Taking Us To The Doctor

We (that is, K and her husband) FINALLY got to go today and talk with the psychiatrist.  It seems as though we, the K’s, have been waiting for this day to come for approximately a year now.  Technically, I know that must be an exaggeration-it’s not unusual for K to exaggerate, (not because she’s a liar but because she really doesn’t remember the “truth” most of the time) but you must make a note that she, K, does not lie (if there is any way possible to tell the truth without hurting someone, sometimes even when it does hurt; K always describes herself as “brutally honest”) but that is literally how it feels to us, like we’ve been waiting for at least a year. I honestly don’t remember getting ready to go see the doctor, but looking down at K now, I see that she’s clean and dressed and appears “normal”, so I, the smart one, must’ve seen to it that she got herself showered and ready to go.  Thank goodness.  I guess I should take the time to explain all the things, the little things, the things which happen upon a visit to a psychiatrist’s office during a “serious mental illness” type of moment, during a crisis, as it were, for those people reading this who may not have ever had the experience of going to see a shrink.  Of course, there’s no shame in going to see a doctor-many “regular” people go to see psychiatrists or psychologists or at least counselors, usually when something “bad” happens, for example, when they lose a spouse, or get fired from a job, or when they begin to hear the radio singing their name over and over again.  If you’ve ever had the experience of sitting down with a trained professional of some type, and of telling that person how you’re feeling, how you’re feeling on the inside, inside your mind, then you might have some idea of how difficult this process can be. If you’ve not experienced this first-hand, then I shall try to describe it for you.  You must answer questions and talk about your thoughts.  It is all at once hard, and embarrassing, and scary, and overwhelming, and stressful, and it makes you feel self-conscious and somewhat silly, or perhaps angry or frustrated or depressed or even ALL these things, and much more.  It’s all subjective you see, you can feel so many different things, and you can feel these things all at once, and for a “regular” person, who’s able to simply process these thoughts and emotions and ideas and who knows instinctively what to say and how to react to the doctor’s words or actions, this might not seem to be such a big deal.  But for someone like K, someone who actually suffers from a chronic mental illness, this can be a HUGE deal, tremendous even, enough to cause her great distress and which very often induces a panic attack, but which she tries to prevent and/or hide by popping “one more” Xanax. (Xanax=Alprazolam, a drug

used to treat anxiety)  Now the amount of anxiety she feels upon a visit to the doctor depends upon her mood as well as who she’s feeling, or in other words, “which K she gets to act like at that particular time”.  At the moment, I, who have been named Switch Kellie by our husband, am in control of which K we get to be, or who gets to talk, or which one of the K’s gets to come out and play, so to speak.  I don’t know if this is an absolute power held only by Me, or if this ability shifts between us, us being the K’s, but I’m fairly certain that this changes, like the tides.

Now before I get any further into our story, I must stop and describe for you the almost unbearable torture that is sitting in a waiting room.  K HATES waiting rooms, not in small part because time seems to drag on for such an unbelievably long period in a waiting room.  Think about this: if you lack the ability to tell the difference between ten minutes and an hour, would that affect your everyday life? I’m here to tell you that it would, and it does, it affects us each and every day of our physical life, always has and always, always will.  But it’s impossible to explain this to anyone who doesn’t know what it means to lose time, to black out, to dissociate.  I’m not really sure that the time issue which plagues K has everything to do with her dissociation, or whether it’s because of some other mental illness; it’s hard to say since she suffers from so many symptoms, from so many different disorders.  I believe I’ve used this word before: “comorbidity”, which is the existence of more than one disease or disorder in the same person.  This little fact makes diagnosing K a hell of a hard magic trick to pull, even for a professional magician, so for the average guy who can merely guess which card you drew, this is damn near impossible.  Now I’m not saying any of this in a derogatory manner directed toward our psychiatrist.  In fact, K really seems to like her, this (somewhat-) new psychiatrist, and is actually beginning to trust her (a little?) and open up to her and be honest with her about the K’s.  At least, that’s where we are at this point in time.  We saw the doctor this morning, and while she had told us beforehand that our appointment would only be for 15 minutes, and that was really just so she could write out prescription refills, in the end she seemed concerned about K’s mental health and therefore was generous enough to grant K a longer appointment.  I don’t know how long we were actually in her office (of course) but it seemed like a good long while, but still not nearly long enough, for there was just so much to tell her!

