Assessment day

Going to be assessed is not a lot of fun. Yesterday was my appointment at a local ‘Big Cheese’ type of mental health institution. The reason I got myself referred there is that they have several group therapy type CBT groups I thought would be helpful, and they’re covered by our provincial health insurance. To get into a group, I first have to get assessed.

I was filled with anticipatory anxiety on the day of and was there pretty early. First walking along long gloomy corridors to find the particular office was not inspiring. Wow – I’d say, if you have any choice at all, best not to loose it to the extent that you would need to be admitted there. What a scary place.

The psychiatrist who assessed me was OK. He was a pleasant light-brown man, middle aged, polite. As I have a phobia of straight white professional males, I was relieved to see he was a nice beige at least.

His job of course was not to help, but to assess if I could join one of the groups. So he is figuring out what to label me, and I make it easy for him and tell him a few labels. He does ask me whether there was abuse in my past, which is more than the psychiatrist I saw for several years ever did. I said yes but that I didn’t wish to discuss it, as it’s painful for me.

Then he gave me the usual quick questionnaires about mood and symptoms.

And that was it. He then basically asked me what group I’d be interested in getting on the waiting list for. It’s funny, because you think a medical specialist is going to be real sophisticated, asking questions, ferreting out answers – not at all. He just asks me which group he should put me down for.

I did mention to him that I am having flashbacks, and at the end asked if he had any recommendations for where to go for healing trauma. He essentially couldn’t think of anywhere. Which is ironic if you consider that probably fifty percent of women who come through his office are trying to deal with trauma symptoms. But for psychiatry, the answer is drug them to smithereens – then they won’t know which way is up, and won’t know what’s a symptom and what’s a side effect anyway, end of problem for psychiatry. Phew, OK, end of rant.

So I am officially no on the waiting list for their Social Anxiety CBT group, wait time 3 – 6 months.

Something that’s still bothering me happened at the end of the appointment. He called in a young woman who is running a study he thought I might join. So he gives her a run-down of me in summary – this woman has been suffering from depression and anxiety for many years, medications helped at first but now she doesn’t want them, blah blah, maybe she’d like to join your study?

I really felt uncomfortable with him saying that about me. I was obviously a case to him, but still, I shared some of my symptoms with him in confidence. I wasn’t prepared for him to go giving out a psychological summary to a perfect stranger he just called into his office. There was absolutely no need for her to know what I was dealing with anyway. It really felt demeaning. This is sensitive stuff, and it hurts, and hey, I’m alive in here and don’t wish to be discussed like this!

Then, I started asking when these groups are held, and it turns out week-day afternoons. So I made a comment ‘So people aren’t working?’, as in, the ‘patients’ are too ill to work, as I’m not, and it will be a big deal for me to take a weekday afternoon off for several months together.

So the psych thinks I mean the psychs aren’t working hard, so he makes a comment that the doctors are working hard, but during the day. What a ridiculous thing to say. What do I care if the doctors work all day and all night, or just one hour a day? Of course I’m talking of the patients attending the groups. There was just no understanding that I too, same as him, need to work for a living. Such a profound separation in his mind between himself, medical authority, and myself, pathetic patient. And also, BTW, I think probably the psychs would do a whole lot less damage working just one hour a day if it could be arranged. OK, OK, end of second rant.

The young woman, bless her, knew immediately what I meant and responded accordingly. Her study is actually of interest to me – yoga for depression. But it is 8 solid months, taking one afternoon off a week, and I figure I can take yoga on my own. If it was in the evening, I would be all over it.

So it’s a day later and I’m still trying to shake off that feeling of humiliation of being described as a woman suffering depression / anxiety for many years, just off-hand like that. I’m so much more than that. And I’ve had my happy times too. I’m just there, trying to get into a group, thank you very much.

So, though this psych wasn’t awful, he was extremely self-absorbed and kind of insensitive. But hey, I’m on the waiting list for a paid-for group! No gain without pain.

Art: The Mighty Liger by Jason Limon Crazy 4 Cult 2


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