tested and diagnosed. SHE THEN PROCEEDS TO ASK, “What kind of tests?”

After explaining basic procedure to this woman, she concluded that everything was due to my ADHD. Her justification was that we, “Aren’t anxious or depressed for no reason, there is always an underlying event or problem.” Yes, the problem in my case is a chemical imbalance that causes me to have days where even if all goes right, I will worry to no end or cry with no rhyme or reason. As we talked she criticized my choice to not continue the medication into college and told me that not taking medication for my ADHD was like telling an individual in a wheelchair to simply get up and walk. Lastly throughout the appointment she proceeded to cut me off twice to tell me we wouldn’t have time if I continued explaining.

Now, I am not a professional… yet. BUT what I can say is that this is NOT the way to conduct an appointment. The point of counseling is to create a judgement free zone and help the patient to the best of your ability, not guilt them and make them feel worse. My worry was what would have happened if I had still been self-harming? What if I was still in a suicidal state? It was hard enough to talk about them being that a majority of that happened almost 4-5 years ago. No one should be made to feel worse when they seek help.

Alright, if you have made it through this post, I commend you, I have yet to make it through my second glass of wine. So, at least one of us was successful. Stay tuned for more rants and my tracking of my mental stability in the months/years to come. Cheers!

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