On Monday I met with a pain psychologist.
The meeting was a required step by my medical insurance in order to proceed along the path towards having a bionic arm. (You remember the evil Anthem Blue Cross, right?)
A bionic arm will match my bionic nipples and make me into, basically, a Bionic Woman.
That has to be a good thing, right?
For the purpose of today's post I will call the pain psychologist Dr. Shrink.
I have a confession to make. I am, perhaps, the only person in Southern California who doesn't have a therapist (which is not to say my crazy-ass couldn't use one).
I had never been to a psychologist's office before and I was a little nervous.
Oh, there was the day when I found out I was going to have my third and WORST surgery. I called a friend who is a professional "counselor." I was sobbing uncontrollably and he agreed to calm my ass down. He did a great job of it too. Really, he and The Torturer are the ones that got me through that surgery.
But a full-fledged psychologist?
No … this visit was a first.
I almost laughed when I walked in.
There was a REAL couch!
I thought The Counseling Couch was just something we see in movies?
I guess not.
"Why are you here?" Dr. Shrink asked right off the bat.
"I was in a car accident about four years ago. There have been six surgeries …. and now they are going to try implanting electrodes …."
He asked me questions.
I was a little nervous and shy.
This man was, after all, getting paid to analyze me, my pain, how I'm holding up mentally and emotionally.
It felt kind of weird to be there.
I had a sudden urge to blurt out inappropriate things like:
"Sometimes I have really bad days is that okay or not?"
"Am I showing too much cleavage to be in a shrink's office?"
"I'm all right today, but I was curled in a ball whimpering in pain a week ago."
"Even my physical therapist rejected me – I must be really fucked up!"
But I didn't.
(BTW, having your physical therapist, who also happens to be your good friend, reject you leaves deep and lasting scars.)
I answered Dr. Shrink's questions honestly and I hoped he wouldn't declare me bat-shit crazy.
After we talked for awhile, he showed me the device which will most likely be implanted into my body. (Nothing is definite still; there are many steps to this process.) We talked about it at length. He explained the realities of the surgeries (two of them) and I asked questions. It was both informative and reassuring.
There were a few notable moments for me in my "session."
First, there was no doubt in my mind Dr. Shrink UNDERSTANDS.
I can never find the words to express this adequately, but living with a lot of pain is similar to living alone. It's extremely isolating. No one in my immediate world "understands." They can't – and I wouldn't want them to. To understand means to live with pain that is always, always, there. When I come across someone who I know DOES get it - it's calming to my soul. It's a moment, however brief, of NOT being alone.
Dr. Shrink asked how the accident, and living in pain since, has affected my marriage. I wasn't expecting the question and I was momentarily speechless.
I knew, in an instant, he comprehended everything I didn't say.
Chronic pain damages everything in its path.
When he asked what I do in the way of exercise and physical activity. I explained what I can and can't do with an aside of, "My physical therapist wanted me to … but …." He replied, "Most physical therapists are trained to treat acute pain, not chronic pain."
Just like that I was absolved from leftover guilt from not being able to do everything everyone else thinks I should be able to do.
In fact, all his questions made me feel like I'm doing really well despite all the obstacles the last four years have brought.
Have I ever mentioned how much I beat myself up for not being stronger, handling things better, being a better mom, a better wife, the inspiring person I wish I could be?
My time with Dr. Shrink also made me realize it would have benefited me A LOT to have seen a pain psychologist when I was going through surgery after surgery. I wish I had. I might not have felt as alone. I might not have constantly asked, "Why me?"
I don't think I even knew pain psychologists existed at the time. I certainly had no idea how to find one. Also, I was so drugged up from all the surgeries, I don't think it ever occurred to me.
It's a little sobering to realize if I had had Dr. Painless and Dr. Shrink in my life three or four years ago … hell might not have been nearly as hellish as it has been.
Of course, no visit with me can go without a few "24 moments."
Towards the end of my visit with Dr. Shrink I had to take a written test.
It was several pages long. The purpose of the written test was to assess my pain level and also my state of mind. (As an example, it asked how I see my future and one of the possible answers was along the lines of "I don't have one.")
Happily, I'm not suicidal.
Somehow, the taking of the test evolved into a discussion of pens and – without thinking (as usual?!), I handed Dr. Shrink a pen of mine.
It had "Twenty Four At Heart" and my website address engraved on it.
Do I really want a psychologist who is in the process of writing a report evaluating my mental health perusing the archives of Twenty Four At Heart? Or for that matter, reading about my brazilian bikini waxes?
I think not.
He promised not to come visit here until he finished writing my evalutation report at the end of the day.
** Waving to Dr. Shrink! **
© Twenty Four At Heart