Magic 8-Balls, Linguistics, and an Old Church in Europe

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I had hoped Helen would let me talk about positive things today. Like my baking spree last week which, resulted in 5 loaves of bread, 2 trays of pretzels, and several 3-layer cakes with decorations that would make Martha Stewart proud. Or how I stayed up until 3 AM because I was reading a really good book, not because I lacked the energy to move from couch to bed. I thought she might comment on my perfect red manicure, or the slightly precarious shoes that render me 5’11.5.” Instead, she wanted to talk about church. More precisely, the fact that I’ve not attended church since December.

I haven’t had some crisis of faith. In a way, it might be simpler if I had. Avoiding church because you don’t believe in it seems far more acceptable than skipping because you’re tired or anxious. Or because you simply don’t care. The first Sunday in January I was exhausted; the second, nursing a nasty cold; the third, exhausted once again. After that, it was easier to stay the course, than try reversing the momentum and spending my Sunday mornings in a crowd of hundreds.

‘Going to church’ may well be my least favorite aspect of being a Christian. I dare not voice this to my church-going friends, who speak earnestly of community and togetherness and profess that “you’re not really a Christian if you’re not part of a church.” Apart from one distinctly bad experience (mild-mannered pastor convicted of attempting to murder his fiancé – highly disturbing, to say the least) I have nothing concrete to blame for my unease. Most often, it’s just a lingering sense that church is not a place for people like me.

The greeting time that kicks off each service is all hugs and handshakes and happy conversations. I usually feel awkward, trapped, and completely overwhelmed, so I try to escape before anyone can confront me. On good days, I’ll use those ten minutes to wander around the halls or step outside for some air. On bad days, I’ll be in the bathroom, wishing I’d remembered the anti-nausea pills (to avoid causing concern) and simultaneously thankful I’d forgotten them (feeling sick is a universally convenient excuse).

The ideal well-adjusted churchgoer is supposed to attend weekly Bible study / discussion groups. I feel like the only poorly-adjusted one in the congregation, and I wish it were enough that I’d tried. I showed up a few times, and even brought contributions for the communal dinner. But eating in public tends to cause anxiety and then nausea, and not eating when everyone else is leads to the same. Worse, I’m afraid people will ask me how I am. I don’t have it in me to force a smile and say all is well, but I’m never quite brave enough to tell the truth.

I can never predict how people will react to depression. Some, like the acquaintance who slipped me Dr. DrugMan’s card and promised he was wonderful, have been immeasurably helpful. The person who said it would all go away if I just repented of ever having seen a Magic 8-Ball turned me off from all things church-related for a good two months. There have been some offers of prayer, and the occasional referral to a ‘Christian counsellor’ who believes psychology degrees are useless. I’m left with the sense that people don’t really know what to do with me. And since I lack the strength to reach out to them, I slowly drift away.

Something about the environment unsettles me, as well. When Helen asked me what made certain churches more comfortable, I immediately responded with “old buildings” and “services not in English.” We both laughed. As I tried to explain why these things were so attractive, it started to make sense. I don’t have a problem with guitar-toting worship leaders dressed in jeans or services held in the school auditorium, but the atmosphere is drastically different when you’re hearing an organ in a gloomy cathedral. Sometimes, I think the contemporary church focuses a little to much on ‘Jesus is our friend.’ Would He want to be mine? The only person I’ve spoken to in the last three weeks, save the grocery store cashier, is my psychologist. Friendship doesn’t mean very much to me right now. But a God who is lofty, mysterious, deserving of reverence and awe rather than a fist-bump, I can understand a bit better.

Worshipping in a foreign language emphasizes this for me: something about what I’m doing is different, more special, than everything else in life. That’s the only way to explain how a sermon in Mandarin Chinese, in which I understand perhaps one word in ten, seemed more meaningful to me than any of the English ones I’ve heard. That’s why I’m probably the only Baptist in the world who prefers to pray in Latin. I believe in a God who speaks all languages, a Bible that just happened to be written down in Hebrew and Greek so that it could be translated into other tongues. I know He speaks English, but I like to be reminded that his existence is far greater than any one language could capture.

