My school’s counseling service is pushed to the back and most depressing corner of the student health center. I find myself there, quite unamused by the set up. I decide that after this first, mandatory meeting, I will never come back. Therapy is overrated; even if I am labeled completely screwed up today, I figure I will talk to the doc, get some happy pills, and go on my merry way. Just like all the other screwed up people in this screwed up world. I’ve abandoned my screwed-up-ness before, and I usually resume my state of nothingness soon after an “episode”. Nothingness is second nature to me. Sweet and easy. Lonely, maybe, but it’s my strength. It’s my shield against the world. Absence of emotion. Void of feeling. Vacant. Cold.
Not just cold. Numb.
The receptionist, who is cute and happy and all of the things I am not, gives me a questionnaire to fill out before my meeting. It asks me questions like “Why are you here?” and “What do you hope to receive out of our services?” Most of my answers eloquently state, “I don’t know.” I want to say, “because you all won’t stop harassing me until I am evaluated,” but I know the receptionist hasn’t done anything wrong. She doesn’t deserve my highly irritated mood. I will save that for the shrink. I return the papers and sit down on one of the uncomfortable, faded blue couches.
I too feel uncomfortable and faded.
The girl across from me suddenly breaks out into tears. Her friends, I assume, hold her and pat her on the back and whisper just loudly enough for me to hear. They say love her and she is strong and she will be okay and blah blah blah. I cringe. I hate when people touch me. The thought of being surrounded in the heat and sweat of anyone, even my closest friend, is gag inducing. Luckily sobbing girl soon chills out. I wonder if I’m as crazy as she is, or perhaps even crazier. I’d rather stop wondering. Her soft crying echoes, but I look away, feeling cramped by the intimacy of it all. Nothingness.
I stare at the bolted metal doors placed around the waiting room. I watch therapist after therapist open them, smiling and exuding sickly warmth, too happy to be normal people. I accept that I will be missing my 10:00am chemistry class, and am even more pissed off than I was when I got here.
My name is called.
I glance up and see a grumpy old man staring at me, almost as unamused by the situation as I am. I follow him through one of the prison doors, twitching when I hear it slam and lock behind me.
I spend about 10 minutes complaining, then assuring him that nothing is wrong with my life, that I just had an itty bitty episode of craziness. He stops me. He is tired of listening.
He then proceeds to blatantly tell me that I will need extensive therapy for the rest of college. Probably for the rest of my life.
My nothingness turns back into intense frustration. Excuse me?
I wish I could see myself. My shocking, shameful, disaster-impending thoughts are surely expressed on my not-so poker face.
His calmness unfaltering, he asks when I am available for my next meeting.
I don’t like him.
Aren’t therapists supposed to, like, make you feel like you can tell them everything in your pretty little psychotic mind? He is not doing so well on this front. But he explains that he is the emergency counselor, so I will see someone else next time.
I give the dude my most awkward, most favorite look: lips pursed, with the corners pulled slightly up, eyes wide, eyebrows raised. The face of nothingness: of seeing, of feeling, of thinking nothing. My friends recognize it easily. I use it when I am not amused with the situation.
I am not amused with the situation.
My eyes look left to right to up to down, refusing to meet his gaze. I reverse psychology him, giving him the “therapist silence” and waiting for him to speak. Instead he turns toward his computer to schedule my next appointment. Apparently being a “high-risk emergency” student means getting everything you want because he is able write me down for the upcoming Thursday. I groan. More missed classes for me.
He releases me from his sheriff’s office and allows me back through the metal doors and into the real world. The receptionist calls out “have a good day!” as I hurry out. I turn away, trying not to let her see the exaggerated rolling of my eyes.
I go outside and promptly burst into tears.
Thursday morning arrives agonizingly slowly. I take the bus back to the health center and walk again to the armpit of the building. I check in with the same chirpy receptionist and wait my turn. At this point there is nothing that makes me feel crazier than being in this room with a dozen other depressed crazies.
A cookie cutter of a therapist calls my name. He smiles knowingly at me, like he’s seen millions of other hopeless cases. I smile back, like I’ve seen millions of other irrelevant therapists. What type of a person enjoys talking with hopeless people all day everyday? Not my type of person. He leads me to the dungeons.
Cookie Cutter therapist asks me to tell my entire fucking “story” all over again. Apparently the notes from Grumpy therapist aren’t enough.
“What brings you here today?”
“Someone called emergency services on me, and they forced me to make an appointment.”
“I see.” I rolled my eyes at his typical, just-like-in-the-movies therapy line. “Have you ever been in counseling before?”
“Yep. I came home from boarding school my junior year to see a therapist once a week.”
“Same stuff I guess.”
“How did that go?”
“I didn’t like her. She released me after six months. Said nothing is wrong with me.”
“And you haven’t gone to therapy since then?”
“Have you ever seen a psychiatrist before?”
“Have you ever had suicidal thoughts?”
I pause. “Sure.”
“Are you suicidal right now?”
I continue talking, reminding him repeatedly that my life is essentially perfect, as far as high risk patients go: no abuse, no neglect, no molestation, no poverty. No obvious external triggers, just a fucked up brain here. Just like I told Grumpy.
I worry throughout our meeting that he will tell me there is nothing wrong with me.
I need there to be something wrong with me.
I need to understand why I’m different.
Well by the time I finish talking, he is decently confident that there is definitely something wrong with me.
“Okay,” he begins. “Unfortunately the school’s counseling and psychiatry services extend only up to a year for each student. We don’t have the capacity to keep students for longer. In my professional opinion, you need long term therapy, longer than what we can offer.”
“So we have a decision to make. You can either stay with me and transfer after a year, or I can set you up now with a therapist on the outside.”
“You can set me up with an outside therapist,” I respond, perhaps too enthusiastically. This dude makes me thera-pissed (ha). Happy-go-lucky and jolly and charismatic and ignorantly positive.
I don’t like him.
“Okay, that seems like a good idea,” he replies with a smile. He probably sees right through me, probably hates me back and is more than willing to put me off on someone else. He turns his back to me and begins scrolling on his computer. He’s figuring out whose doorstep on which to drop me.
“I also want to refer you to a psychiatrist.” He softly stares at me, reading my body language before I respond. But I think seeing a shrink sounds good, if you consider darkness and hopelessness and anti-insanity drugs good. I shrug.
“The soonest appointment for a psychiatrist in the community is three weeks from now.”
My heart starts heavily beating, an oncoming panic attack racing through my veins. I need a psychiatrist to tell me what is wrong with me. I need a doctor now. I will not survive three weeks.
Cookie Cutter sees the fear in my eyes—I’ve finally given him an emotion. Fear. He turns around. After a few minutes of infinite silence, he lets out a small “a-ha” and looks contently in my direction.
“Back to our other option. If you choose to stay at the school’s counseling services, with me, our psychiatrist has an appointment available next week. You are very lucky; even the psychiatrists here often cannot meet with students for weeks.”
Like I said before: being a high risk patient works every time. I sure as hell don’t feel lucky, but I am relieved. Even if I have to stay with sugar cookie.
“Okay, let’s do that.” I nod curtly.
“Sounds good. She can meet you on Monday. And we can schedule another appointment for next Thursday, if that works for you?”
“It’s a date.” I can’t imagine a date I’d like to go on less than another one with Cookie Cutter.
I wonder briefly about how I allowed the school to rope me into all of this. But I feel a flutter of hope, deep in the corner of my desolate soul. I keep this hope to myself, not letting Cookie Cutter see it. But it’s there.