(If you missed Part 1, read it first!)
Back to my favourite psychiatrist. I was looking forward to it, believe it or not. I was looking forward to a chance to get help. (Seriously. I think Polyanna is my cousin or something.)
Back then, I had started Epilim and life was improving, and I was trying to deliberately be positive and motivated and take opportunities and change the unhealthy circuits in my brain that had accumulated over several years of broken life. So to a degree I was choosing to look forward to it, to be open-minded. But I was also just hoping to be looked after for once.
She was running late, so it was a perfect opportunity to make some small talk with the receptionist. I’ve never really known how to do that, so I was trying to practice. Getting past the social anxiety. Learning to enjoy it, learning not to overreact to awkwardness and how to handle it. And all that stuff that a lot of people seem to be naturally good at. I did fine.
The woman of the hour arrives and again invites me to sit in the unfashionable armchair. No “how’s it going?” or “how are you feeling?” of course. She doesn’t do that. Which is fine. It’s hard for most people to answer that question honestly anyway.
She asks me what I’ve been doing since I saw her last. I tell her that I’m trying to balance personal projects, meeting friends, and having down time, for instance playing games. But I also tell her that I prepared and gave a talk on my inhaled insulin, Afrezza, at a fantastic Sydney diabetes meetup, which was, for me, a massive achievement.
Nothing. No reaction. No engagement. If anything she seems unimpressed. Is it just me? Am I crazy, or is this really toxic behaviour for a mental health professional?
What’s her problem? Is it that I don’t have a job? Am I just another hypochondriac rich entitled white kid to her?
Then she asked me what I’d done that day. This was the best part of the whole appointment so I’ll save it for last.
Her whole style seems to be about dishing out “good old-fashioned common sense.” In a “kids these days! No common sense!” sort of way.
I watched a Judge Judy episode recently where a young man causes a car accident. She asks the kid to detail what happened and he said that he looked over his shoulder and saw that he had enough space, so he changed lanes. She said “well he hit you so obviously you didn’t have enough space.” Then she asked him what information he gave to the other driver after the accident. The young man was cagey and she asked “what did you physically give him?” He was still cagey but she forced him to admit it was a learner licence. So he was illegally driving on a learner licence. He justified that he was a good driver already. She prodded further until he admitted he had just failed a driving test. She found against him. In this case, I’m on Judge Judy’s side.
But that’s how the psychiatrist was treating me. I guess in her mind, I was treating my mental health the way that young man was treating driving.
She asked me how much exercise I’d done in the last week. I admitted that I hadn’t managed as much as I should. She threw medical conventional wisdom at me as though it were gospel. I need to get at least an hour every day blah blah blah.
She asked me how I was sleeping and I explained that diabetes interrupts my sleep regularly. “Well you should be getting at least 8 hours—[etc.]” Woman, don’t you think I know that? I don’t need a lecture. It was as if I told her I don’t sleep because I go out and party.
I don’t care that her tone was judgemental with a hint of condescending. (Although many in the T1D community would be shaking their fists purely for that.) Sometimes a bit of an old-school shakeup makes people wake up.
What I care about is the fact that the “common sense” was ignorant, close-minded and a few times, medically unsound or dangerous.
So here is the best bit. Make sure you sit down for this one.
“What did you eat for lunch?”
“Oh, I haven’t had lunch.”
“But it’s half past two!”
“Oh, well I didn’t feel hungry so I haven’t eaten yet.”
“You shouldn’t skip lunch.”
“Oh, I skip a meal if I’m not hungry. Sometimes I don’t have breakfast, sometimes I don’t have lunch. It makes diabetes easier to manage actually.”
“You can’t skip meals,” she said, very condescendingly.
“It’s what works with my lifestyle.”
“Having three meals a day isn’t a matter of lifestyle. It’s what everybody does!!”
I dropped it as another one of those “I can’t win this fight” things. We moved onto other things and it went out of my mind.
When it was over, I really didn’t want to go again. But, the receptionist asked me to make a booking so I did, partly due to social conformity and partly because I was being mature and letting my head cool down before I made a decision.
Then I walked onto the street and thought, “hang on... what was that three meals a day thing?” Now I could give it the outrage it deserved.
I’m reminded of those old black-and-white “how to be a good housewife” videos. Everyone (it is implied) has that nice family where the wife prepares breakfast and dinner and gives her husband a nice packed lunch. And irons his clothes. Some households are like that and that’s fine with me. But it’s 2019. How can people still have such a childishly simple view of the world where there is a model lifestyle and a person either strives for it, or is lost, sick, or deviant? And this isn’t some businessman or politician, we’re talking about, but a mental health professional!!
Seriously, she was shocked by my skipping meals, but merely displeased about my limited fish consumption.
Anyway, there I was on the street and suddenly it hit me.
“What if she told a gay person that being heterosexual was ‘what everbody does’??”
Not to mention that Muslims fast for Ramadan, Buddhists fast, and intermittent fasting was already popular at the time. To think I made her a few hundred dollars richer, for that.
Before the next appointment I got a call saying it would need to be postponed because she had a back injury.
Also it got me out of having to call and cancel. 😀