My favorite church building is cold, dark, and hidden away in Europe somewhere. My choir was on a whirlwind 4-country tour one December, and we had a precious free afternoon to explore. This church had a sign on the door, something about being a quiet place to escape from the Christmas market frenzy in the town’s center. I was curious, and something made me brave enough to venture in. The late-afternoon light barely cut through the stained-glass windows, and the old stone arches disappeared up into blackness. A quiet cough or footstep would echo for several seconds, and the place felt altogether like a different world. There was a fancy baroque cathedral a few blocks away, but this dim, easy-to-miss sanctuary seemed fully inhabited by something holy.

Recent travels haven’t brought me back to Europe, and there are no ancient stone churches in my New England town. Church happens in a school auditorium, and we get cushioned seats with fold-up desks rather than hard wooden pews. I know the place doesn’t matter – I’ve gone to services in dorm rooms and under tarps at a refugee camp. Our fluorescent lights are just as good as candles and stained glass. Still, the reminder of the God I experienced in a place far from home is an encouragement: I believe that same God inhabits every place from whence we worship Him.

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On Rainy Nights

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I wonder when I stopped enjoying the rain. For the past 24 hours, I’ve felt trapped in my apartment. Getting out of bed was difficult enough; getting out of the house is an impossibility. In rain this hard, even the happiest person might feel the same way. But I haven’t always been like this – I remember loving the rain.

It was a strange day in Beijing, two summers ago. That morning, I watched the occasional drizzle through the windows of my office, on the second floor of the school where I was directing an English camp for hundreds of kids. I didn’t mind the light rain; it was a welcome change from the usual furnace of Beijing in July. Secretly, I was delighted by the slight chill in the air. I could wear my favorite cardigan over my scratchy XXL camp t-shirt (which inexplicably grew scratchier and larger by the day) and look slightly more professional. My mug of hot tea no longer drew quizzical stares from my sweaty co-workers. But of course, the rain also brought inconvenient consequences.

I’d scheduled a water balloon fight for the afternoon activity. Thousands of filled balloons sat in tubs around my office, just waiting for some sneaky student to find them and unleash indoor chaos. I was eager to move the potential weapons outside and dispose of them properly. Just before lunch, one of the Chinese staff members tracked me down: we were forbidden to hold the water balloon fight… because it was too wet outside. Hm. I chose to concede the battle in hopes of winning the war – my team was being treated to dinner that evening, and we were hoping for something slightly more exciting than Pizza Hut.

So I tracked down my ten teachers and told them we’d fill the 2-hour slot with a lengthy and almost entirely improvised performance which we may have attempted once before. No one was particularly worried – such chaos was par for course by that point.

As the rain became stronger, I was happier with the change in plans. What was once a drizzle became a full-fledged thunderstorm, and the sky turned black. Everyone in the office was drawn to the window, and every driver on the busy street below turned on their headlights. If we hadn’t known better, we’d have thought the clock suddenly jumped past sunset.

Things brightened a bit eventually, our improvised production gave the impression of being well-rehearsed, and we all went out for hot pot at the snazzy shopping center a few blocks away. I further delighted everyone by canceling our nightly meeting, and most headed off for ice cream and karaoke. The introvert in me took over, having been forced all week to hide behind the gregarious team leader facade, and I headed off in search of solitude.

Finding a fancy Western coffee shop, I sat by the window with my cappuccino and spoke to no one for the next hour. I still had a while before our dorm was locked for the night, so I wandered in the opposite direction. The rain, which had become torrential over dinner, tapered off again but left ankle-deep puddles everywhere. As I left the shopping center and started down Chang’An Avenue, the sidewalk became deserted.

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This was my favorite place in Beijing. I’d discovered it a year earlier, when a dear friend and I wandered the same sidewalk, on a similarly wet night, not knowing if we’d ever again speak face-to-face once I’d flown across the world the next morning. This time, I was alone, so I  noticed the street’s beauty even more. The red lanterns in the trees and the bright headlights of oncoming traffic reflected off the pavement, and it seemed like magic. Nothing like the street thronged with pedestrians and tourists and bike messengers and vendors during daylight hours. Aside from a few police guards, and the late commuters safely tucked away in their comfortable cars, I was alone in the middle of Beijing.

