12:50. I’m a couple of minutes early because I know I have paperwork to fill out to really tell her how bat shit crazy I am. I walk into the office with no secretary. It has a small table with a clipboard full of bat shit crazy questions for me to fill out and a bowl of Tootsie rolls. Just a light snack to have during this test. I walk over to the 5 black chairs in the waiting room that seem to be covered in white cat hair. A small radio is pumping today’s hits of Justin Timberlake and with another bowl of Tootsie rolls. This doc must love her some Tootsie rolls.
I sit on the chair with the least amount of cat hair on it and start my test.
1. Do you get headaches?
2. Do you get tired during the day?
3. Do you have trouble falling asleep?
4. Do you drink?
Blah blah blah.. All questions that anyone at anytime would answer “sometimes” to, especially mothers of small children. So I am skimming and marking “sometimes”. Let’s not let the cat out of the bag on my craziness just through this simple test. I’m done in 3 minutes.
I’m waiting.. I’m waiting. I start to think. Let me make sure that I read all those answers and didn’t mark “Sometimes” to a question about whether or not I like to make it with sheep or something. Sure enough.. not a sheep question. But there is the question.. “Do you think of hurting yourself?”. Followed by “Do you think of harming others.” My skimming resulted in me selecting “Sometimes”. Which I quickly put an X over and selected “Never”. I’m not that far off my rocker. I mean, the old lady that writes a check in line at the grocery store gets close to a beating.. but other than that – I’m pretty civil.
1:15. She turns the corner to call me back. One quick glance up and I realize… I don’t think this is a woman. But I can’t tell. She’s definitely trying to be a woman, but I’m not sure that is what God intended when she was born. I once went to Atlanta on a girls trip and booked a hotel where they were having a transgender conference. I was blown away at all these men dressed like women. But they weren’t wearing clothes that were in MY closet. They were wearing clothes that they THINK women wear. Ugly blue polyester pants, blue sandals with toes that were painted in this awful blueish/grey manly color. Some flower top and makeup that draws too much attention to your features. Women don’t wear makeup like that. Needless to say, I can’t stop paying attention to all these details that Atlanta made me very aware of. Is that an Adam’s apple? Wow.
Her/His office is blue leather couches that are worn with a blanket thrown over the back that I’m sure the white cat from the waiting room naps on and bowls of Tootsie rolls on either end table. “Marcus” has me sit and goes through my test. Instantly his (let’s just go with his going forward), eyes light up when she sees that I’ve replaced my answer on the killing people question.
“I see you have changed your answer here on these questions. Can I ask why?”
I didn’t want to tell her that I was skimming her questions like you do in a doctor’s office so my stupid answer is, “Oh, I just thought that meant something else.” What does that even mean? I’m dying.
“Well, just so you know before we start that I am required by law to go to the authorities for any acts of violence or abuse that you tell me about”.
Gotcha. This is starting off great.
The next hour consists of jumping from random topic to random topic with no rhyme or reason. The conversation does not flow and even when s/he talks there is random silence at the end where I think, was I just asked a question? But I don’t know what the question is so I just stare back at Dr. “Marcus”.
Marcus asks about Isabella’s death and I tell her that Ib died at home with us in our bed. Stuart and I were with her, when cleaned her up and made her presentable to the family to see her etc… I notice after 5 minutes that his mouth is almost on the floor when I start delivering the details of this scene. Pause for long silence after my story and then.
“I actually think you have PTSD.”
“Like people who come back from war?”
Marcus launches into conversation about how we probably should have let her die in the hospital because we were probably torturing ourselves for eternity by watching that happen in the house or that we should have let hospice take care of her more in the end to shelter ourselves from this pain. I zone out.
I notice that her/his degrees are hanging on the wall.
Both from colleges that I have never heard of. One of them may have been from Monsters University. I begin to picture her there with Sully and that green eyeball guy. I get a chuckle out of this on my blue couch and realize I’m not really listening to her anymore.
I decide to interrupt her and say, “I actually don’t regret that at all because it was the ultimate selfless act, to not care about my own harm and to just provide her with undying love and attention.”
“I guess you are right.” She says with a wink. The wink makes me sweat a little.
I realize at this point that looking for the right counselor for you is a lot like looking for a house. You go out the first day, not sure of what exactly you are looking for. But by the end of the day you say.. “I now know exactly what I don’t want.”.
Here’s what I want. A normal person, with a normal secretary out from with normal chairs that don’t require lint rolling after I get up and mints. Everyone needs a mint. Have a degree that I have heard of and a couch that wasn’t the one you had in college that was replaced by something cooler when you finally graduated. Have me sit for the first hour and tell me that you are just going to listen today. Start out and let me tell you who I am, what was my childhood like, how is my family. How I met Stuart, when did I had kids, when was Isabella diagnosed. Let me tell you about the 5 year process of caring for someone who you knew was probably going to die. How was her death and how has this last year been. When I walk out the door, google The Isabella Santos Foundation and look at her face on the website, watch our video, like our Facebook page and then think about what you want to talk about the next week. See me the following week and let’s get busy.
Our session ended as oddly as it began. Marcus found some pieces of paper on grief that she left to get photocopied for me. I began browsing the titles of the books on her shelf. Super disturbing. “How much porn is too much?” Really, that one needs displayed in here? Marcus comes back and tells how grief is like waves that take you over to where your feet aren’t touching the ground but then the waves go back out and how the waves will be less frequent the longer time passes. Got it. Waves.
Second handout was a checklist of “Natural and Normal Grief Responses.”. She thought this would be good so that I could confirm to myself that I wasn’t bat shit crazy. I was just normal.
1. Feeling emotionally numb. Check.
2. Knowing death has occurred, but having difficultly believing that it really happened. Check. I say WTF daily.
3. Having a desire to smoke, drink, or use drugs (especially anti-anxiety or tranquilizers) Check. Except for the tranquilizers. That must be for the sheep loving.
4. Having difficulty sleeping. Who doesn’t? Check.
5. Being overly concerned with personal health. I do go to the gym a lot. Check.
6. Feeling exhausted and lacking energy. Check. I have kids.
7. Feeling low at times of birthdays, holiday and special occasions. Check. Check. Check.
8. Spending money on things usually not purchased. Um.. okay. I’ll blame grief.
9. Telling or retelling things about the deceased and the experience of their death. Check.
10. Talking things over with the deceased person. Check.
11. Feeling mood changes over the slightest things. Yep.
12. Feeling guilty for what was or was not said or for not “having done enough” for the deceased. Check.
13. Being angry or irritated at the wrong person, wrong circumstance or the world in general. Check. But in my defense.. a lot of people in my life are being assholes right now so I’m going to “half” check that one.
14. Experiencing an intense preoccupation with the life of the deceased. Check. Blame ISF.
15. Assuming mannerisms or traits of the deceased. Nope. Thank god – one NO! If I start wearing knee-high socks or wearing badly mix-matched clothing I will then change my answer.
16. Feeling as if life has no meaning. Maybe.
17. Not wanting to be with people. Check. Reference #13.
18. Feeling self-pity and not feeling needed. Sure.
19. Crying at unexpected times. You bet your ass.
So my one good thing from Dr. Marcus was this list that told me that I’m normal. Oh, and I took a handful of Tootsie rolls with me. Turns out they are a decent snack. And she gave me her/his personal cell phone number. Is that weird? Just kidding.
Off to find a new counselor.
Just so you all don’t think I’m crazy, my friend googled my counselor and found her listed client focus. I kid you not. How did I get here for grief counseling???
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