As I walked out of my last session with Freud (that’s what I call my therapist) he gave me one piece of advice; “Don’t have any meltdowns between September 13th and October 1st. I’m on vacation.”
I asked him how he could go on vacation. I mean, what if one of his patients really, really, really needed him? What if one of them was suicidal or something, I wondered. He told me that he needed to go on vacation, because although he is a therapist, he’s a human too and he needs to recharge his batteries, or whatever, and go lie on a beach so he can come back and be a better shrink. I was in a good place though. I certainly could last three weeks without him. I have before. But, sure enough, I had a meltdown of epic proportions the day Freud’s vacation started. Even his wonderful secretary was off on vacation and “would not be picking up messages.”
I have many friends who carry around Valium in their purses. They don’t use it. They just feel better having it on them in case they have a panic attack. Somehow, just knowing they have the little pills with them stops all panic attacks. With my shrink gone, it was like, “Of course I’m going to have a meltdown when he’s probably on a beach in Barbados.” It’s probably knowing that he wasn’t around that made things seem so much worse and things were definitely bad.
First, I was going through another heart-wrenching break up. Second, a book that had been in the works for three years would maybe not be published due to financial issues at the publishing house. Three, a fight with a good friend. Four, I was having general stress due to being a single parent. It all added up to one MAJOR meltdown and I had no one to talk to, professionally. Friends are good to talk to. Family is good to talk to. But therapists make you see things in different ways. They are objective, unlike your friends who will give you pep talks but refuse to see the other sides of things, or your mother who offers to make you soup, which is good for a cold but not a broken heart.
As I cried to my friends, there came a point, where I thought, “God, I must be boring you.” So I stopped calling them. Freud, though, always makes me feel better and sane and I’m paying him, so he can’t get bored. It’s his job NOT to get bored with my moaning. “So what?,” he’d say of the book that maybe wouldn’t get published. “You don’t know that it’s not going to be published yet. For now, it’s out of your control. So just wait and see and we’ll deal with it. And you’ll publish it somewhere else.” And, “He wasn’t for you from all you’ve told me about him. You’re just feeling lonely.” But he wasn’t there to tell me these things! At least when your bikini waxer or hairdresser goes on vacation, you can easily find someone else to do the job. You may not like them as much as your regular hairdresser, but you can still get your hair cut. When the therapist you’ve seen for years goes away, he can’t be replaced, because you’d have to start at the very beginning of your issues and that could take years!
Then, after what seemed like forever, Freud came back from vacation and I bawled to him about all that had happened while he was away. He made me feel better. After, I found out the book was going to get published, I realized that the man wasn’t for me, and I made up with my friend. Knowing Freud was back was like having a Valium in my wallet. But here’s some advice to be prepared.
1. Be prepared for when your therapist is on vacation. Ask if they have a back up person (Mine did and he suggested that I use him while he was gone. Stupidly, I didn’t take him up on the offer. Will not make that mistake again.)
2. Don’t feel bad about crying to your friends. Make sure you have a good support system in place. Good friends WILL NOT get bored of you and your problems. Remember, you’d do the same for them.
3. Ask your good friends for their therapists number, if it’s so urgent. Get them to call for you and explain you really need someone to talk to. Therapists do have last minute cancellations and they do respect their patients and will try to help their friends out. Ask to be on the top of their cancellation list.
4. Remember what your therapist has already told you. Most of the time, they do just repeat themselves, because most of the time, our problems are the same. Keep distracted by making yourself exercise, going out with friends, or even writing down your feelings. Take vitamins.
5. Remember, your therapist WILL be back. You won’t feel this way forever, and you KNOW this, even if it doesn’t seem that way.