My mother drives along with me beside her in the passenger seat. We drive down a familiar road, it’s the one we used to get to my ex-psychologist’s office. I look out the window to the sparkling waters of the beach, nervous as I am, I am still able to appreciate its beauty. We drive further along, past the building in which G, my ex-psychologist, practices. In the ten months I have been out of therapy, we have not once had to pass it by. It is out of out way, a good twenty minute’s drive. It feels ridiculous that out of all days, today would be the one day, and out of all places, the route to the Specialist Center would require us to stumble upon this address. It brings back memories, and again, I wonder where I would be, had I continued on with her. Not on my way to my first appointment with a new psychiatrist, that’s for sure.
It takes thirty minutes to arrive at the Specialist Center of a private hospital where I would meet my new psychiatrist. My mother drops me off and I walk in through the glass sliding doors. I notice the velvety red carpet, the soft, plush couches, the cafe in the corner, and I am reminded of a hotel lobby. The only indications of it being otherwise are the wheelchairs, the words on the doors and walls and the quietness that surrounds me. I read the directions on the letter from the secretary, I follow the signs and locate Room 6. I note Dr T’s name listed on a gold metal plaque, along with the name of three others, and I know I’m at the right one. A sip of water, a deep breath, and I push the door open. I am greeted by a receptionist in a small waiting room.
I announce to her I am here to see Dr T. ‘Ooh, you’re a bit late,’ she says. Am I? I glance at my watch. It’s 2:50pm. My appointment is scheduled at three, I was told to arrive ten minutes early to fill in the forms. ‘She might not see you today.’ My heart jumps to my throat. All this preparation, a two month wait, for…nothing? ‘You’re forty minutes late,’ she tells me. How could this be? I couldn’t possibly have mixed up the times, could I? ‘But my appointment’s at three,’ I protested. She checks her appointment book again. ‘Oh sorry!’ she exclaims. She laughs, I put my hand on my chest, laugh too and breathe a sigh of relief. ‘I haven’t made you cry have I?’ Made me cry? No. It would’ve stressed me out, definitely, but not make me cry. I am made out of slightly tougher stuff than that. She hands me the forms, I fill them in. She asks for my referral letter. The thought of not surrendering it to her crosses my mind, but instead I hand it over without objection. Perhaps it is standard practice for the receptionist to be privy to your issues after all.
I take a seat in the waiting room, and I am struck by how small it is. I am the only one there, along with the receptionist. This is different to the P C Medical Suites, where I saw my last psychiatrist. Over there, there were at least two receptionists, a few psychiatrists and always more than one patient waiting to be seen.
A few minutes pass, a door is opened and I see a woman who I presume to be my psychiatrist. At this point, my nerves are at its peak. She walks out to the waiting rooms, does not glance at me, and I not at her. She has a brief conversation with her secretary about going to court. She goes to the small refrigerator at the back, pours herself a drink and walks back into her room. I continue to wait. The door is opened once more, and she calls me in. I take in a big comfortable couch, two smaller couches, and her computer desk behind this setting. I sit down and occupy the larger couch, she the smaller one.
She introduces herself and starts asking questions. She goes through my history and asks me about each of the points mentioned in my referral letter in turn.
She questions how I got a hold of the pills that I swallowed when I took an OD. I pause. I predict her opinion of me will be very much lowered once she hears the answer. I hesitate, and tell her that I took them from the pharmacy in which I work in. I am not disappointed. ‘That is highly illegal,’ she says patronisingly, and I want to cry in fear and shame.
I am asked my diagnosis, from the mental health professionals I have consulted prior to this. I reply that I was told ‘depression’ by G and my ex-psychiatrist wanted to prescribe an SSRI for what he said were ‘bulimic behaviours.’
Dr T asks me why I am finding study hard. I reply that I am finding it hard to get motivated and to concentrate on my work. She inquires, ‘Have you ever thought that maybe it’s because you don’t have the ability to [do pharmacy]?’ I am taken aback, I want to cry, and I wonder what right she has to judge my ability to complete my course and become a pharmacist, within an hour of knowing me. I suspect it’s the whole ‘stealing pills from your workplace’ debacle. Never fails to turn medical professionals against you and question your ability to become a medical or allied health professional yourself. She says that a diagnosis will not help me in this area, regardless of the fact that I did not at all suggest I blame my academic failures on depression. I only said I was unmotivated and found it hard to concentrate. She suggests I am depressed because I’m out of my depth in studying pharmacy, instead of the other way round, and in her words, ‘There is no point in flogging a dead horse.’
