Yesterday in my appointment with R I had a lot of awkward moments with her. It didn’t help that I hadn’t seen her in four weeks and G took the week off, so I was brimming with stuff to talk about.
Also, it doesn’t help that I still put a lot of pressure on myself to be a “good patient” and to “do therapy the right way” (although that obviously doesn’t exist). I’ve overcome much of this with G, because I see her more frequently and I’ve been with her since May of last year. However, with R it’s only been a few months so I still find myself heading into minefields of awkwardness during my sessions with her. Plus, I want to be a psychiatrist, and she’s a psychiatrist, so as irrational as that seems, I end up putting some more pressure on myself for some obscure reason (as though she were evaluating me, which she obviously isn’t).
It all began with my asking how her Christmas vacation had been, and she just smiled and said “Cold.” I knew she wasn’t going to say much, but I like to test her, seeing as she’s more private about her personal life than G. I quickly changed the subject to my Christmas vacations.
It’s kind of funny because sometimes I ask or say certain things just to test them, G and R. Being a medical student (and interested in psychiatry), I sometimes think I’m more of a “difficult patient” than your average patient because a lot of the time I know why they say certain things or do things a certain way, and I test them for it, sometimes just for shits and giggles. For example, yesterday I told R that I had already decided on what the experience with The Ex had been (the a-word), but that I wanted to know what her opinion was. Again, I wasn’t expecting her to give a straightforward answer, because obviously her opinion shouldn’t influence mine. She responded with “What’s your opinion?”, and I smiled and said “Ok, I’ll tell you my opinion…..but you still have to answer.” She just laughed. And she later answered, surprisingly enough.
Another awkward moment was when I asked her whether she likes her job. She said “What do you think?”. I laughed and said “Typical psychiatrist’s answer” and she laughed. But she also answered that one (and I might post about it later, as it was food for thought).
Sometimes I’ll also point out certain things to her, like details in her office, or a slight change in her facial expression, which happened quite a few times yesterday. I tend to deviate the conversation to very mundane subjects when I feel uncomfortable, and then all of a sudden I switch back to the difficult subject. Like I said, I test them.
At one point we were talking about the short conversation we had over the phone yesterday morning. You see, she told me to call her so she could tell me at what time she’d be seeing me, since she was having a hectic day. Sometime during the short call she said she wasn’t sure at what time she’d arrive at the office, “I don’t know at what time I’m getting out of the clinic-…that is, the clinic where I’m at right now.”
I found this particularly funny because I knew she was about to say where she was working at that moment, what clinic it was, but she stopped herself from doing it. It was oh so slight, but I perceived the small change in her tone.
So, I pointed it out to her yesterday, and she was surprised. She laughed uncomfortably as I dismissed what I had just said: “Just ignore me, it’s me and my stupid things, don’t pay attention to what I say.” But what she said next surprised me. She smiled and said: “You’re very observant….and that’s going to help you in your future career [as a psychiatrist]”.
Cue me internally doing this:
She reminded me of when G told me I’ll be a good psychiatrist. I was gushing. Who, me? If you say so…
But then it’s kind of funny because I test them both so much, but in the end I’m the one who’s a bowl of mush. I’m the vulnerable patient who’s seeking their help. Sometimes I wonder whether I intimidate them a bit, but really I’m the one who’s feeling intimidated.
And because I feel intimidated and I need to feel comfortable during therapy, I asked R yesterday if I could call her by her first name. She was surprised at the question at first, but I explained myself: Calling her “Doctor” or “doctor R” makes me feel like I’m at med school/hospital and that she’s somehow evaluating me, which makes me uncomfortable around her, and I really just want to stay mindful during our sessions and don’t want to end up feeling like I’m interacting with an attending at hospital.
And, surprisingly enough, she said yes. But she made it a point that I have to remember she’s my doctor. Yes, I’m well aware, unfortunately.
So, in the end, I might be really observant (which I have to acknowledge…I am), I might know a thing or two about medicine, psychiatry, and psychology, and I might test them…..but in the end….I’m the patient.
I’m the vulnerable one. I’m the one who’s feeling intimidated and picked and prodded, just like any other run-of-the-mill patient.
But I’m ok with it. And I’m ok with it because I trust them, I feel safe in their hands. And it’s difficult for me to trust, so that’s saying something.
And that, people, is something to be truly thankful for: to feel comfortable in your own vulnerability with the ones you appreciate and hold dear to your heart.