It’s no secret that I struggle with depression. Being very, very pregnant has complicated matters on this front for me. Hormones, sleep deprivation, body changes, stress, and the pre-existing condition have left me in a bad state. I feel like I’ve been in a never-ending cycle of being an asshole (or at least feeling like one), breaking down, apologizing, trying to suck it up and hold my life together and then beginning all over again.
So I decided to do something about it. I talked to my OB, who regarded me with wide-eyed concern as I broke down into tears over the simple question of “how are you doing?” I made an appointment to see my family doctor as well, as he is the one who usually prescribes me my medication. I didn’t want to take anything during pregnancy. (Some people choose this, and that’s their decision.) But I wanted to have a plan in place to begin going back on medication I knew I could use safely once I delivered. The final recommendation was to see another therapist. It came as no surprise, but I’d not had a great track record lately with therapists so I was trepidatious about it.
Nonetheless, I called and scheduled an appointment with someone here on campus. Luckily, she had an evening appointment available, but not for three weeks. I agreed to it, and put it in my calendar. Two days before, the automated system called me to confirm and verify the appointment. The evening of, I walked over from my building, waited dutifully in the waiting room at the expected 15 minutes early to complete registration and paperwork. But the waiting room was eerily empty. Two duelling televisions blasted Gray’s Anatomy and Dr. Phil at each other as I nervously watched the minutes tick by.
Soon, it wasn’t the 15 minute courtesy window for paperwork. Then, our appointment time came and went. Soon, it was 15 minutes into our time, then 20. No one came to get me, or say anything. By the time our appointment should have been halfway over, I decided to go walk around to see if I could find anyone to help me. The admin’s office was dark, her desk empty. I checked my phone, did I have the right day and time? But the confirmation call had come in. They were expecting me, right? I walked down another hallway to find the therapist’s door clearly marked, but the sign said, “In meeting, do not disturb.”
I went back to the waiting room, choking back angry tears. I called the number I was given to schedule in the first place. No surprise it went right to voicemail. I left a message, saying I would wait another ten minutes, but that I didn’t have all night and was going to leave unless I heard otherwise. I was processing a lot of emotions, but trying my best to hold it together. Finally, the time I had given myself also passed and no one showed. I called my husband and told him I was on my way home, explaining I’d been stood up.
On my drive home, at almost exactly 5:00 p.m., the time our scheduled session should have ended, a call comes in from the hospital caller ID. I answer, knowing who it is. A sheepish voice on the other line asks if I’d left. “Yes,” I informed her flatly. “I can’t wait around all night.” She explained that she’d run over with a previous session, that her admin was out sick, that she was sorry, but hoped I’d consider rescheduling. I had trouble speaking. I don’t do well with anger, but part of my intentions with therapy was to work on this, not that she could know this, having stood me up. I wanted to find a firm way to say I wasn’t coming back, but was only able to say that I was driving, and it wasn’t safe for me to have my phone out to look at my calendar.
What I didn’t do, which I normally would have, was excuse her for missing our appointment. Normally, I’m a doormat who would easily let people get away with exactly this type of thing, saying how it was fine, even if it really wasn’t. I was very careful not to accept her apology in a way that excused her behavior. I was angry. I wanted her to know that. I wanted her to understand how difficult it was for me to even try to make this appointment, how I had to manipulate my own schedule, and the stress it caused for a normal pick up time for my son. I wanted her to appreciate how easy it is for people with my condition to dismiss opportunities for self care, and how this careless disregard for my time showed me exactly why self care and healing can be so difficult.
Of course, I couldn’t say anything like this to her. By her tone, I could tell that she felt badly, and beating a dead horse on the matter wouldn’t accomplish anything. I thought, perhaps, that my silence would say more. Maybe it did. I don’t really know. I can’t expect to take all of my issues with former therapists out on her, but like all the others, she too had failed me. I began to wonder how many other people in similar situations had similar experiences.
Living as an adult, a parent no less, with mental illness, has many challenges that other people don’t have to worry about. The stigma, the barriers to care, and the diseases themselves make finding a therapeutic solution so much more difficult to capture. The irony is that about a month before I found out I was pregnant, this department submitted a project (which didn’t get approved due to some design issues) to determine why patients were no shows for appointments. I wondered now if these no shows were due to time management issues on the provider’s end. How many women got tired of waiting around and left? How many didn’t bother to leave a message with the admin and just walked out? I wonder now, what this project would really have looked like, if they’d gotten the answers to those questions.