Tiananmen Square seemed even more vast without the crowds. At the Great Hall of the People, a lone young man in a tuxedo hurried up the stairs and disappeared inside – the only hint that something was going on within. Every few dozen yards I encountered a policeman, but they stayed inside their guard posts. They might have found it strange for a single young Westerner, lacking the bewildered look of a lost tourist, to be wandering through Beijing in a rainstorm, but they left me alone. Farther down the sidewalk, a group of guards changed shift, and I turned for home.

We learned the next morning, after multiple team members received frantic emails and one parent called my emergency phone, that it was Beijing’s worst rainstorm in decades. Parts of the city were flooded, and some lives were lost. Yet in our neighborhood, the puddles had all but disappeared. I looked back on the previous night with more reverence, grateful for having experienced the otherworldly calm in the middle of the terrible storm.

Rainy nights don’t seem to have that magic, anymore. Perhaps the streets of my New England town aren’t quite as beautiful at night, or perhaps I could attribute it Beijing’s place thousands of miles from my home. Even the smallest things, like ordering french fries at a Chinese McDonalds, seem inexplicably more special there. I’ll be spending this rainy night cuddled on my futon with my great-grandmother’s quilt and a cup of tea, probably searching for something vaguely interesting on television. I know I can’t recreate those moments along Chang’An Avenue, but I wish to be back there some day. The first rainy evening, I know I’ll be out for a walk.

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Overdue Bills: A Silver Lining

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dearly-departed former therapy cat Jessica, avec squid – because sometimes you need an odd picture

When I climbed out of bed at 5:30pm Monday, I discovered I had no internet.

This was not the simple “Oops, your monthly payment is overdue… pay online now, and browse away!” situation I may or may not have encountered once before.

There was a scary-looking Comcast login page. I tried to log in. I used every combination of email address and password in my repertoire, and painstakingly copied my account number from one of the (several) overdue bills lying unopened on my kitchen table.

After several failed attempts, and several error messages stating “we have no idea who you are,” I gave in and called customer service. And went through approximately 18 menus before encountering a real live person (who was, of course, not the person I actually needed to talk to).

[Slightly related rant: WHY is it so difficult to get a real live person on the phone these days? Yes, I hate talking on the phone, but I only call customer service when I’m desperately in need of a real live person. Winner: American Airlines. Give your frequent flier number, get a person to talk to. This person invariably speaks fluent English with a charming southern accent. Loser: Bank of America. I once battled menus and well-meaning but incomprehensible people, only to be told my identity could not be confirmed via phone. So my mother called them back and pretended to be me. And that worked. And I had an identity crisis.]

Back to Comcast: I was informed that my payments were so far past due, my internet had been disconnected. Oops. I was so busy sleeping the past two months, I forgot to pay my bill. Can I blame the meds? I was incredibly upset for five minutes – both at my lack of responsibility, and the $50 reconnection fee – then I chalked it up to ‘life experiences’ and decided to move on.

In retrospect, this overdue bill saved my week:

  • No internet (save iPhone) from Monday evening to Tuesday afternoon. No wasted time on Facebook, news sites, or Netflix. So I finished my first book of the year, and felt slightly closer to becoming a voracious reader once again.
  • Comcast Guy scheduled for a visit. My living room looked exactly like a depressed person had been hiding out for the past six weeks. I cleaned and organized and folded the quilts on my futon. I opened the shades. Things are cozy now.
  • Comcast Guy was friendly. It was nice to talk to someone other than Helen. He smelled of cigarettes, but I lit a cinnamon-y candle after he left. Things smelled nice, and were even more cozy.
  • In anticipation of Comcast Guy’s visit, I got out of bed Tuesday morning and stayed awake all day. I hadn’t seen more than an hour of daylight since last Thursday.
  • Cozy mood haspersisted. I’m nearly done knitting a mitten. If the cozy mood endures longer still, I might finish both mittens – while there’s still snow on the ground.

