I entered her office. It was dull and dark in the tiny space, filled with a sable brown leather couch and sterile desk. A bookshelf was filled with DSM IV manuals and other materials dedicated to mental illness and psychiatry. I saw no happy family photos or inspirational quotes on the shelves or walls. Her personality was just as dark and sterile as the room. The only brightness in the room was her rich, red hair. She may have been pretty if her face weren’t so cruel and void of compassion.
“Come on in,” she said, as I opened the door, escorted to her office by one of the staff members in the behavioral health unit. She didn’t bother to get up from her seat to greet me. There was no semblance of a smile or outreached hand to warmly receive me. Rather, I was made to feel like an inconvenience as she sat still in her seat, her large limbs overarching the base of the desk chair, too obese for this standard seat. She didn’t even move her hand to guide me toward the leather couch. I just sat myself and remained awkwardly silent until she spoke, exhaustion and aggravation evident in her voice.
“Well, why are you here?” she inquired. I was in the behavioral health unit talking to the on-site psychiatrist. Was it not relatively obvious why I was here? I was ill.
“Well,” I began, “I’m bipolar.”
“Yes, yes,” she said, her aggravation seemed to be growing. I didn’t know what I had done to apparently wrong this woman for the clear answer was that I had not erred or harmed her in any way. Why was she so harsh to me as I sat in this cold space in a fragile state? “But, what happened that you ended up here?”
“What do you mean?” I asked, sincere in my questioning.
“Well, what event prompted your arrival here? A death? A divorce? Some other trauma?”
“No, no trauma. I’m bipolar. I’ve just fallen into severe depression. There need not be external factors. I have a chemical imbalance.”
“Yes, yes,” she replied, with increasing exasperation. “I do understand manic-depression. I’m a psychiatrist. It’s just that typically some event triggers hospitalization.”
I sat there becoming progressively more incensed as well, I actually having a reason for such irritation given her callous treatment toward me in this moment. I hated her. I decided this right then. I fucking hated her. The cunt. What was she doing in this profession? I wanted to get up and leave her office, but I also knew I had to be on my best behavior if I wanted to be released. I had not chosen this hospitalization.
“Well, I’m here on a seventy-two hour hold,” I explained to her.
“Okay, there,” she said, as though her belief about triggering events had been validated and she could feel superior to me without guilt. But she should have felt guilty, the self-righteous bitch she was before me, as I sat there deeply suffering, pulling at my shirt sleeves to hide what lie beneath.
“So, why were you put on hold?”
“Self-injurious behavior,” I replied, with shame and embarrassment.
“Well, let me see,” she demanded, like she was an extremely disciplinary teacher and I was a bad student who had been caught passing a note and made to bring it to the front of the class to be read aloud.
I rolled up my sleeves and exposed the cuts on my arms, the ones I was made to show to the nurses in the emergency room the night before, and then the police officers and social service worker who had been called in to evaluate my condition.
“Why, those cuts aren’t bad at all!” she gasped. I was wasting her time and I had enraged her with my pathetic cuts, only deep enough to bring forth blood, enough to make myself feel pain, just enough pain that I felt in control of my emotion, so that I felt anything other than empty and hollow. “Those cuts don’t even require stiches,” she added in disgust.
“I know,” I replied, my voice now rapidly rising, trying to compete with her lunacy. I was irritated and indignant and I hated her. I fucking hated her.
“Are you even suicidal now?” she asked me, like only a patient who had a noose already tightened around her neck was worthy of this woman’s time.
“No, I never claimed to be suicidal,” I said in defense of myself, as though I had to plead my case to this woman now, explain why I was worthy of psychiatric care. “I wasn’t trying to kill myself with these cuts. It’s just sibbing. I’m not suicidal. I’m just really, really sad. Isn’t that enough?”
“Isn’t that enough?” I had actually asked her, like I had even failed in my own depression. I was failing at life, too anxious to work. I was failing at marriage, afraid to leave but miserable every moment I stayed. I was failing at my friendships, feeling too pathetic and miserable to burden others with my tiresome woes. And this bitch, this awful bitch, was making me feel like I had failed at depression too. Why didn’t I want to kill myself? What was wrong with me?
“You don’t need to be here,” she said, “They’re wasting my time.” She had validated that I was indeed a burden.
I had succeeded at one thing – at being burdensome and taxing. I was difficult and problematic, and I didn’t belong anywhere, not even in the behavioral health unit. Why wasn’t I suicidal? Because I’m strong, I’m smart, I’m a survivor. I was worthy, and she was a bitch, and I was better than that. I hated her, and I hated myself in that moment too.
Even though this damn depression can be tough and trying, the way that woman so wrongly treated me, I am going to try to love myself. I am going to love myself. I will love myself. I love myself. I am worthy, and she was wrong.