The appointment day arrived and much to my surprise I had had a reasonable sleep. In fact I had slept well since sleepless Monday thanks mainly due to writing the post “Anxiety Squared” which just goes to show how useful writing is for me. I printed that post out before I left home, I had a vague idea that it might be useful to show if everything went south (now there’s a phrase I don’t usually use and one that might not be a good one to say in Scotland though nationalists would like it). It took further pondering through the week to work out what I really wanted from the appointment. For me it wasn’t about validation necessarily, though that is an important part, is about communicating with other people the person I feel inside.
When people who know me find out I write a blog they are interested to know what I write about which is basically “me and my experiences and trying to understand them”. That sounds interesting to them but when they find it they don’t really like what they see. “Is that really your blog?” I get asked, “I don’t recognise you there”. The blog isn’t at all what they are expecting and I think it is too much information for them, too much anxiety perhaps, or too much experience of my life. They want to continue on the same footing as they are and so the blog gets forgotten or never mentioned again, or perhaps they avoid the awkwardness by avoiding me.
There appears to be two sides to me. The one that is socially acceptable (most of the time) and the one that isn’t. They are both me however and as I get older I want to fuse them together to make the whole person. I think in order for that to happen, I need to understand my inner self but I also want other people to understand him. If I can get a label that other people can look up and understand, then that is going to help in some way with the communication issue. It will give a framework to build on and hopefully I won’t find it impossible to mention to my friends that I am going to see a psychiatrist for assessment (for instance).
This fits in with my value system as well: appreciating who I am, communicating that to others, and finding peace in the process. I would like a label or two to validate who I am, but also allow others to understand the guy beneath the surface. With this clear goal in mind, I went to my appointment with only slight anxiety. Anxiety that showed by my constant tracing of my fingers of one hand out with the other, anxiety that kept my answers short and fuelled quick angry judgements that I managed to keep under control. Anxiety that slowly evaporated during the interview which must have lasted for over an hour.
The doctor started by asking if I knew why my GP had referred me to this clinic to which I replied “yes, because I asked him”. Was I testing the doctor by that answer? I knew he wanted more information than that, a good explanation but somehow I went into pedantic mode and gave the answer perhaps my anxiety needed to give. I think perhaps it was me testing out showing my inner self and seeing what happened, it was after all what I had girded myself up to do. He sat carefully reading the referral letter my GP had written (while I waited, anxiety fuelling my movements and being irritated by the ventilation systems) before reiterating the question in a more carefully crafted way which produced the answer he was looking for. I may not know what was going on in his head, but I do know medical procedure.
We spend the first bit talking about symptoms and getting a background history. If anything, this highlights my insecure childhood and continuing difficulty I have relationship wise with my mother and brother. Then he moved onto what seemed like a very long questionnaire of the type I hate. I was supposed to choose an answer somewhere from “never” to “always” split into five categories which are too confusing for me to keep in my head. Rarely will I pick the extremes in such a questionnaire because that requires certainty and that “black and white” thinking is not in the persona I cultivate. I think the main difficulty is that questions are usually answered on an emotional basis but my base is so small that I answer them on an experiential basis.
So do I prefer to be alone or in groups is easy because on the whole I find peace by myself; but notice that “on the whole”, it means I also recognise that there are times when I need to be with others It is the weighing up of experience that takes time I guess, and then how do I balance the weight to give an answer? Do I count up the number of experiences? No that isn’t good enough because the intensity of experience matters too. Being confused because I’ve been told off by a teacher in front of a class of teenagers is more extreme than puzzling over a phrase someone has taunted me with in the playground. Perhaps it is the authority of the person that causes the reaction? It is hard work whatever the reasoning.
Another way of dealing with the questions was to think back to earlier years when the body of experience was much smaller. How would I answer this question as a teenager for instance, or maybe at primary school age. Unfortunately that is a long time ago, and I don’t have a great memory for things in the past unless they were traumatic which by nature means I have an emotional bias. I tried though. Do I notice when people flirt with me? No, I haven’t got a clue. Do I understand the feelings of characters I see in films? Well it depends. Let’s take an example: a boy is walking down the road with his dog not on a lead, the dog runs off and gets run over and killed by a car. Do you understand the boy’s feelings? Yes, I have a dog I am very fond of so that I relate to that distress. To the more general question though, probably not.
The interview seemed to end quite abruptly, though he did warn me we were coming to the end. After the questionnaire, he asked me the purpose of my request and seem to be very satisfied with my answer (integrating two parts of myself and communicating that to others). He explained what might or might not happen next depending upon my questionnaire scoring and I asked where the next stage of interviews (if they were deemed necessary) would take place (Dundee for the curious). He announced the session was over without any visible signs we were done. No shaking of hands (understandable if I say I don’t like being touched) or getting out of the seat. I wish I had pointed out that the message he gave me was confusing. I wish I had pointed out that the internal air ventilation system was annoying too. On the whole though, I have to say I think the meeting was good because I think there was nothing significant left out.
I was pretty surprised to see how long my appointment had lasted, I had no sense of it being well over an hour during it. My wife and I walked back to our car, hand in hand because it isn’t just about my needs. I came out of the appointment much lighter than I went in. It is hard to describe but I suspect the level of anxiety lifted completely for a while and I was able to discuss things without judgement or fear. In a real sense I was at peace for a few hours, which tells me that making the appointment and seeing it through to the other side was completely the right thing to do. Whatever happens next, as Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald sing, “they can’t take that away from me.”