Having come this far, I’m ready to attempt some work this afternoon. I haven’t worked in weeks, and the longer I stay away, the harder it is to go back. I can’t face the office yet, so I’ll do my best from home. Maybe, slowly, things are getting better.

Sir Charles takes to Instagram

Sir Charles, attention-seeking furry monster that he is, has grown dissatisfied with the occasional mention on his person’s blog. So of course, he’s now on Instagram, as CharlesReadsBooks (because CharlesFollowsAlexAroundAndMeowsAtHer was unavailable, oddly enough).

Join him for his thoughts on the literary realm, and life in general (plus the occasional insight from yours truly). This weekend, he may even be joined by the newest feline member of Alex’s (parents’) household. Until the new guy gets his own account as NewKittyNapsInTheSunbeam or NewKittyEatsCharles’sFood, or something else entirely, Sir Charles has graciously offered to share the spotlight.

 

On Anniversaries and Adderall

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Next week will mark two years since my first visit to Dr. DrugMan. If you had asked me then, I’d have assumed (or at least hoped) I’d be better now. Yet somehow, I’m worse. I recorded my highest-ever PHQ-9 score at my last appointment, a full five points higher than the first time I filled out that form. If you had asked me then, I’d have expected to be disappointed by the lack of progress, the apparent regression. But I’m not. I know things could be far, far worse – and simply knowing DrugMan and Helen are on retainer makes the dark days significantly less ominous.

I’ve saved every prescription bottle – I needed something tangible to show for $300/hour. I suppose I’m living proof that even the most brilliant docs don’t always get it right the first (or second or third) time. It’s too bad, really: we started simply enough, with Prozac. And the Prozac worked. If it weren’t for my subsequent inability to hold anything in my stomach for more than ten minutes, we probably would have stayed with the Prozac. Instead: Celexa-Lexapro-Effexor-Wellbutrin-Zofran-Phenergan-Ativan (or, to be technical: citalopram-escitalopram-venlafaxine-bupropion-ondansetron-promethazine-lorazepam).

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And new this month: Adderall!

I had to laugh at that one. Not only am I a firm opponent of over-medicating hyper kids, but I was the model child from day 1. ADD is the absolute last condition I might be diagnosed with.

But, DrugMan said it’s sometimes used as an add-on, and that it should at the very least keep me from sleeping all day. I was so relieved we weren’t resorting to ECT or experimental deep brain stimulation that I  accepted his explanation immediately. I likewise never questioned the apparent ease with which he prescribed a Schedule II drug that’s all the rage among the overworked and overtired Ivy Leaguers up on campus.

Actually, the Adderall wasn’t his first choice. He wanted Provigil, but my insurance wasn’t buying it. Unless DrugMan declared me narcoleptic, I’d have to pay $600/month for the privilege of being awake in the morning. Adderall only sets me back $50, even without a diagnosis of Adult ADHD. I briefly wondered whether going into the Adderall business could finance the Provigil, but of course I’d never put the idea into practice. While I quite enjoyed watching Orange is the New Black, I’ve no desire to experience it for myself. So Adderall it shall be, at least until the next time I see DrugMan.

Sparkles

He thought the sparkly nail polish was a good idea. Until he realised I couldn’t scratch his head until it dried.

Why you don’t like Christmas vacation

Your mother watches everything you eat. You weigh your wish for privacy against your growing annoyance, and give in. Tell her you’ve lost 15 pounds. You aren’t surprised when she sounds frustrated and starts crying and uses the word “concern” so frequently it starts to lose meaning. Take a deep breath, throw out some statistics about thin people living longer, remind her that one of your dozens of doctors would have put you in the hospital already if it were really that bad. When you aren’t hungry for dinner, you eat two pieces of peanut-butter toast at 9pm. She says nothing.

