Thursday, September 5, 2013

Chief Complaint

So, I still haven't called the therapist yet. No, that's not true---I did try to call but never left a message. And I was hella relieved that no one picked up. The thing is, I have horrible phone anxiety. I really need to plan out what I'm going to say in my head before I make a call. And I'm kind of at a loss here.

As a clinician, I would imagine that she would want to know exactly how she could help me. What is it that I am reaching out to her about? My favorite phone calls from patients are those with a clearly outlined problem for which I am tasked to find a solution. The worst are long, rambling, full of multiple complaints (many of which are completely outside of my expertise) where it takes many minutes to guide the caller to let me know what it is they need from me.

I fear I would be that long rambling caller here. I've got lots of issues...and they are all kind of mild and inter-related. I can't meld them together into one single "chief complaint" that is amenable to a certain form of treatment. For example:

  • I feel overly anxious sometimes about seemingly little things. The anxiety is usually related to the following situations:
    • Social interactions (meeting new people, talking on the phone, asking for professional favors---like letters, advice)
    • Extended family relationships (esp. MIL)
    • Talking to my husband about anything that may elicit conflict (money, family, "us")
  • I lose my temper with my kids. Well, with B. I'm losing it less frequently (maybe once every couple of weeks?) but much more spectacularly recently. Screeching and yelling, threatening, rough hands. Ugh. I've got ways to avoid getting riled up, but when all those fail, it gets really really ugly and I kind of hate myself for a while.
  • I feel a loss of connection in my marriage. I suspect this is partially related to my absolute inability to bring up any touchy subjects with G. I don't know how this started, but the longer it goes on, the harder it gets. He hates that I let things stew until I explode---yet when things are going well, or going good-enough, I hate to rock the boat and ruin the moment. On the other hand, though, he never actually brings anything up himself. He says he's happy with how things are, but...really? 
OK, writing it out helped a bit. I'm actually thinking to maybe skip the phone call altogether and simply make an appointment. 


  1. Could you send an email instead? I'm sure many therapists understand how many people are uncomfortable on the phone.

    Re: talking to your husband about anything that could elicit conflict. It sounds like he doesn't take well to these conversations, which could feed in your anxiety about bringing up something the next time...turning it into a vicious cycle.

    1. I actually emailed her initially, and she wrote back briefly and asked me to call her. Maybe she thinks its helpful for potential clients to talk in real-time to see if they gel? I could see that. Or she doesn't want to get caught up in lengthy (free) email back and forths (which is why I limit email access with patients). I did just leave her a VM. I realized I want to talk to her and see if I like her before I commit to an appt.
      Yes, you are exactly right about the second point.

  2. Personally, I think talking to her first would be wise- you'll know immediately if she's someone you feel comfortable with.

    I am similar to you with respect to having difficulty talking with hubby about difficult topics. Not because of his reaction- he's always reasonable and level-headed. But I tend to get overly emotional, and then he gets defensive, and round and round we go, until we end up needlessly fighting. It's really hard to break those unhealthy patterns of communication. My psychiatrist and I often review exactly what I want to say when those issues come up- she helps me find ways to keep my emotions in check, and not let things spiral out of control.

  3. I HATE THE WAY THERAPISTS WON'T COMMUNICATE BY EMAIL! Don't they understand how scared we are? Ahem.

    I applaud you for taking this step, because it's so hard for me too. I have to say, while things are still absolute shit at times (this morning I made Bun Bun cry just because she wouldn't put her pants on and I was annoyed. GREAT WORK, MAMA.), The Therapist has really helped with two of the three same issues. I really hope it works out for you! If she doesn't tell you that what you're going through is very normal and yet still worth taking seriously, she SUCKS.

  4. Say you want to work on your anxieties about meeting new people and talking with your husband. You don't need to get into a lot of detail since that's what the actual therapy is for. I think in our case my husband just said we wanted to fight less.

    I also hate talking on the phone. HATE it.

    Strong work in leaving the voice mail.

  5. Good for you for taking the first step and leaving a voicemail. I hate calling people and talking on the phone, so I would have put it off as long as possible. I think OMDG's advice is spot-on.

  6. i hate the phone, too. personally i'd find it easier to just go to the appointment! you can always choose someone else if it doesn't go well.

  7. Congrats on taking that first step- it gets better from there! Best of luck with the first appointment, I hope she's a good match for you. If not, though, don't shy away from finding someone else. A therapist is someone you have a major personal relationship with. Think of it like dating- you try it out, but if it doesn't work, you move on to someone who connects with you better. I'm a big fan of the gut instinct- do a gut-check while you're in the appointment to see how you feel about her.