My Visit to the Psycho Doc

From: andrew cooke <andrew@...>

Date: Tue, 18 Dec 2012 20:41:46 -0300

I saw a psychiatrist (or a psychologist?  I am unsure of the difference, but
it was the one with more degrees) today.

I guess, in the end, it was about what I expected.  He was a nice chap.  But
very young - his face reminded me of a concerned otter, for some reason.

The biochemical side of my illness is in the hands of my doctor and the drug
companies.  There's not a lot I can do there.  But the mental side may be
important.  I have heard various vague warnings about "avoiding stress", for
example.

But how are you supposed to do that?  Surely it *is* stressful when it's
unclear whether you will be dead through liver failure, or whatever, in twelve
months (liver failure is a guess because no-one tells you the worse case
scenario - you only find out about plan B when plan A fails).

And I don't think there's any direct answer there, apart from relying on your
natural ability to ignore the obvious and continue with life.

So I wasn't looking for "an answer" to "how to live with MS".

Instead, my main motivation was to explore a kind of panic that seems to trap
me at odd times, both at work and home.  It's not really a panic - more like a
fit of rage or frustration.  And it is somehow related to feeling a lack of
control; of being trapped with the consequences of someone else's inability to
solve a problem.

Now MS might sound like a classic case of that - trapped in something I can't
solve.  But it's not.  For some reason - perhaps because of the social roles
involved - I am quite happy to leave that to the doctor.  Instead, this
happens in much more mundane cases: when my boss at work is failing to
communicate with a client, for example.

That really is mundane.  I know.  And it's embarrassing that somehow I end up
in such a childish rage.  Especially when, at some point, I manage to
disconnect and see the problem for what it is, myself.

So that was the starting point.  Although I guess I also went to see what it
is like to have therapy.  Out of curiosity, and to see how it might be useful.

Talking to a therapist is pretty much like you might expect.  They smile and
wait and eventually you open your mouth and say something.  When you dry up
they make some comment that might connect various ideas or, if they can't think
of anything smart, I guess, a question out of the Eliza toolbox (Eliza is a
"psychologist" program in the emacs editor).

Some of the connections made sense.  Others not so much.  A large amount of
time is spent explaining things to a stranger that you already know, which is
a bit frustrating, but I guess that gets better with time.

Simply being able to speak, and be listened to, and not judged, is quite an
odd sensation.  It's liberating.  I can imagine that for some people that is a
very important part of the process (not for me, I think, although I could
imagine getting used to it...).

What did I learn?

That my own assessment of where I was didn't seem to be terribly wrong.  That
I don't seem to need any kind of drug at the moment.  That part of what
bothers me is the idea that I am not being understood by others.

I also have an appointment for another meeting in a month's time, and some
homework.  I didn't write down the homework and am not sure I have it right,
but then I think I could probably pick whatever I wanted as long as it made
sense.  Anyway, I think it was: (1) make a more detailed analysis of an
"episode" in which I was frustrated; (2) try understand what it is that I want
other people to understand.  They seem like reasonable things to think about.

I am not sure this will be a regular thing.  But it was interesting, did no
harm (I think - I am not completely sure that you reduce someone's stress by
asking them how they feel about being ill...), and has given me some new ideas
to explore.

Andrew

PS Also, yes, why write this?  I admit it may be partially self-defense, but
also it helps me think things through, I can point a few concerned people to
it, and it might just help some random stranger.  Hello random stranger.  Have
a hug.