After that encounter, you decide not to mention you can no longer afford your rent. That would require disclosure of all the not-working. You promise yourself you’ll go to the office every day in January. On a whim, you look up requirements for Disability. It seems you’ve not yet worked enough to qualify for assistance now that you can’t work enough. The rest of the evening is spent in your room, because someone will want details if they see you crying.

You are 25 years old, with a car and an apartment and control of your own decisions. When you realize this vacation need not be as long as originally planned, you smile a bit. Being depressed in your own apartment is so much less stressful than being depressed in a tiny house with two hovering parents.

They are trying to help. Their attempts to cheer you up are obvious. It’s Saturday – would you like to go to the bookstore? Out to dinner? You agree, only because refusing will make your mother sigh and start crying and all of a sudden it will be your fault the weekend was ruined. They never go out on Saturdays. You wish they’d be normal. You spend the evening feeling sick because you attempted to clean your plate.

Your hopes of early escape are crushed when your father announces there’s Something Wrong with your car. Something That Cannot Be Fixed until Monday or Tuesday. You’re almost crying in your room when your mother interrupts. Do you want her to turn off the hall light for you? You remind her of your general competence and Ivy League degree, and she’s upset again. Add that to your list of things you’ve messed up today.

Therapy Cat is your one reason to stay. He rotates between your lap and your laptop and your newspaper. (And then distracts you from writing when he tries to worm his way into your closet.) When he chooses to extend his evening lap-sit at the expense of a timely dinner, you feel extraordinarily loved. You give him another hug, and things seem just a little bit better.

Small Victories

I didn’t want to go to work today. It’s Thursday, and I hadn’t graced the office with my presence since… last Friday morning (when I showed up in jeans and the same shirt I’d worn to bed, picked up a grad school recommendation from my boss, and made a hasty exit so as to avoid the Office Holiday Party).

On Monday, I stayed in bed until 6pm. Tuesday, I slept until 10:30, saw Helen at noon, and sat on the couch for 12 hours afterwards. On Wednesday, I stayed in bed until 5pm. This morning, I forced myself out of bed at 9:20, which gave me just enough time to take a shower, clean the snow off my car, and show up at Helen’s at 10:05. I think she was confused. I told her I’d done nothing but sleep since our last appointment, and that I’d rushed out of bed this morning, but I was dressed like I’d stepped out of the Banana Republic catalogue. (My jeans are officially too big. I haven’t weighed this little since I was 14. Thank goodness I splurged on smaller-sized work attire on Black Friday.)

Helen asked if I planned to work this afternoon. I said I was embarrassed to go in. People never know what to say when you’ve been vaguely, seriously, but not visibly ill for the past six weeks. Waltzing into the office once a week in 4-inch heels and a faint cloud of Burberry perfume probably sends mixed signals. I wonder if it’s better to show up looking disheveled, in yoga pants and a comfy sweater with hair that desperately needs to be combed.

By the end of our session, Helen had somehow convinced me that going to work today was a good thing. I drove home at 11:15, made my “lunch” of cheese and crackers last until 2:30, and finally ventured office-wards. To my absolute delight, the office was empty. No quizzical looks, no superficial statements of concern. No need to hide the fact that I took a break after 45 minutes, emailing my mother to tell her about how my microwave blew up last night.

Once I’d settled in, I had to smile. I was at work (1 point), listening to nice music (2 points), drinking tea (3 points), and eating chocolate-covered almonds (4 points!). All of which have been enthusiastically suggested by Helen at some point or another. AND, I stayed until 7pm and went to the grocery store on my way home.

Having accomplished that moderately successful afternoon and evening, I just may go in to work at something resembling a normal time tomorrow. I hope I can manage – there’s no more Helen until 2014 (at which point I’ll have to start paying her again. argh). She told me to email her in the interim, and we could maybe do a phone session! I gave her a look somewhere between skepticism and absolute terror, and told her I’d hug Therapy Cat instead.

A good psychiatrist is extraordinarily hard to find.

I don’t know how I got this lucky. I ended up with a psychiatrist I actually like.