Now I have to try and remember what exactly I did tell her.  I wonder if I’ll be able to recall this information or if I should just go ahead and ask K’s husband to review the facts with us, to remind us of what we did this morning. I’m not kidding when I say that the information is no longer with us.  I can remember, vaguely, going to the doctor’s office in the car; of course Husband drove us, and when we turned onto the street, K got very nervous for she saw that there were many cars (a hundred?) parked out in front of the doctor’s office.  That made us nervous because that meant that there were people in the waiting room.  K is secretly afraid of people, at least some of the K’s, but not me, I’m the one who sat in the room and waited, it was me!  K had to take deep breaths to get out of the car; I forced her to walk to the door and go inside first, before our husband. (I can’t believe I was able to walk into the room ahead of him, I’m so proud! This does NOT happen very often) Then, I’m inside and I’m watching my hand sign my name on the log-in sheet, and then I go and sit in the corner (our favorite place to sit) beside K’s husband.  Then the ungodly waiting began, but it was much easier than usual today, for today we were not alone, but had Husband, and K held his hand and squeezed it for some comfort.  A couple of times, people (damn them!) in the waiting room made comments toward us, for whatever reason…(they were into a TV program and apparently needed someone to agree with them about said program) I will be brutally honest here.  I did NOT want to speak to these, or any other, people.  In fact, I don’t even know how I was able to pull it off, but somehow I opened my mouth and words came out, the proper words, the right words, and I successfully made small talk with 2 different people, but it was very nearly all I could do to keep from snapping at them to leave me alone, to just let me BE. And wouldn’t you know it–Murphy’s Law they call it–it turned out that K was the very last person the doctor intended to see today and so we had to wait until every single person in that room had gone in for a session and come back out again. It took a lifetime

Now we are in the doctor’s office, sitting in a chair beside K’s husband, and we are trying desperately to remember what it was that we wanted so badly to tell the doctor.  (I was so scared to tell her what was going on that I very nearly became a mute right there inside her little room.)  I took a deep breath, and began to speak.  The doctor began to scribble notes on K’s chart, and that really makes us paranoid, but I pressed on.  I, the smart one, took over for K, and I knew enough to take out our notebook, which we had diligently prepared with notes and questions which we intended to ask the doctor; all of this I’d planned out in an effort to make this as efficient an operation as possible.  I was trying to squeeze in an hour-long therapy session into 15 minutes, which seemed like a difficult task.  So I got out my notes and nervously read the questions and tried very hard to just keep talking, just keep being honest, don’t stop now, you’re doing so well!  And the hardest part out of all of this is the wait, the insufferable wait between the time K used the term “dissociation” and the time the doctor gave us her opinion on the matter. Just so you know, I was really quite concerned that the psychiatrist wouldn’t believe me when I told her my symptoms.  I mean, they sound NUTS.  The good news is this: She believed me, she believed US, and not only that but she agreed with my theory about K’s dissociating to avoid some real or imagined threat to her, either emotionally or physically.  PLUS-thank the gods! She did NOT want to put us in the hospital, she didn’t think that it was necessary at this time,  and when she “gets” what we’re saying, the relief washed over us like an ocean and the waves nearly knocked us down and I felt like I could faint.  K is terrified of hospitals, and of being locked up in a hospital for being insane; for this reason she never trusts psychiatrists or any sort of doctor really, as she’s forever paranoid that they are plotting against her, hoping to commit her, and so K has gone to see doctor after doctor all these years, and when the doctor gets too close to the truth, K freaks out because she’s so deathly afraid of the real diagnosis, she just doesn’t want to face it, she can’t admit the truth (even though she doesn’t lie) because she’s so horrifically afraid of what people will think.  The stigma of mental illness is still very much a problem in this world, and for that reason, a lot of us (the K’s) hide from the outside, and keep everything hidden within our mind and within our heart, so that the “normal” people won’t laugh at us, or poke and prod us, or take advantage of us, or-worst of all-think that we’re really and truly “crazy”.

In the end, we somehow made it through the session, and the doctor was really nice and even understanding, (or as much as a person can be, I suppose)  and she gave K’s husband a card with her phone number on it and told him to please not wait so long to call next time or something along those lines…  We ( K-the doctor specifically asked that K come next week- and Husband) have another appointment next week.  Oh yes, and our medication has been changed.  She wants us to double our intake of Risperidone (an atypical antipsychotic) and think about decreasing our Seroquel (a drug used to treat K’s schizophrenia), but mainly because I told her that it makes K sleep for nearly 20 hours whenever she takes it.  I don’t think I remembered to tell her that we haven’t been taking it because we’re afraid of it and also, we haven’t slept in about 3 days now.  I wonder if I should have mentioned that?

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