Colleague or Therapist?

So I called him up and asked him to be my therapist.  He laughed and said I couldn’t afford him, then went to work.

It wasn’t as if I hadn’t tried to find someone local.  I called my ex-therapist, who said yes but didn’t schedule me in.  I called Dr. Peter Breggin, who referred me to a couple local empathic therapists.  One of them never returned my calls; the other came and sat in my living room and told me I couldn’t afford her.  I went on the Internet, searched for therapists and cold-called a lot of them.  Most calls were received by voice mail and not returned.  Of the one’s that were returned, most refused my insurance when they found out that it was Medicare primary and Medicaid secondary.  I got on waiting lists at clinics. 

A friend referred me to a psychiatrist who said he’d gotten so mad that he resigned from the hospital where he worked and let his license lapse.  He would come, sit in my living room, and spend an hour telling me how awful the psychiatric system was.  I will complain up to a certain point, then I take action.  When I proposed action to this fellow he replied that he couldn’t act now because “they” would come after him.  I have never met a psychiatrist who is an emotionally balanced human being, including the one who was arrested for attempting to murder his wife.  Normal people get a divorce; a psychiatrist gets a knife.

I was suffering terribly with what we called PTSD—post-traumatic stress disorder, which is a nasty bit of business that occurs when you are in a terrible situation and can neither fight nor run.  Take, for example, being pinned down in a firefight in Iraq.  Or, for another example, being kept locked on inpatient psychiatry, which was my problem.  They were murdering my soul and I couldn’t get away from them because they kept giving me drugs.  It happened repeatedly over a thirty-year period. 

Then, after a decade of not taking drugs and therefore not being hospitalized, I went to the Breggin Empathic Therapy Conference.  The speakers ripped off all the scabs.  They talked—as academicians will do at conferences—about drugs and seclusion and degradation and abuse and the lies that psychiatrists tell their patients.  Except that to me, it wasn’t academic:  it was my lived experience.

I went bonkers.  I’d cry all day.  At night, I’d wake up having nightmares then not be able to go back to sleep.  I was frequently suicidal.  I was desperate.  In PTSD, it is not memories of the past that make you sick.  It is real-time—the experiences are not being re-lived as memories; they are being experienced as what is happening right here, right now.  It was terrible, so I finally called this guy—this therapist—and asked for help.

One of the first things he did was ask me to be his co-presenter at a workshop.  Well, that was pretty damned cool, wasn’t it?  He said I was his colleague—then he used his skills as a therapist to open me up like a can of tomatoes.  Does a person really treat a colleague that way?  Or is that how you treat a patient?  And does it matter if you make no distinction between colleague and patient?  Why would it matter?


About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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