April 2, 2013

My Three Therapists

[I have been told to find little victories to combat the depression. Writing this blog post is one of them.]

Last week was an interesting week for me. After a couple of frustrating weeks where I couldn’t get in to see a doctor of any kind, or even get them to call me back, last week the therapeutic heavens opened up and began raining therapy down upon me.

On the Friday prior, I contacted Cecelia, the therapist who ran the group session I enjoyed so much.  And happily, she had an opening in her schedule for the following Monday. I eagerly took the appointment, even though it was going to cost me $100 out-of-pocket. It would be worth it to make some forward progress.

Cecelia is not what you’d expect a gender therapist to be. She is a bold, plain-speaking woman in her seventies, and she’s awesome. She’s been working with transgendered men and women for decades and she is not shy about telling things the way they are. And more importantly, she does tell; she doesn’t just sit back and listen and offer vague sympathies, the way some therapists do.

My appointment with Cecelia went pretty well. She knew some of my back story from the group session, but I laid out the story in full and then focused on the last week or so (the night out, the breakdown, the depression). We did not directly talk about what moving forward might mean, but she did tell me that she wanted to see me on a course of antidepressants “for six months before you do anything else.” So, a roadblock to progress. What is it I’ve seen other transfolk write about therapists as gatekeepers?

Here’s the thing: I love Cecelia, and I want to keep her as my therapist. Unfortunately, she’s $100 out-of-pocket per visit, so I don’t know that I’ll be able to (hoping the insurance will reimburse me).

But Fortune smiled on me. Literally as I was driving home from my session with Cecelia, I got a phone call from the local Uni, the one with the transgender support program. The last time I heard from them, it was when they called to tell me that they could not match me up with a therapist who took my insurance. This time, they were calling to tell me that, because they couldn’t find me someone, my name had ended up on a list for free therapy sessions with a therapist who works with the university! And better yet, they could see me at the end of the week! I made an appointment and thanked my lucky stars.

Before that Friday meeting, though, I had to see about those antidepressants. On Thursday, I took the morning off of work to go to the local Behavioral Science clinic (which does take my insurance). They don’t have a gender specialist, but they do have clinical psychiatrists with prescribing powers, and that’s what I needed per Cecelia’s orders. Thursday mornings are an “open enrollment” for the facility: show up promptly at 7:30, get on a list, wait until a doctor can see you. So I showed up, and I got on the list, and I spent two hours sitting in the waiting room before someone could see me. We’lll call her Dr. R.

For the second time that week, I laid out my story. With Dr. R. I focused on the depression and sleeplessnes I’d been experiencing, since I was there for that reason, but I still had to go through the whole reveal of being a transperson, etc. Dr. R. was not experienced with gender issues, and I could tell that she was relieved that I already had a specialist. So we decided that she and I would focus on controlling and managing my depression symptoms and leave the other stuff to the experts. I left with a prescription for bupropion (for the depression) and clonazepam (for the sleeplessness).

On Friday, I had my first session with the Uni, and a therapist named Nancy. And oh, goody, I got to tell my story again. [I am getting quite good at telling it.] Nancy is much younger than Cecelia, probably only a couple of years into her work with the transgender community. She was knowledgeable and professional but not as personable or quick to speak from experience. She’s also following a more clinincal schedule for therapy; there’s a progression that the program uses when they work with a patient, and she’s clearly on board with it. I like the structure of this; it feels very different from, and complementary to, the kind of organic personal therapy I got from Cecelia. And it’s free, so no complaints.

So that’s the story of my week of therapy. Three women who can help me through all this crap that I’m feeling and dealing with. I’ve already seen Cecelia again, last night; I scraped together the $100 because I needed someone and she was a valuable shoulder for me to vent on in the midst of a depressive low. She gave me some direction to follow in regards to how to “mark time” until I can give myself over to this change. It’s because of her that I’m writing this today. Little victories, she said, to celebrate; little steps forward, to feel the progress. So hey hey, I got this story written up. It’s a victory for today.

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  • Way to GO, Ali! Yes!! I hear the unmistakeable spirit of optimism returning to your “voice” and writing style! I am soooo glad for you. Your are far too “cool” to be buried by all the bull-caca. Keep on “keepin’ on.” Ok?


    R – all-purpose initial only 🙂

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