Tag Archives: Psychiatry

My Experience with Psychotherapy – Part III

The next therapist I saw was a psychologist I saw for several years while living in Philadelphia.  I went to see him because I was depressed, anxious and generally dissatisfied with life.  Initially my wife and I saw him as a couple’s therapist after friend of mine came to visit.

The three of us went out for drinks.  I remember my wife’s behavior really embarrassed me.  I had just been hired by Dechert and was earning more money than I ever had.  She kept congratulating me and it felt awkward in front of my friend.  I asked her to stop but she kept doing it.  Then we went to a restaurant called Cuba Libre.  There she was involved in some sort of scuffle where some guy picked her up and moved her away from the bar.  She complained to the manager who did nothing.  To me it felt like she was getting drunk and making a scene.  I tried to get her to change the subject but she would not stop talking about what had happened.  Finally I said if she talked about it one more time I was leaving.  She talked about it again and I got up and left.  I waited outside on the street.  She and my friend eventually came out and we took a cab back to our apartment.  She kept yelling at me saying I ruined the night.

The next night my friend was still there.  It felt like things were smoothed over but I wanted to joke with him the way we normally did.  My wife seemed unable to contribute.  It frustrated me.  I felt like I would always have her around so I would never be able to feel free and joke around with my friends. This thought made me feel depressed like I had given up a piece of myself that I could never retrieve.

This was the start of my wife having a problem with my friends.  I remember the psychologist asking me, “why can’t you just let your friend and your wife have that relationship,” meaning (now that I look back on it) why not allow the three of us to interact in the way we did without getting upset that it was not the way I wanted it to go.  It was a valid point but I would not get to that point until much later.

After a few sessions as a couple I continued seeing this psychologist by myself.  Once a week I would leave work at lunchtime and walk across town, past City Hall, to his office.  We talked about a lot of things.  Most of the time I would bring up a subject.  He would take notes and sometimes ask questions but his form of therapy was very client driven.  I cried once or twice.  We talked a lot about my relationship with my father.  We talked about my fascination with “A Christmas Carol,” whether the ghosts were outside entities or creations of Scrooge’s consciousness and about how I burst into tears every time I watched the scene where Fred welcomes Scrooge to dinner (but only when I watched it alone).  He pointed out that even though I was born after my father’s car accident in which my older sister died when she was a baby, that it must have had an impact on me.  That was an idea I had never considered before.  He described me as feeling a “lack of entitlement.”  He told me I suffered from generalized anxiety disorder.

He was definitely compassionate.  He told me I was an interesting case.  I think he liked me on a personal level.  But looking back on it I never really thought the therapy went anywhere.  I think I grew marginally under his care probably because his type of therapy was not well suited for my specific issues.

There were a few instances where he got my doctor to prescribe anti-depressants to me.  I was on Paxil for a while.  It seemed to work but had some sexual side effects that I did not like.  Specifically it was difficult to maintain and erection and to have an orgasm.  I was later on Lexapro, which was pretty similar.  He eventually prescribed me Wellbutrin under the influence of which I had a mental breakdown of sorts.  This happened at my parents’ house in Connecticut one weekend we came for a visit.  Both my sisters and my cousin were there. I remember being so angry with my wife (we were not getting along at the time).  I got up from the dinner table, got a beer in the kitchen and ran out on the golf course behind my parents’ house.  I chugged it in the middle of the fairway in the dark.  The rest of the night is hazy to me.  I remember my cousin consoling me in the driveway as they were leaving.  Then I went up to bed.  I stopped seeing the psychologist after that.

I wanted to get off Wellbutrin but I did not want to experience “mind zaps” I had heard about.  I looked up a psychiatrist in the phone book.  I called her and she was willing to see me.  I think her office was in an apartment building in Washington Square.  My concern was that I wanted to get off Wellbutrin because it was making me behave bizarrely but I wanted to do it in a medically supervised way to avoid the side effects I had read about regarding abruptly going off of anti-depressants.  I do not feel like I made a real connection with her and I only saw her for a few times.  I remember she asked me about my first memory and how abnormal it was that it did not involve either one of my parents.  I also remember another interaction where I told her that I was uncomfortable with my drinking.  Her response was, “well there are other things to drink besides alcohol.”  I suppose she was not that well acquainted with the mind of an alcoholic because I remember thinking that there certainly are other things to drink but none of them make me drunk.  That seemed like an important point looking back on it.  I did not express it to her at the time.

Anyway, she guided me through getting off of Wellbutrin.  Part of that involved not drinking for two weeks, which was difficult but I did it.  Once I got off of Wellbutrin I quickly got back on drinking.

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My Experience with Psychotherapy – Part II

I did not see another therapist until I was in law school in New Orleans.  Until that point I never appreciated the connection between the mind and the body.  I had met my wife and asked her to marry me and she said yes.  She immediately went ahead with the planning which took me aback.  It seemed like there was a lot of pressure and looking back on it I had no way of coping.  My throat started to feel like it was closing up on me.  I started to get really bad heartburn.  I went to see the doctor in the school clinic.  He prescribed Prilosec.  It did not really work so I went to a gastroenterologist.  I remember now that he suspected my symptoms were stress related but at the time I did not understand what he told me.  I think the fact that I was in law school scared him because he continued to run tests on me.  There was a procedure where they shoved a camera down my throat.  One time I had a tube fed up my nose and down my throat.  At the end of the tube outside my body was a computer device.  It recorded something to do with my throat.  I eventually changed doctors because nothing he did helped my symptoms.  The second doctor also suggested that stress was the problem but again I did not accept that answer.  I was prescribed antibiotics but they did not work.  The doctor seemed annoyed with me. I wanted to think that the problem was physical.  He eventually referred me to a cardiologist.  The cardiologist acted like he did not know why I was there.  I gave him my story.  He agreed that the problem was stress and recommended me to see a psychiatrist.  This time I listened.

The psychiatrist was a tall, lanky, older man with a gray beard and mustache.  He looked the part of a psychiatrist.  His office was in a shotgun house.  It was dark inside and the walls were lined with tall wooden bookshelves.  One shelf had a skull on it.  He was dyslexic and wrote awkwardly with his left hand.  He assured me my issue with my throat closing up was indeed stress related.  He prescribed me a drug called Serzone which I think is a serotonin reuptake inhibitor like Prozac.  He had me sit in a recliner and talked me through meditative sessions.  I do not recall what exactly they entailed but I think they brought me to a relaxed state and then he told me when a stressful thought entered my head I should say to it “Stop!  Get out of there!”  After a few sessions the sensation started to subside after months of misery.  This was the first time I appreciated that psychological stress can cause physical problems.  It was also the first time in my life I experienced a physical problem that a regular doctor could not cure.  I believe his method was the Cognitive Behavioral approach.

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