I always assumed that if I went to see just one therapist, he/she would fix my whole life. I’d just need to see one and I’d be set. I was wrong.
Almost a year ago, I had asked my dad if I could see a therapist. He was skeptical at first and tried to question me as to why I asked for such a thing as any concerned parent would ask. After a thirty-minute straightforward conversation about my need for a therapist, he agreed.
It took an hour and a half of driving in almost complete silence with both of my parents, occasional surreptitious glances at each other, and an awkward interaction with the front office before I finally went inside and met my doctor.
He was an elderly man, probably somewhere my grandma’s age. He had ebony skin with speckled white hair. I went to see him over my summer break, which meant wearing sweatshirts and sweatpants would result in sweat bursts. However, despite the weather, the doctor always wore a checkered shirt with a thick, textured, brown suit jacket and seemed completely unfazed by the heat.
His office looked rather plain. There were two off white couches on one side of the office and his desk and rolly chair on the other side. The couches formed a huge indent every time I sat, making sitting an uncomfortable action. There were two windows near his desk looking out into the not-so-pleasant parking lot. A large bookshelf lined the side of the wall and were huddled together with two plants on either side of the shelf.
I remember my first meeting as being a bit weird. I sat on the couch with one leg on top of the other, feeling awkward with how low to the ground I got as the couch indented as I sat down. I had one arm on the arm of the couch and the other dangling on the side awkwardly. I forgot to wear my glasses on my first appointment, so I had a hard time observing the doctor’s desk or the doctor himself, hence resulting in a series of unnecessary and awkward squinting.
He had a soft voice, which forced me to stay extra attentive as he initiated our conversation. His countenance conveyed a sense of odd, but comfortable calmness. The first thing he asked me was, “So, why did you ask to see me?” referring to how I asked one of my aunties to give me the number of the therapist that her child was going to.
There were a flux of thoughts racing through my mind, but I still had no words to say to him when he put me on the spot and asked me that question. I expected him to just tell me what to think. Tell me what to feel. Tell me what to say. I was not accustomed to the idea that he would ask questions and I would have to answer. I just wanted him to tell me what to do because that’s what I expected him to do. That’s what I thought his job was.
I made up some answer about how I just wasn’t feeling myself and that’s when the probing started.
He asked, “Well, what happened? Why don’t you feel like yourself?” and many more questions, resulting in me eventually crying, actually sobbing, in front of a complete stranger for the first time ever. He rolled towards me in his rolly chair and handed me a box of tissues. As I apologized for the bursts of sobs, he replied, “There’s no need to apologize. This is your safe space.”
I thought the first session went pretty well, thinking that me being able to cry it out was a huge success in and of itself, but I was not fully satisfied. I didn’t feel like I could truly connect with him. It may be due to the fact that he was my grandma’s age or the fact that he was so soft spoken or for any other unknown reason.
I went back for another session a few weeks later and that’s when I realized that this doctor was not the right one for me. The quality of the second session was abysmal. It was a pretty bland session. I talked about random stuff and he kept asking me random questions that he expected to get meaningful answers from, but I just continued to give him meaningless answers because I didn’t know what else to say to him.
Instead of feeling like I was unburdening myself every time I went for a session, I felt like I was doing the opposite- burdening myself. Driving an hour and a half to an appointment where I was supposed to pour out my feelings, then analyze them, and finally pinpoint the issue was just not working for me because I did not feel like we were doing any of that.
It took time for me to realize that I was not the problem nor was my doctor- we just weren’t working for each other and that was okay.
As human beings, it’s hard for us to accept that something is wrong. I mean, how can we expect one psychologist or psychiatrist out of the thousands that exist to be the one person to help us? We can’t.
Finding your therapist is similar to hunting for a good mattress for your bed. You would go to Raymour & Flanigan and plop down on one bed after another (at least that’s what my brother and I used to do) until you find the one that makes you feel like you’re floating on feathers, while still providing you with a sense of security.
The morale of this story is if any of you are or want to see a psychologist or psychiatrist, just remember that the first doctor you meet with may not be the best doctor for you to get help from and that. is. okay. Just keep hunting for your bed, until you find the right fit.