You gotta read it to believe it.
Today, Alex and I saw our new "potential" therapist, for about the third time. And we frightened the living wampus out of him. I kid you NOT. He is not our new "potential" therapist any more, though he is not yet aware of that.
We have been with a psychologist that we both like VERY much for over three years. He's local, acccessible, "gets" us, KNOWS OUR RIDICUOUSLY INTENSIVE "HISTORY"-- much of which you would not believe in a million years even if I decided to tell every bit of it to you, which I most certainly ain't gonna--and most importantly of all, we always leave his office feeling better, like a weight's been lifted off our shoulders, than we did when we went in. He's not an M.D., but he is a doctor, and he practices the type of therapy that is most effective with bipolars (the ones who, like Alex, are stable enough for therapy to be helpful--never ask me how much therapy money we tossed down the proverbial rat-hole without FIRST achieving chemical stability--ever), and he seems to keep up with peer-reviewed studies and texts that are current in the profession. He sees us both as a couple and individually, depending on whatever that session's circumstances seem to dictate, and he's quite intuitive as to what issue most needs attention at any given time, and then getting to the meat of it, and helping us work it out.
Why mess with what ain't broke? GOOD QUESTION. Where were you last week? Well, mainly because WE were. Broke, that is. And Dr. Wonderful is NOT covered by our insurance--not anymore. AND because, we thought, in one of our fits of infinite collective wisdom, that it would be beneficial to have a therapist who was in the same clinic as Dr. Awesome, M.D., the psychiatrist who pretty much saved Alex's life and helped keep me from hiding in my closet for the last year. (You can see why we'd be fond of Dr. Awesome.) How great it would be, we thought, to have our therapist and psychiatrist in such close communication with each other! And it's covered, at least partially, by our insurance; hey, half-price is better than full-price, right?
Yeah. Unless you happen to be getting what you pay for. New Guy is not a psychologist. He's a LCSW, which in itself does not in any way say anything about his effectiveness as a therapist, but...well, to us right now, it's seeming...different. New Guy costs a little more than Dr. Wonderful, which is bizarre to us, since he's not a doctor, but whatever. He's also a good 40-minute drive away. He's younger than Dr. Wonderful, but not by a huge margin. Dr. Wonderful is on the young side, himself. But New Guy, therapy-wise, seems to be a bit of a one-trick pony, at least in dealing with Alex and I, and the only text he quoted--REPEATEDLY--was from John Gray's 15-year-old book, "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus," but he wasn't sure of the title and thought that the author was a woman, so...yeah--right there, we got a problem. If you're gonna rely on a pop-psychology paperback for the bulk of your therapeutic material, knowing who WROTE the thing looks a lot better than, well...not. There was a lot of talk of Alex "going into his cave," enough so, that we started shooting each other looks. That's when you know you're in trouble: If, during THERAPY, for which you are PAYING, you and your mate are sneaking glances at each other, and trying not to crack up. (Later, when I asked Alex what he thought New Guy's "cave" was like--because apparently all you Mars-Men HAVE them, he said, "I dunno, but there's probably a lot of cats." Which totally cracked me up, and made me love him more and need therapy less.)
There was an awful, awful, painfully awful boxing analogy, accompanied by some very sad miming of boxing that looked more than a little bit like a kitty-cat batting at one of those mouse-on-a-spring toys, at which point I was forced to absolutely turn my head 180 degrees away from my husband and begin an intent examination of the the contents of a bookcase, particularly a ceramic, bobble-head frog wearing a crown that said, "Smooch Me." I WISH I was making this up. (And, incidentally? Rather than learning how best to "box" with my husband, how about some tips on STAYING OUT OF THE RING ALTOGETHER?) But worst of all was the aforementioned fact that Alex and I, and/or our "issues," SCARED THIS POOR FELLOW TO DEATH. How do I know? Well, I think it was when he more or less TOLD us. You know, the part where he said, "To tell you the truth, I'm pretty overwhelmed by everything I'm getting from you guys, and I don't really know how to handle it."
Uh...WHA???? Well, thanks! THAT is reassuring, and whatever instructor taught you THAT method of instilling confidence in your patient(s), please give him/her a punch in the neck for me. Alex and I, having had such great outcome with our previous therapist, Dr. Wonderful, were floored. I mean, us? We are therapy PROFESSIONALS. What is New Guy talking about? We still don't know. We NEED therapy, we BENEFIT from therapy, and by golly, WE CAN DO THERAPY. As a matter of fact, we challenge you and your spouse/partner to a therapy smackdown ANYTIME, ANYPLACE.
