I am a big fan of therapy when you need it. I know that people like to keep it quiet but I view visiting a psychologist similar to going to other medical appointments like a dental checkup or a physical. It is important to maintain your mental health and it is nothing to be embarrassed about. So when Robin passed, I received a recommendation for a therapist that was strong with grief counseling and quickly made an appointment.
As I stated above, I believe therapy is helpful, but the enrollment process is so sterile and cold. When I called, I was immediately told, the psychologist did not accept insurance and that it was up to me to submit my claims. About 75% of the paperwork revolved around payment issues and 25% asking me about my the reason for my visit. So I completed the typical questionnaire including; Am I anxious, depressed, gaining or losing weight and hearing voices etc.? – all the normal stuff you would expect. Then the next several pages asked how I was going to pay and a million stipulations to ensure that I would be responsible for my bill. I recognize this wording is in place for a reason but it does not exude hospitality or set the stage for me to share my inner most thoughts, fears and vulnerabilities. Let’s just say it wrecked that Zen Feeling.
So I went to the first appointment with low expectations. I entered the psychologists’ office and she asked me to share the reason for my visit. I immediately burst into tears as I stated that my husband had died. I guess saying it out loud really jarred me. She calmed me down with some deep breathing and meditation exercises, which actually were very soothing. She gave me homework to identify a time of the day to grieve. At first I thought this was absurd and then I realized it was quite brilliant. Random things were setting me off on a daily basis and I found myself crying periodically each day which made it hard to be productive. By assigning a time to grieve (9 p.m. for me) helps me to compartmentalize and honor Robin’s memory while being somewhat functional on a daily basis.
After this amazing breakthrough moment, the psychologist quickly wrapped up the session and wanted to book another appointment. I had noticed that we had started a few minutes late and ended right on time, but I let it go as our session was pretty rewarding. I was ushered into another office where I paid for my visit. I figured out that it cost me about $4.78 per minute and therefore lost about $19.12 from that meeting.
During the next appointment, we discussed my guilt about the last day of Robin’s life and that I never was able to say goodbye. For those who follow the blog, Robin does not hold that against me but at the time of this session, I did not know this information. The therapist once again helped me visualize Robin and facilitate the discussion I would have wanted to have with him. It was very comforting and helpful. She also made an observation that I seemed depressed which caught me off guard. Of course I was sad, my whole world had fallen apart. I shared with her that I thought I was doing fairly well considering the love of my life passed away suddenly. This irked me and made me realize that it is hard for people to help you when they have not experienced this type of loss themselves. All and all, she gave me useful techniques then tried to end the session. I subtly looked at my watch and saw that I had about 5 minutes left. So I continued to talk and she closed me down nicely and we scheduled another appointment.
I know doctors need to make a living and be mindful of the time to ensure the day is not thrown off track from one patient to the next. However, as far as I could see, she now had shorted me about 10 minutes between our last two visits. I honestly believe she thinks scheduling the next appointment is part of the therapy time but I don’t think I should have to pay for clerical tasks. I would not consider myself cheap but if the agreement is for 50 minutes and we start late and end early, technically I am only getting 45 minutes. Unfortunately, my concern over how I would handle these shortened sessions swirled in my head and distracted the main reason why I was going to therapy. To me it is the principal of the matter and not the money. Ok maybe the money too – ha-ha. I kept on hearing the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” theme song in my head. There are times that I really relate to Larry David.
By the time I reached the 6th session, I felt like I had nothing more to say and had reached a level of contentment for now. We began changing subjects and talking about my relationship with Isabelle which took up about 20 minutes. She took me through another deep breathing exercise that killed another 10 minutes. We then cobbled together discussion about preparing for college which was basically small talk to end the session. She began to book our next appointment and I said, you know what I THINK I AM GOOD FOR NOW!
I went to see the office manager and I swiped my card for the last time. At this point, I had calculated that I lost 28 minutes (or $133) but who is counting… I think me! However with all that being said, she did really help me and gave me coping techniques which I use on a daily basis. I do think therapy is more like a tune-up for me. I am not a person that can go week over week and drone on and on about my emotions or childhood. After a few appointments, I felt I reached a new stage where I could handle things a bit better and was ready to be released back into the wild…. ROAR!!!