Compassionate Love:Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2014 Nancy Virden
Following a move to Philadelphia from Cleveland, I grew deeply depressed. In November of 2010, someone inadvertently recommended a nearby mental health organization where I found my current doctor. This is also the place that introduced me to Kelly.*
Kelly did not want to work with me, and rolled her eyes when she heard what I had to say. As I was walking out of her office, she said “Whew!” as if no one could hear her. It became clear that the help I wanted does not exist, and so I settled. She told me to leave town and go visit someone nurturing. It did not occur to me she wanted me out of her hair.
During the month of December I was home maybe six days. In January she put me in an IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) and told me insurance would not simultaneously pay for visits with her.
Days later, I attempted suicide. Months went by during which I was hospitalized and completed the IOP. Finally, I was back in Kelly’s office.
This time she wanted to talk about where to buy groceries in the area. I checked the clock. Out of my allotted (and paid for) 45 minutes, 15 she talked incessantly about shopping, 10 she used to run my credit card, and 5 she used to search for my file. Unable to find it, she grabbed a small piece of scrap paper and said, “This will do.”
I got it! In IOP I’d learned it is okay to find ways to get my needs met, and Kelly was definitely not one of those ways. Once again, I gave up on therapists and assumed I’d go it alone.
An unexpected email from the IOP doctor asking a financial question, changed all that. He inquired how I was doing. It was that very morning I’d told Kelly I wasn’t coming back (she probably danced a jig). The doctor said he would find a therapist for me.
He wanted to know if I had any criteria for a therapist? YES! I asked for someone affirming, a woman, who listens before speaking and is careful with words. You see, I translate statements in a literal fashion and miss most hints and nuances. It took about three weeks, and then I finally met Lynne.*
Lynne is kind, patient, adjusts to my personality, readily says what I need to hear, listens, and in her office I slowly learned to feel safe sharing secrets. She doesn’t lie to me, accuse, insult, gossip, or try to get rid of me like some previous caretakers I’ve told you about in this series.
Just the opposite, she has agreed to see me as many times as I feel I need. Lynne knows how to do her job in a professional manner. She validates how I feel, offers a different perspective, and did I mention listens? She hears me.
This is what I hope you will take from this series:
- Know you deserve to find appropriate help.
- Ask the hard questions.
- Trust your instincts.
- Find the kind of professional who will walk you through change to a better life.
Pay attention to the processes I recommend for finding good counsel. You do not need to repeat my experiences. Remember, anyone who wishes to can hang out a shingle and call themselves “counselor”. Look for evidence they have earned that title.
There is ONE MORE part to this series. Stay tuned for the good news!
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.
– picture from qualitystockphotos.com
*names are changed