Squirrel Seeks Tree, My Life Metaphor

Therapy & Self-preservation

Therapy & Self-preservation

When I worked at the University of Michigan Medical Center, I dated a medical resident who spent some time working in the emergency room.

I clearly recall a time when he came home in disbelief that a “good-looking young guy tried to commit suicide. I couldn’t believe it.” The resident was not a good-looking guy, so he was unable to understand that even beautiful people give up or accidentally harm themselves.

It was in Michigan that I realized I was a bundle of anxiety. I identified a psychiatrist (easy in the 1980s; more later finding a therapist today) and went to what I thought was his office, which turned out to be an empty room. No note.

When I returned to my office, my boss, the head of Ob-Gyn, laughed and said, “Talk about rejection!”

I eventually found Dr. Margolis who mostly asked me what I thought until he figured out that a female therapist might be more helpful since I could relate to a woman.

Also, I was dating a recent medical school graduate and went to several parties with him, one of which was at Dr. Margolis’s house! How small a world is it?

So Margolis referred me to Dr. Julia H, who was beautiful and sweet and flew out of her chair whenever I had a meltdown and lashed out. I moved to Atlanta after I started seeing her and, to our mutual surprise, discovered that she was a good friend of a good friend of my sister who lived in Atlanta and was apparently mortified when the good friend said, “Yeah, you’re seeing my friend Sue’s sister.”

I saw some therapists in Atlanta, none of whom went beyond nodding and asking me what I thought or simply prescribing drugs that made me physically ill.

Fast forward to 2022 when my anxiety level rose and peaked when my younger brother died suddenly but peacefully. The internist I see recommended therapy. But find a therapist?

It became apparent that the only way I would find a therapist was by going to an emergency room in crisis.

In a hallucinating moment, I decided to try to find Dr. Julia and arrange Zoom visits. Her phone number was listed on the internet along with her address! I left Atlanta in 1981 and this was 2023!

The number rang and she answered, and she was TICKED OFF! “I am retired! Why are you calling me? Don’t ever call me again!” I was SO tempted to tell her I was ready to kill myself, but I wasn’t, and I didn’t, and she obviously didn’t know or care that I was her patient a LONG time ago. 

I tried to navigate the system at Emory University Clinic to no avail. The wait lists were unbelievably long. I have a neighbor who was in crisis after his wife’s untimely death and his elderly psychiatrist retired and he couldn’t find a replacement. He says “I love it when I get a new doctor for anything and the person looks like they’re 12 years old because at least I know they are not retiring soon.”

I do not have a lot of friends or associates, but I talk to people and frequently pay attention to what they say. Aside from the people who offered me samples of their prescription medicines, one person mentioned the name of a counseling center associated with a local Cathedral. I reviewed the options and selected one person and SHAZAM, I connected!

I refer to the relentlessly positive people in my life as Team Linda. The therapist is team leader. We have realistic conversations, and he provides me with reading materials to help me understand concepts related to my anxiety. I didn’t develop general anxiety overnight (more like 70 years ago) and getting it under control will take more than a few (or many) months. I can create peace, however, and try to figure out what interests I have outside of major worry over everything in the world, not just my life.

Exercise and activity and writing contribute to managing my anxiety.

I have felt paralyzed with anxiety in the past, but never so depressed that I couldn’t get out of bed. I have used various prescription medications that lift my mood, but they seem unnatural and sometimes create more negative side effects than positive physical and mental effects.

I always think of Jane Pauley and Bruce Springsteen who married people who were willing to work with their partners and their mental illnesses. One person I dated said I had too many problems! The only person who was willing to stick with me was an alcoholic who was more trouble than he was worth. I am a magnet for fixer-uppers.

Veering from therapy to relationships . . .

I do not use social media. I have acc0unts on Instagram and Facebook because I would never see my family in other states without them. Yet I know at least four real people who met their partners via social media (I am considering dating sites in this group).

I have nothing on Facebook and yet just this past week someone wanted to friend me and accepted the invitation. He had no idea why Facebook recommended me to him, and I had no idea why I was recommended or why I accepted and then, of course, I cut him off.

My guess is that Facebook makes random suggestions based on random algorithms.

The truth is that I have no idea what I would seek in a new friend, much less a romantic partner. As motivational speaker and life coach Tony Robbins says, people know exactly what they don’t want, so they keep attracting who and what they don’t want.

Because I have elderly cats, I say I want to meet a retired veterinarian. I want to meet someone with their own money and own house. I can take care of myself, but I do not want to take care of any new people.

At my latest job, many of the people were retired and wanted someone to whine to. I am a whiner, too, but work is work, and you should leave your troubles at home. 

My new job is substitute teaching in a high school. The students are great! They do not tell me their problems and they do not want to be my friend. I finally know how to negotiate with young people after teaching college students for almost 20 years and laying down the law like it was laid to me in school and college!

How great is that?