NUTS. PART ONE. (my experience with service-net)
Written in October, 2006.
My experiences with Service Net has been consistently disappointing. I moved here from the Berkshires in October of 2005 and my "team" (ie; psychiatrist, his nurse and my therapist) had arranged for my services to be transferred to the valley. I had to wait for almost two weeks for an intake and then I had to wait another two weeks because my newly assigned therapist was away on vacation. I understood this. I know places such as Service-Net are always backed up. But I was very vulnerable, just moving to a new city, and I needed a lot of support. I didn't know a single person in thevalley, and so the wait was diffiuclt for me.
Right off I will say two things: 1) I am a very patient person and 2) I take medications for a very serious diagnoses of schizo-affective disorder. Although heavy (in fall of 2005), my medication regime was important. The meds kept me going somehow. They kept me from letting too much in. They kept me silent enough inside so that I could think, act and function. Without them I couldn't sleep. There's no question that med's suck, everything about them sucks - except for the fact that when I go off of them I become a famous person in whatever city or town I am living in, and then I utterly fall apart as the others thoughts get louder and louder and all walls become angled and monstrous as does the sky, liquid sunshine, and things such as peoples darting eyeballs and my own, sickening skin and shinbones.
So anyways, over the course of October, 2005, I went off my meds completely(*note - going off meds suddenly and without support or medical input is a very, very bad idea) I was influenced by many factors and the usual seduction of a med-free life was palpable: "maybe this time, maybe this time it won't end - the endless joy - the purple flowers, the bright and perfect conversations with strangers on the curbsides, the look in my face - I am so happy..."
By the end of October I was taking nothing but coffee and cigarettes and very little food. I started drinking alcohol to push down all the extreme blooming, fantastic energy inside of me. My tolerance for alcohol increased dramaticlly, my tolarance for visions, sounds (they rang out constantly - "Beautiful! Everything is beautiful and made of the utmost beautiful molecules and I can see every goddamned one of them!" was intrinsic, inside of me and everywhere. I felt wonderful. I slept little. I was dramatic and invincible. I was released from all dichotomous pressure. - I was sewn.
I had stopped going to my psychiatrist and therapist at Service-Net. They never called. I just disappeared. Soon I quit my job. -Couldn't concentrate. Soon I walked with less of a rush. I was less sexual. Less inspired. Less constructed - my neurons and my bone cells, my spleen cells and my head rows - all flying into dissaray. I became cubist. Everything was stopping and halting, but of course, far from over. The usual disintegration followed, driving me into a despair I cannot verbalize, but I will try. It is like all the laughing flowers, the tortured people of every land, the hateful silences and the loud words and thoughts in my head, demolished me with a hateful vigor. I had to speak purposefully and loudly in my mind: "stop. stop. stop this please, everything stop." I became suicidal. I flung myself into the closest emergency room, covetous of the purported order and sense that was assured to come back to me once I went back on my meds. It was late December.
... I did go back on my meds. I did go back to therapist and to doctor. I went back on all my meds. I wanted to be sedated. I wanted my noises to shut up, clozaril helps with that. I wanted to end ane begin again from the decompensation and the torturous, long ride to the fractionalizing experience I had just been through. I needed to be stitched and that is where Service-Net came into my life again.
I saw the same thereapist I had seen briefly in the fall. I only saw her for a while this time, maybe three months or so. Every week I pranced into her office, already on teh verge of tears. I was desperate, sad and really isolated. I was better than before but completely exasperated with life. I was slightly hopeful each time I entered her office. I always left feeling much, much worse. She threw her DBT advice at me. It didn't work. It wasn't what I needed. A warm, indulgent bath won't help this time. I cannot do my sensory exercises these days because I cannot concentrate enough. I am slow and sorrowful.
Sometimes I voiced my opinions on what I needed. We slightly argued, but that may not be the right work. It was more like she didn't know what to do with me because I had my own ideas about what might help me. She wouldn't respond directly to my expressions of fright and fear at my situation. I went to see her every week, crying harder when I left than when I went in.
"You're not living a viable life," I remember her saying to me once. It hurt me to a rediculous extreme. I felt small, tiny, without voice. In retrospect I see that what was rediculous was her making that statement to me. It only squashed me further. Whatever her ideas of a viable life were were not only impossible for me at the time (I could barely brush my teeth) but they weren't things I even wanted. I wanted to heal. I needed someone to foster my sense of self-identity. I needed someone to remind me that I was a good, remarkably sensitive, strong and thoughtful person with gifts that come hand in hand with my schizoaffective disorder. I didn't have to be cursed forever, but that's how she made me feel.