I know from experience that this is the exception, rather than the rule. My first foray into psychopharmaceuticals was a disaster. I was a sophomore at university, and having an absolutely miserable winter for no particular reason. My mother was worried enough that she convinced my former pediatrician (who also happened to be her employer) to prescribe me some Zoloft, even though I hadn’t been to her office in years. On the condition, of course, that I find a local doctor in the near future.

I thought this was brilliant. Our university’s health service is notoriously un-user-friendly, particularly for the mentally unwell. But this was a way around the term-long wait to see someone. All I had to do was call them up, state that I’ve just started taking a psychotropic prescribed by a non-psychiatrist in another state, and they’d be scared enough to let me right in. Alas, I was wrong.

The unbelievably shrill woman who answered the phone at Counselling Services (one would think they’d have a pleasant-sounding voice on the end of that line) wasn’t having any of it. I couldn’t just see a psychiatrist – I had to see a counsellor first.

But I already have a counsellor. I’ve been seeing her since before I started college.

She can send her records! I just need the psychiatr…

No, college policy. Counsellor first, then the shrink.

Sigh. Ok. Can I make an appointment with a counsellor?

Sure. Next opening is in three weeks.

Um, I really don’t think I can wait that long.

Well, are you thinking of hurting yourself?

No, but…

Three weeks is the best we can do.

There were multiple times in the next few weeks when I considered calling Screechy Lady with vague threats against my own safety, just to speed things up. But the minute they hear something like that, it’s mandatory medical leave. You can’t win.

Finally, the day arrived. I was going to see this counsellor, tell her politely that I already had a therapist and could she please just refer me to someone who could prescribe something, and that would be that. I should have realized that the screeching voice on the phone set the tone for the entire office.

I found myself trapped in a room with a social worker. A very scary social worker. I don’t get scared easily – I’ve flown by myself into third-world danger zones without a second thought. I used to take the Beijing subway at rush hour, just for the fun of it. Once, I even jumped off a 30-foot bridge into slightly questionable water, just to impress a certain boy. With that for context, I’ll repeat that this social worker was scary. Granted, I was in a delicate state. I didn’t really want to be there, and she could sense it. When I told her I honestly wasn’t interested in counselling from the university, as I already had a therapist whom I liked very much, she gave me this look. It wasn’t quite anger, nor frustration, and calling it contempt is probably a slight exaggeration. Whatever it was, it was a look no social worker should ever give an already-frightened teenage girl who just wants to get a little help.

Somehow, I remembered my courage, and walked away with an appointment with a real live psychiatrist (in 3 weeks’ time, of course). In the meantime, I vowed never to get ‘counselling’ from the college again, and called up my therapist from home. She was no Helen, but she patiently cared for me the first time I got sick, back when I was convinced that ‘seeing a therapist’ was one tiny step away from ‘shock therapy in the insane asylum,’ and I looked forward to her gentle advice. I even started seeing her regularly, again – it was a three-hour drive one-way, but at the time, I needed it. And I was far too timid to go back to Scary Social Worker and request the names of some local therapists.

Three weeks later, I’m back in the counselling office, this time sitting in front of a psychiatrist. I was hopeful. She was fairly useless.

How long have you been on the Zoloft?

About six weeks.

Is it doing anything?

I don’t think so, but I’m just taking the minimum dose, and I’m not really sure what to expect…

Do you want to be taking medicine? Do you need it?

I don’t know…I’d like to try it. My therapist thought it might be helpful.

Well, it’s not doing anything for you, and you don’t really need it. Just stop taking it, and you’ll get better eventually.

End of conversation.

Frantic phone call: Mommmm! I just waited six weeks to see this doctor and now she tells me to stop taking the medicine and I don’t need it and there’s nothing wrong with me and I told her how awful I felt and how I wanted help and she just told me to wait until it gets better and what do I do now??

For a fairly timid person, my mother can be intimidating. She made a phone call, not to the counselling office, or even to the counselling director, but to the head of Student Health Services. I don’t know what she told him, but in less than a week I had an appointment with the top psychiatrist in the office. (Sadly, DrugMan isn’t employed by said office – so I had to take what I could get.)

