Saturday, October 24, 2015

'Tis the Season(al) Affective Disorder

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

With the kids jingle-belling

And everyone telling, “Be of good cheer!”

In the right (read: black and bleak) frame of mind, this Christmas carol can sound, to someone who is depressed, like the most banal, irritating, foolish advice.  That season again, when I’m wandering, zombie-like, around Big Lots, in search of bags of cheap Halloween candy (no deep pockets, so no Darth Vader or Disney Princess gets a King-sized Hershey from me), 24-packs of toilet paper, and weird boxes of Belarusian cookies.  Jolly holly carols blare from the loudspeakers, all with the underlying message: Try smiling!  Think positive!  It will all work out!  Tell that to the squashed chipmunk I sidestepped on my walk this afternoon through the cemetery, a deliberate destination that helps me remember that at least I’m alive.

Tis’ the season.  Not that season, not yet anyway.  But what has become a seasonal trek in search of a new psychiatrist.  This time, just when I found a doctor with the right combination of bio-psychiatric smarts and therapeutic warmth, he has an “inappropriate” relationship with a patient.  His license was suspended, and I’ve been waiting out the suspension for months, willing to overlook his transgression because he was that good.  This week he closed up shop for good.  Truth be told, I’m not sure I could have seen him again.  Instead of waiting for him to ask, “How are you?,” I would have shouted, “How could you?”  Maybe even shook my fist.  (Mood erratic?  Feeling a little out of control?  No--his transgression just hits too close to home.) 
So yesterday, I saw my primary care physician for medication refills.  I’ve only met him once before and so tried to act brave and nonchalant when he asked questions about my mental health history; I shrugged off my twenty hospitalizations, and told him I was feeling “mostly fine” considering the past year—divorce, betrayal, a-thus-far--futile job search.  Circumstantial rather than biological depression. 

He looked at me carefully, assessing my sarcasm.  “Do you have thoughts about harming yourself or others?” 
I laughed, “Aside from the everyday ones?” 

For a moment, I thought he might press his stethoscope to my temple to listen to the chatter in my brain.  “Really,” I said, “nothing atypical for Bipolar disorder.” 
Later, when I told him about the (literal) pain in my butt from running (piriformis syndrome), he slowly worked his thumbs down my spine.  Ahh, I thought, he is an osteopath.  Maybe he’ll try some sort of adjustment, shifting my spine and brain back into alignment.  And, too, I thought, with some shame, this is the most intimately I’ve been touched in years.  I wanted him to run his thumbs down my shins and up my forearms, to palpate my stomach, thump my back.  Alternately, I thought I could go see a massage therapist—it was clear why some people might pay for sex or professional cuddling.

But the exam ended, my spine, indeed, as straight as ever.  I left with my prescription refills-what are necessary to keep it all in balance, but what cannot cure a broken heart.