On our last visit I came in hopeful, with good news. I was going to move into a new place. It woudl be tiny, but new, and clean, and safe. My therapist knew how incredibly difficult it was for me to live in a big house with three roommates, it was very hard. What she said to me when I brought her my good news really hurt me.
She looked with concern at me, "Well, you'll still have the same issues when you move. I'm afraid you're running away."
I fled further down inside. Didn't she understand? It was real, the fact that my living situation was not healthy for me was real, and moving to a new place really did have the potential to be a good, positive, freeing and healing experience for me. How could she not even acknowledge that? Why did she have to - frankly - burst my tiny yet lovely bubble?
Somehow, although weak feeling then, I spoke my truth. I told her that I was offended by her position and that I really needed encouragement. It would have been so great if she could have just helped me out a little by fostering my hopefullness a bit. Instead she continued to warn me that I was setting myself up for a trap.
"Once you move, you will have the same problems. You have to focus on that."
I disagreed and we actually came to argue on the point. Of course, I said, some things will still be the same, not everything will change, but I will have much more freedom. I have lived on my own, alone, for years before coming to Northampton. My social problems are exhasperated when I have to be around people all the time. This, it seemed, wasn't good enough for ehr. We talked on and on, she pushed and pulled me into "reality" ("you are setting yourself up for a fall") and I was wise enough and clear enough to express my reality ("I will have my very much needed time alone. This, for a schizophrenic/bipolar is like gold"). She didn't get it. She offered me no hope and although I was stronger then, I was still really vulnerable and not feeling well, and so her position startled and hurt me. I got very defensive. I told her I didn't understand her. I got more defensive. I told her she was crushing me with pop-psychology. I got more defensive. I cried and told her everything was awful, she had completely deflated me. She looked at me astounded. She looked sad for me. She looked nervous too, and confused. I didn't know what the hell she was talking about or how she could be so removed from teh realities of my life. As my therapist, I thought it was partially her job to encourage the good things that were going on with me. We talked on and on. It didn't make any sense and I told her I didn't know why she was doing this to me. Pretty soon that day, she fired me.
"I don't think we should work together anymore, and I think this is what you want too. I cannot help you."
After more arguement, I left her office and crumbled into the waiting room. I waited until I was sure I wouldn't cry on the street. I was angry, sad and incomplete. It took a long time but I got outside and somehow I won within myself. I summoned strength. I allowed myself to let in the fact that I was right, and I was happy to be moving again and I was not crushed that my therapist had fired me. I walked back homewards. The evening passed well.
Within a month I would be living in my own apartment with no housemates. It is tiny, full of cabinets and it is a shrine. I am healing and I am more productive than I have been in a long time. Its October of 2006 now and I have struggled and I am doing well. I am working part time, making art and writing. I have friends and good family relationships again. Soon I will be facilitating a writing group from a grant I got. I am better now. Patient heal thyself. (Please read on for Part II of my experience with Service Net.)
NUTS. PART II. (my experience with Service Net)
Written in November of 2006.
I will make the second part of my experience with Service Net succinct. For instance, it would be accurate to say I was outraged. It would be accurate to say I have never felt so manipulated, weather purposely or not, by a therapist. It would be accurate to say I was finally able to listen to myself.
I started seeing S around May of 2006. I met her and she was tall, leaning, and she had an accent. It was soothing. I felt I could easily talk with her at first, and I really had a lot to say. Usually I was still depressed then. I needed a listener and, at first, S seemed to understand this in a way I sensed was deep.
For months I was working on just getting by. My apartment was great and it was the only place I liked being. Being outside was harder. Socailly I was having problems, emotionally I felt like a train-wreck. I was all over the place. My moods and my thoughts unordered - uncomfortably random. I was only working 12 hours every other week due to transportation problems, so financially I was struggling. There wasn't much food, there was that overdue phone bill and student loan matter, and even to go out to lunch with a friend would set me back in a really palpable way.