When New Guy said he was "overwhelmed," I had to seriously resist the urge to give him a wedgie. His main problem in "handling" us seemed to be that he felt like we were bombarding him with too much unrelated information, and that each of these "divergent" topics were "therapy-rich." (Note to social workers: When someone is paying you $150/hour, do NOT refer to their problems in any way as "rich" from your perspective. Seriously. Get a Thesaurus.) Whereas, as Alex and I confirmed with each other during our lengthy, and hilarity-filled, post-session autopsy, from OUR point of view, we basically discussed ONE topic for the ENTIRE session, between the TWO of us. Honestly--we were in agreement over this. You wanna know the theme? I'll even tell you--here it is: My husband occasionally gets frustrated at his difficulty in expressing his feelings accurately, and turns to anger--at ME, because I'm, you know, THERE--to which I usually respond in the highly recommended and conflict-resolving, "OH, YEAH? YOU WANNA GO?" manner. I could probably give "Stay Out Of The Cave, You Womens!" seminars, or something. Also, blah blah blah, he's bipolar and I am co-dependent. Really? YAWN.
I immediately volunteered to New Guy my suggestion that it was his lack of knowledge of our background that was causing this misunderstanding, and that perhaps since Alex and I have such a long, involved, and emotionally INTENSE history, the "catching up" process might just be too much to ask of New Guy, and would take so long to accomplish that it might even be counterproductive, not to mention prohibitively expensive. New Guy absolutely shook this suggestion off, and opined that if he could see us THREE TIMES A WEEK, you know, once each individually and then once together, he could probably straighten things right on out, eventually. Um...no thanks.
At that point we just wanted out of the boxing ring and away from the cave. We went ahead and made an appointment for next week, because New Guy was watching us, and because we are both just way too chicken to tell him outright that we didn't feel like paying for the psychological services of someone who was AFRAID OF OUR ISSUES. We got the distinct impression that New Guy was going to have to have some therapy of his own as soon as we left, because we traumatized him so.
But, there is this: On our way in this morning, we were a mess. We'd been having our own little skirmishes, the usual, as in Alex has bipolar disorder, which sucks and is a difficult and unfortunate circumstance for him, and the man I love has bipolar disorder, which sucks and is a difficult and unfortunate circumstance for me. Plus, as you know, I have my OWN issues that color our relationship, AND we had come to the therapy appointment straight from an appointment with my surgeon (17 days and counting), who had been WAY too descriptive about my upcoming procedure--until Alex had to actually SAY, "Um, you've gotta stop talking to her about this now." (But can I just tell you that the phrase "nick your colon" was used? As in, "There will be a general surgeon standing by in case we NICK YOUR COLON." ExCUSE me? What are you gonna be in there with, a buck knife and barbecue tongs? NEVER SPEAK TO ME AGAIN ABOUT NICKING MY COLON EVER.)
Back to my point from the paragraph above, though, which is that we came out of that lamer-than-previously-believed-possible therapy appointment feeling MUCH better than when we went in. It wasn't because any actual, conventional THERAPY had been accomplished, but because we were united in our gaping wonder at New Guy's "technique." Which, if you're interested, you can probably do better on your own right here. We linked arms, walked out into the sunshine laughing, and literally became a stronger unit on the spot. When he got home from work a few minutes after Bella and I got here, Alex came bearing chocolate, as well as fresh-picked okra that he fried up for our dinner, and we played with Bella, got her to bed, watched a terrible movie (The Sentinel--sorry, Keifer)--the sting of which was lessened by the really good movie (Rabbit-Proof Fence)-- that we saw last night, and laughed and talked together until we went to sleep, like old friends who DON'T have the stressful weights of the world hanging over heads, which we do. As well as the sword of Damocles. And a paper sack full of wet badgers. But we are TOGETHER.
And we have decided, definitively, that a compromise is in order, and we're going for quality over quantity, and will just see Dr. Wonderful twice a month, which will cost the roughly the same (not being covered by our insurance) as seeing New Guy once a week. It's enough, and we're worth it, and we'll manage, even if it means giving up DirecTV and cable internet (the loud "thump" you just heard was my husband falling over, dead).
Because let me tell you--when your marriage is so hardcore awesomely bizarre that while at the same time you love each other like crazy, your overwhelming multitude of issues FREAKS OUT A PROFESSIONAL THERAPIST? People, that is a priceless feeling. I don't know if I've ever been prouder of us.