When I saw G, she told me I was capable of doing pharmacy. She told me it wasn’t because I was lacking in intelligence, it was because of my depression that I was struggling. She suggested deferring Uni, or doing part-time as opposed to full. She told me she would support me and write me the medical proof, had I chosen to follow on with her suggestion. Dr T suggests I withdraw from pharmacy and drop out altogether. Now I know who NOT to go to, should I ever need medical proof or help with an appeal against the Uni’s decision if they choose to terminate me from my course.
We talk about my eating issues. I tell her that I binge and purge, and have been doing so a few times a week, every week, for two years now. I tell her that I am unhappy with my current weight, as I have gained from my lowest weight two years ago. She asks what that would be. I tell her I got down to [tiga puluh lapan] kg but since then I have gained five kg and am currently at [empat puluh tiga] kg. She asks me whether it’s realistic to want to be that weight. I want to say yes, but instead I say nothing. She goes on to condemn being an anorexic pharmacist and for the third time that session, I hold back tears. She says something along the lines of not being able to be a pharmacist if you’re anorexic at the same time, and I wonder why not. I’d agree wholeheartedly if I were training to become a dietician or an eating disorder specialist. I fail to see the connection between pharmacy and an eating disorder however. I don’t recall reading the job requirement of being absent from mental illness in becoming a pharmacist. And there is no way of guaranteeing a registered pharmacist won’t develop an eating disorder or other mental illness later on in their life anyway.
Given the whole conversation we just had, I expected Dr T to maybe refer me to a psychologist or even better, do nothing at all and never see me again. I was surprised when she suggested trialling me on an SSRI. I came to the appointment ready to try what treatment was suggested to me, including medication. Ironically, it’s talking to Dr T that I’m questioning whether I really do need medication or not. Her rationale for medication confuses me even further. She doesn’t tell me they’re to help with depression. She doesn’t tell me they will hopefully reduce my need to binge and purge. Instead she tells me they are to reduce the anxiety I feel when I go to study so that I can focus. Considering she’s just told me I’m simply unhappy because I’m failing, and my lack of concentration is a reaction to the course being too difficult for me, it seems a bit of a contradiction.
I have another appointment with her in one and a half weeks, on Wednesday 9th June. Between now and then, I’m meant to be making a decision about medication. I am still not sure, but as she took the liberty to point out to me, ‘You’re not sure about a lot of things,’ then proceeded to somehow relate that back to being an incompetent pharmacy student.
I’m not sure what to make of this appointment. Part of me wants to hate her. The other part thinks that maybe I only want to hate her because it’s easier than admitting that she’s right. It’s what I’ve always suspected. I’m hiding behind the label of Depression, using it as a pathetic excuse for failing academically, for pushing my friends away and rejecting their invitations to go out. I guess I don’t have depression after all, I just plain and simple suck at coping with life. And the cutting, the bingeing and purging, the overdosing, it’s all just an attempt to create the illusion of having a mental illness, so that I don’t have to deal with the fact that I’m just dealing with the very ordinary problem of finding my Uni course and education too difficult and feeling lost in life as a result. After my appointment today, I still come to the same conclusion I did with my last psychiatrist, that I do not like psychiatrists very much at all. Despite my anxiety and nerves, I was still placing a fair amount of hope in this appointment and my new psychiatrist. Instead of leaving with hope, I am left feeling let down. Questioning whether I do in fact suffer from depression or any mental illness at all or whether I am just terrible at coping with what life throws at me and that’s as far as my issues go. She says that I seem to be a bit lost with my life. Right now I’m feeling all the more lost from attending this appointment.
I was given the business card of the clinical psychologist she is referring me to. I am meant to call to make an appointment. Dr T talks of psychotherapy and ‘not just CBT.’ For this, I am thankful. I’m placing my hope in this psychologist. Please don’t let this be a letdown too. Otherwise I would’ve lost all hope, and I really won’t know what to do.