For a few months I was working on integrating myself into the world again - I needed the outside world to somehow become less threatening. I was somewhere in the convoluted state between death, a deep sleep and waking, a startling shock. Things were storm-like. I couldn't think concretely, everything was symbolic and abstract. I laughed bitterly and cried morosely over everything. I didn't know where I stood ideologically or spiritually and everything seemed a grave conflict. My future felt grim and like a disaster I had no other choice but to walk in on.
This went on for some time. I decided I couldn't take the extreme sleepiness from my meds anymore. The twelve hour sleeps were getting to me. The lethargy, the apathy were unbearable. I finally worked with my doctor, and eventually got my already small dose (according to most doctors) of clozaril split in half. The changes were nice. Subte, and nice. Slowly I woke up, and the lifting of my eyelids revealed things that were often nice to look at and nice to know. I felt more alive, not so morbid and tired. I woke sublimely easier in the morningtimes (no more two-hour battles to get myself going), and I felt a light lessening of pain. It was not crazy or euphoric. It was just nice.
In terms of my therapy, I still went. Of course not everything was perfect, but I had much more control, much more insight, much more joy and a slowly developing but deep and likeable sense of myself as a person. My self-respect emmerged. I could do things again.
In August though, I found myself confused and even hurt during one of my sessions with S. I had given her a sample of my writing, because she asked for it. She had said she would like to read some of my past experiences, because I had expressed my disillusionment at her not knowing anything at all about me when we first began therapy together. I brought her in a summary of my experiences with schizoaffective disorder. The weeks passed, she never brought it up. I never brought it up because I didn't. I just didn't. Sometimes I feel like I have no mouth.
At one point I mentioned to S that I was afraid I may be slipping into an old, disturbing habit of mine. I needed her help. It took me two weeks before I could actually spit it out to her:
"I'm making marks on myself sometimes again. Its not good." I explained the whole thing to her. She ignored me. She did not acknowledge what I had said, except I saw her blink rapidly.
I let it go. I thought maybe it was a lapse. I brought it up with her the following week. She said I had "masochistic tendancies". (Well, I already knew that). She added that I had an "annihalation complex" as well. This scared me. Labels are no fun. I asked her to explain it to me. I will not recount her jargon but I will summarize what it meant to me: I panic, with a hurried fear funneling my veigns into huge canals - almost to the bursting poing - when I feel threatened. I often feel like the end - psychic annihalation - is near.
On my last visit with S we were talking about what I do not remember. She threw out another label for me to chew on. I felt dead when she said it. I felt beyond bad.
"You are split projecting."
"You are split projecting."
"What does that mean?"
"It will not be therapeutic for you to know what it means. It is a syndrome of your illness."
"S, I really need to know what that means."
"It won't be useful for you to know. We should talk about your anger."
I wasn't feeling any anger at the time. I was feeling lost, and scared. There've been diagnoses tossed at me before. They hurt, traumatize and stigmatize. Especially when you don't know what they mean. (*The psychiatric community has a huge problem with educating their clients on the words, labels and diagnoses they give out. Its a very, very large problem.)
For about fifteen minutes S failed to explain her words to me. It was awful. I was not angry, in fact I was incredibly sad. She fired me. What an irony. She said I was getting hostile. I felt that she was getting hostile. I was in no way getting hostile. Rather I was calm, confused, and only asking for her to give me my right - the right to know.
When S told me she needed to see me one last time so that she could recommend me to another therapist at Service Net I obeyed. Of course I will always need a therapist. Its been years. I have had a therapist ever since they called me crazy.
The next week I called S.
"I apologize for not calling earlier. I simply do not feel it will be to my benefit to come in today. I have found another agency, closer to where I live, to receive my meds and my therapy. Be well."
Its been two and a half weeks and I haven't gone into my weekly session of confession. I go next week to my new provider. Maybe I'll luck out and I won't have to confess anymore. Maybe I'll just grow.
*May we all find our way through the miasma of information and conflicting views about how we are to climb out of the pits we currently call mental illness. May we all have the strength and the courage to passionately help our brothers and sisters out of those pits.
*Note: Although I am comfortable discussing my problems with Service Net as a whole, I am not comfortable giving out the names of individual therapists. Maybe I'm a wimp, or just too nice. Anyways, if you are contemplating going to Service Net and would like to avoid these two therapists, please write to me at lucidshoe(at)yahoo(dot)com site content may be freely reproduced if source identified & linked