As I sat in the high-back chair, I thought about my last few weeks. My roommate, who was a long-time friend, called my parents and they immediately brought me home. My mom didn’t know what to do. She treated me like a porcelain doll. I couldn’t fault her for it though. She was one of the most positive people I knew. As much as I wished she could understand, I was glad she couldn’t. I wouldn’t wish that kind of empathy on my worst enemy. My dad understood though, having struggled with depression for many years. He insisted I see his therapist.
So there I sat in the waiting room. I had never met with any kind of shrink. My knowledge of psychiatry was limited to what I had seen in movies. I envisioned a man in a tweed jacket with a mustache in a leather chair showing me cards with ink blots. I never put much stock in this kind of thing. How was talking to a person going to help me. Truthfully, I was here to get my Dad off of my back.
The receptionist poked her head into the waiting room. “Dr. Graham will see you now.” I was ushered to a door, the receptionist knocked, opened the door and I went in. I took in my surroundings. It was different than I expected. Just a normal couch with some throw pillows, some plants and a window. It looked like a living room. In the corner was a desk with a computer and many thick books that had the letters DSM on them. Medical books probably.
Dr. Graham stood up from his desk chair and shook my hand. My assumptions on his appearance were totally incorrect. No tweed jacket or mustache. Just a khakis and a light blue, untucked button-up. Nothing about him made me think “Psychiatrist”. He was just…well…normal. I sat down on the couch.
“So why are you here?”
I was taken aback. Isn’t he supposed to ask me how I feel and wriggle his way into my psyche? Still, I appreciated his straight forward approach. “I almost committed suicide a few weeks ago. I have been dealing with depression for a couple of years and it just became too much.”
As he took notes on a yellow legal pad he asked, “How have you been feeling since then?”
Here we go with the feelings. “Honestly, like a mental case.” He kept writing. “And why is that?” This is stupid. “Because I have always just been a normal person and now I just feel like damaged goods. I just want to be normal. To just be me.”
After scribbling a few more notes he looked up from his legal pad. “Well, you are not a mental case, or abnormal. You are just a person with a disease that affects almost 15 million people in the United States. ”
I once again was surprised by his frankness. This was not going the way I expected. I felt kind of defensive. Sure I didn’t know what to expect coming into this but I think I expected at least a little sympathy.
“So how are you supposed to help me?” I probably came across a little impatient. I didn’t care.
“I can’t really do anything,” he responded “ultimately your progress is up to you. I just give you tools and encourage you to use them. I can tell that you are skeptical of therapy, but if you are willing to put in the work and trust me, it really can help. What you are going through is serious and is not easy to overcome but feeling alone and hopeless is not what this life is about in my opinion. You can still have a high quality of life in spite of this illness.”
I sat in silence, processing what he had said. Of course I wanted help, but I didn’t know if I really believed his claims. Still, I felt a tiny, almost imperceptible, glimmer of hope.
“Ok. I’ll try.”