This new psychiatrist was a rather stereotypical one, always hidden away in his basement office and peering at me through thick round glasses. But he talked to me! Asked how I felt! Increased my dose when it clearly wasn’t doing anything! Sadly, he wasn’t the most proactive. After I’d spent a long while camped out at the maximum recommended dose, it looked like Zoloft was not the answer. But I don’t think the doctor ever recommended trying something different. I’m not sure what happened, actually – I just stopped seeing him sometime the next winter, and stopped taking the drugs soon after. And felt entirely unchanged.

Fast forward three years, and Mr. Incredible (my co-worker / big brother I never had; also whom I jumped off the bridge to impress) threatens to talk to people about how I need help unless I talk to them first. So I sift through my inbox, find the email a dear friend had sent a while back about her husband’s wonderful psychiatrist, and gave DrugMan’s office a call.

They offered me an appointment the next week. I was going to be out of the country. No problem, they said – he can see me the first week that I’m back. So early one spring morning, still slightly dazed from a week’s trip visiting friends on a terribly warm island with palm trees, I walked through six inches of fresh snow to DrugMan’s office. I was nervous, of course – the last two encounters with his sort had been underwhelming. But somehow, I got lucky. If he didn’t charge $5 per minute, I’d be seeing him every chance I get.

He’s called me in the evening from home, with kids screaming in the background, to answer a question about a minor side-effect. Another day, I sent an email to follow up on an appointment. His number came up on my caller ID two minutes later.

He only charges me for 15 minutes, even if I’m there for closer to 20. He always tells me I “look great.” He laughs at my sarcasm. He really likes writing prescriptions:

So, you’re going to be gone for the summer? I’ll write you a 90-day script for the Celexa… and if you’re having trouble with that, you could always switch to the same dose of Lexapro. So here’s a 90-day script for that. Anything else? Oh yes, sleep medicine. How much Ativan do you want?

So that’s DrugMan. As terrible as I’ve been feeling for the past month or two, I’m afraid to imagine what it would be like had I never called him.

Update from Sir Charles, the Therapy Cat

Hello everyone, I’m Sir Charles, and I am Alex’s Official Therapy Cat. (Alex and I have a slightly complicated situation, as she has these complicated things called “landlords” and “lease terms” that mean I can’t actually live with her. So I live with Alex’s People [I think they’re called “parents”] and see Alex whenever she comes to visit. Or sometimes we Skype. I also leave as much fur as possible on her nice expensive work clothes, so she’ll remember me whenever she gets dressed!)

This is a picture Alex took, right after she brought me home from the shelter:

Charles

I’m a little worried about Alex. I think she’s getting smaller. I know that getting smaller is not a good thing, since Alex’s People have me on a “diet” to “lose weight,” and I want nothing of it. It seems to consist of very small quantities of tasteless food. Alex doesn’t have People picking out her food for her, and I can’t imagine she’d go for this “diet” thing voluntarily. But her lap is not as squishy as it used to be. And I keep falling in the gap between her legs when I try to sit down.

I asked Alex about it, and she said she doesn’t feel like eating most of the time. I am shocked. This is outside my realm of imagination. Alex reminded me how sometimes I eat too fast, or have a hairball, and then leave her People nice presents on the carpet. Oops. That’s me, isn’t it? Apparently Alex feels the same way, too, but she’s smart enough not to eat anything, so the presents on the carpet don’t happen.

Alex also told me that she’s a whole Charles smaller than she used to be. What’s a Charles? I have my very own unit of measure! One “Charles” is exactly equal to “whatever I happen to weigh at the time,” which is approximately equal to “14 or 15 pounds.” Hmm. My dieting efforts have barely changed the value of a Charles, so I can’t imagine losing a whole entire me can be all that fun. Alex even picked me up and we stood on the scale together, so I could read the numbers. And she was right. Alex and Charles today, is exactly the same as just Alex six months ago. Alex tells me lots of people would be happy to lose a Charles or two (the measurement, not the cat), but seeing as she only weighed 8 Charleses to begin with, it’s not too good for her. Maybe if I just sit on her lap all the time, no one will be able to tell the difference.