“Just a moment, please. I seem to have filed your chart again.”
In the year or so since I began visiting Dr Frank, only once had she remembered to pull my file before my scheduled appointment with her. I sat on the edge of the couch, my right leg a blur of nervous energy, and looked around the cluttered office. She had been to the library recently. I reached to take one of the books when Dr Frank walked back in. I snapped my hand back into my lap.
My psychiatrist pulled a sheet of pre-punched yellow note paper from the pile on her desk and slipped it into the chart on her lap. “So tell me, Amy, how has the last month been?” Pen poised to take notes, she looked at me expectantly.
“We closed on the house.” She nodded. “I had a few down days.” She scribbled something. “I mean really down days, like I probably should have called you but I talked to my friends instead down days.”
Dr Frank looked up from her notes. “As bad as last month?”
“Well,” I started, “I have had worse days. Like, if I was going to put them on that scale of one to five with one being I am hardly bothered by the thoughts and five means I should have called an ambulance already, then we are talking threes and fours. Lately.”
“I am really concerned, Amy, that you didn’t call me.” She wrote several more things in her chart. “Is the light therapy working for you?”
After a year, I’d learned that what she wrote down in my chart and what we actually talked about in session were very different things.
“I don’t use light therapy, remember?”
“Did you sell your light then?”
“No. You loaned me yours and it had no effect.” I tried to sound patient. “I gave it back months ago.”
“Oh, that’s right. And I can see you are not having any luck with your weight. That must be so frustrating.” Dr Frank was often so tactful. “Is that why you are depressed all the time?”
“No. And I am not depressed all the time. I am depressed twice a month. I have a really neat sine wave, if you want to see it, on my mood chart.” She waved her hands. “Well, I thought it was neat,” I muttered.
“I am really quite concerned about your ongoing depression, Amy. Especially that you are still having these suicidal thoughts. I think…”
I interrupted her, “I didn’t call you because it’s not what you think. I mean, yes, I feel that bad and yes, I have those damn thoughts in my head. But I can finally call on my friends for help now, when I need to. I even know how to, well, reboot my brain. To get it to stop spinning round and round in places I don’t want it to go. All those years of cognitive therapy have taught me it isn’t what you think, but how you think it that is important.”
Dr Frank looked at me as though I were nuts, as I went into mini-manic-mode: my arms gesturing, my legs bouncing, my words racing and tumbling about; all the while I explained how I rebooted my brain to break a major depressive episode. Eventually, I regained some measure of control.
“You know, there is some scientific evidence to back you up on that.” Dr Frank made a couple more notations on that yellow paper. “I still want to adjust your medications, but would you mind meeting with a student next month? I think they could learn something from you.”
I nodded, and pulled out my Treo to check for an open calendar appointment. I could put up with her idiosyncrasies for another month, if she could put up with mine.