The Appointment with Psychiatrist No. 2

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.

12 thoughts on “The Appointment with Psychiatrist No. 2

  1. Did you tell her that you have been having problems for longer than you have been at uni, and therefore it would seem odd to suggest that it was uni causing the problems? She seems to have jumped to a lot of conclusions that seem way off from what I know of you. I think sometimes we take things that professionals say in the wrong way, and not how they intended them, but I do think that suggesting you lack the ability to be a pharmacy student is out of line. I think the eating disorder thing is slightly different, in that for any profession where you will be in a position of authority, and doing something health related, or education related etc etc, you have to get occupational health clearance, and if you are too ill with anorexia then they won’t clear you for it, which is perhaps what she meant by that. I don’t know – from what you have said I am slightly confused by Dr T. In some ways she seems to have sensible ideas, like referring you to the psychologist for psychotherapy and not just CBT, and suggesting an SSRI (they can help with anxiety, which can then help with concentration etc), but on the other hand she seems to have said contradictory things, and some things that seem quite unprofessional to me. What do you think you will do about the meds? Are there any reasons why you don’t want to try them? I hope that you are able to get an appointment with the psychologist soon. xxx

    • Yeah, I did tell her. Well she read on my referral letter it said I have been self harming since I was 11. But then because I started when I found the transition from primary to high school hard, she thinks that’s further proof my issues are all due to not being able to cope with school and transitions in life…
      Yes, I’m very confused by her indeed. On one hand, some of the things she says does make sense and talking about my general history with her wasn’t too bad. But then again, some of the things she said made me really quite upset and I’m confused by her contradictions.
      Not sure about meds yet, still thinking…
      Thanks xx

  2. Aw hun you did really well to get through this, it sounds like it was a tough appointment. You have a right to see someone without feeling judged, and you deserve to feel valued. You also deserve constructive feedback, and to be taken seriously. Your problems are real, and they matter, but unfortunately many professionals lack tact, and often the ability to listen/understand their patients.

    I hope the psychologist works out better than the psychiatrist. Don’t give up hope, because you deserve help with this, but it often takes time to locate the right person/source of support for the job.


    Sarah x

  3. Holy cow, what an insensitive twit. I hope the psychologist works out. That was unprofessional and rude to trudge all over your aspirations. People make mistakes. Hellooo, we’re *human* afterall. Best of luck 🙂

  4. I’m so sorry that you had that kind of experience. Pharmacy is not an easy uni course to get into in the first place in terms of entrance scores. So I don’t know how the psychiatrist could jump to the conclusion that you couldn’t do it.

    I got really good grades in high school, I was dux of my school. Went off to uni and in third year of uni my illness hit. I couldn’t study and eventually withdrew towards the end of my final semester because I just couldn’t function.

    I tried to go back and finish those last few subjects ever semester for the next year and a half and had to withdraw on medical grounds every single time by mid way through the subjects.

    Once my medication was stable for six months I did two uni courses by correspondence and got straight high distinctions.

    You know within yourself what you’re capable of. Look at what you could do without the depression holding you back. If you got into pharmacy you’re well and truly intelligent enough to do the course. Depresssion is destroying your ability to concentrate and is not a reflection on your academic ability in the slightest.

  5. I don’t know that depression and “having a hard time transitioning to a challenging uni program” are mutually exclusive. Maybe it’s a chicken and egg thing though. Sounds like you’ve struggles with depression before. The two issues are probably pretty intertwined
    I was excepted into a couple different programs in college that I wasn’t able to handle or complete. One was even mental health related and I totally folded when I had to start working with patients.
    I think there are some really rough mental transitions in your 20’s. In our current culture we teach kids that they can do anything. I think that’s a little unfair. We get to college and have to go through the realization that we’re all limited in different ways. Maybe our options aren’t as unlimited as we’d thought. I think this issue is especially difficult for those of us who struggle with mood and personality disorders. We’re often very smart but struggle to stay healthy enough to succeed when under pressure.
    Take me for example, I’m a smart gal, got honors in my first couple years of college but the when the pressure of programs increased I folded. I didn’t have the emotional skills I needed. So even though I am smart, I probably won’t be an attorney, or a doctor, or really anything that requries intensive training. At least not until I’ve worked really hard to overcome my emotional problems. And even with a lot of work I may only be able to take care of myself and the basics of my life. Having a mental illness is a very sucky thing to have to accept.
    Of course I don’t know you well enough to judge your ablities, and I don’t know that this psychiatrist was either. She obviously was pretty insensitive. But I suspect that she has some perspective on adulthood and the realites of mental illness. Maybe she hopes you’ll take this time to focus on learning coping skills. I doubt you’re even old enough for anyone to come to any judgements about. I hope that the psychologist you see is more sensitive and has the ablities to help you learn how to take care of you so that you can be everything you want to be!
    And I don’t think you need to feel ashamed of yourself because you’re thinking your problems lay more in lack of trying than in depression. You’ve obvisouly been trying. You got into the program didn’t you? And you tried until you didn’t have anymore to give and your issues began to peak. So, I strongly doubt there are any issues with the lack of trying. You should be proud of yourself. Not to mention you’re choosing to go seek help. If you were lazy you wouldn’t be bothering.

  6. BtF….dear God, what an appointment! I’m impressed you survived it without crying.

    To tell you that you might not have what it takes to finish with pharmacology and that because of a possible eating disorder you can’t be one either?


    At least she gave you a referral – and I hope very much the psychologist is of good help to you. It’s good (in my opinion) that it is not CBT. I often find that treatment looks at only the symptoms and not the causes.

    What options are you weighing for opting for or against meds?

    MUCH LUCK to you for your appointment next week 🙂

  7. oh hun, I’m so sorry that the appointment went so badly. I can understand that you would have put so much hope into seeing a new doctor. Please don’t be discouraged, she sounds like she was pretty insesitive. It’s good that you’re seeing a new psychologist as well, I really hope that the appointment with the psychologist goes well. Let us know how you go. Also, I’m interested to hear your thoughts pro/con medication – I’m being assessed this week and almost certainly will be prescribed some kind of mood stabilizers/antidepressants, which I’ve never been on before, so I’m having mixed feelings about these.
    best of luck!
    xo kate

  8. Bad luck for getting someone so insensitive. On the positive side she is considering medication if thats the route you want to try and has given you a referral. It’s just whether or not the way she makes you feel is theraputic for you. You shouldn’t come out feeling the way that you did from an appointment with a psych. Alas there are too many just like her and no guarantee’s that anyone else will be more sensitive towards you either. Hopefully the pyschologist will be a much better experience. xx

  9. Thank you all for the comments. For those that have asked about the pros/cons I am weighing up regarding medication, I have made a blog post about it. xx

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