adventures in therapy

I’m trying to find a therapist right now. I don’t feel L.A. enough, after all. I need to be MORE stereotypical!

(Actually, this is because I can’t live with my depression & anxiety issues anymore, but I like making the L.A. joke too much)

So today I went to see a therapist who specialized in stress and anxiety, according to my insurance provider website. She met the qualifications of being within biking distance of work, and covered by my healthcare. No ability to prescribe, but I was hoping not to have to go on drugs. Plus, her home office was on one of the Venice canals, and I adore the canals.

Unfortunately, she turned out to be a “relaxation therapist”. I’m pretty up front with psychologists. “Hi, I’m Jillian, I’m twenty-six and here’s my problems!” But her solution to the stress/panic attacks that are manifesting in physical solutions was, “well, there are tapes you can buy and exercises you can do at home.”

I figured I would at least hear her out, which resulted in a great deal of patience while she tested me for visible stress symptoms. She hooked me up to a computer, which registered normal heartrate – after I had to figure out how to use the Win95 based program. (“No, you’re right clicking, you need to left click.”) She had me count how many breaths I take in a minute. She tried all sorts of things to find exercises that would help me physically relax.

The trouble is – I have a normal heartrate because I’m actually really healthy. And my breathing is slower than average because after years of playing a large brass instrument, not to mention choir and biking, I take slow, deep breaths out of habit. No luck there.

We tried visualizing the stress. She suggested listening to music. I smiled politely. She brought down a pair of glasses with flashing lights that would “change the frequency of my brain” to a more relaxed state. (Which I couldn’t even try because I’m prone to unexplained seizures). Then, after the third attempt to recommend a CD or tape (tape? WHO LISTENS TO TAPES?) to buy, I finally lost it and explained, “Ma’am? I have an anxiety condition. I have a chemical imbalance in my brain. Everything you’re suggesting is a band-aid fix. It might work for minutes, or hours, but I already do yoga, and listen to classical music, and go for walks to the beach on my coffee break. NONE OF THIS WILL FIX THE UNDERLYING CONDITION.”

She then politely showed me out.

I’m annoyed I wasted one of my insured therapy sessions and one of my lunch hours on that. Can’t these people tell me over the phone, “I’m not a real psychologist who will help you with your anxiety issues – I’m just a quack with a nice living room who is making a living selling relaxation therapy materials.” Why does my insurance provider have to list these types of people?

I went straight back to work, stopping only to buy a sugar-free carob chip cookie enroute back, and got more relaxation out of saying hi to one of the random Venice hippies than I did out of the whole session. Then I immediately ran a search for therapists with “MD” in their titles who can prescribe me drugs. I have an appointment in three weeks.

Actually, the whole incident today did succeed in annoying me enough to get me out of the mopey state I was in. It’s hard to be depressed when you’re in a self-righteous state of indignation over being sold 1980s relaxation technology tapes instead of getting the psychological help you actually need.

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