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What It’s Like to Have 10 Psychiatrists in 13 Years

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I never called my first psychiatrist “doctor.” He was my parents’ friend, and I saw him because we didn’t have health insurance. He asked me, over and over, whether I had gone through anything traumatic. He threw out the same list of traumas every time, rattling off the options — I shrugged. When I told him, he asked if it had only happened once. Then he threw out the list again. “Anything? Anything?” he asked. 

My parents knew my second psychiatrist, but I still called her “doctor.” We had health insurance. She wore brown suspenders. She gave me pills, probably the right kind.

I knew I couldn’t see my third psychiatrist forever, but I still cried. She was a fellow or resident or somebody who leaves. She listened, and she looked sad when I was sad. She told me once, “I believe in you,” or “You’re going to get better,” or “You’re a good person.” Or maybe she didn’t. More or less.

My fourth psychiatrist was famous. Everybody fell over themselves calling him an expert, bragging that he experimented on people like me. I tried to tell him what I tried to tell my first psychiatrist, but he cut me off and said, “Asian parents are demanding.” He was white, and he turned to the Asian resident, who had to nod. 

I depended on my fifth psychiatrist. She was the best yet at refilling my pills.

I adored my sixth psychiatrist’s house. I don’t remember what it looked like, but I get the feeling of stained glass and purple and incense. A staircase with a polished banister. More or less. I only got to see her house a few times.

My seventh psychiatrist crushed my fifth psychiatrist in pill-refilling. In efficiency, he still holds the record. He didn’t waste a minute on anything outside pills. I was happy our sessions were so short, because I could get back to being depressed.

I emailed and called my eighth psychiatrist over and over, asking him for an appointment to refill my medicine. When he got back to me, he said he couldn’t refill my medicine. He hadn’t seen me in months. 

I got used to my ninth psychiatrist. Her office was really close to my therapist’s office, so I could refer to the street as “Bipolar Block” or, sometimes, “Anxiety Alley.” She answered her email and never missed a refill. When we talked, she liked to repeat my last two or three words. “More or less.” “Another job interview.” When I got out of the hospital for the first time, she said, “Fresh air.” “Starting over.” The second time: “Choking.” “Losing my mind?” The third time she said: “You need to find another doctor.”

My tenth psychiatrist told me I could call her when I felt terrible. Between sessions. I didn’t believe her at first. We already met every week for the first year, every other week afterward. Every week again when I’m doing badly. After I moved 12 blocks north, I asked her to talk.

“I can start getting a little ‘psychotic’ when I move into a new place,” I said. “I look around, and it’s like, ‘whoa, who am I, what?'”

She hummed on the other end of the Zoom call. Neither of us said anything.

“I think,” she said. “That makes perfect sense.”

For more on reasons to find a new therapist, check out this list from the Mighty community.

Photo by speckfechta on Unsplash

Originally published: March 2, 2021
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