In my quest for mental wellness, I decided I would finally seek the service of a reputable psychiatrist. I'll take herbs and kickboxing over SSRIs and their ilk any day (see All Doped Up and Can't Even Drive My Big Rig), but when driving even one exit on the highway kickstarts the sweats and the jim-jams, perhaps action must be taken.
Most psychiatrists (MDs, not psychologists) I have met over the years are as weird as the daylights. I called one to try to arrange an appointment, but she sounded so drunk on her return message, with so much mumbling, hacking, snorting, and shuffling of papers, that I became really alarmed, and was tempted to call 911 on her behalf.
So I called another guy and got an appointment yesterday. He operates out of a private home in the next town over—a very tony little suburb of Westchester county.
I sat in the waiting room. A sign pinned to the door said to call a cell number for the doctor. He answered and said he'd be there "in a moment."
So I waited, for twenty-five minutes. Behind the door of the waiting room, I heard another therapist working with a child. The child must have been rather troubled, for the therapist was saying things like: "Point to your left arm. No, no, that's your right."
The kid: "Aw, nuts! I got it wrong again."
Then the therapist put on a tape, in which a deep robotic voice starts speaking:
The first word in the series is MEEP. The second word in the series is HEEL. The third word in the series is VEAL. The fourth word in the series is GLURPLE. The fifth word in the series is SNEEM.
And it went on! Finally my doctor showed up—in his car. He stumbled up the walkway in a dirty old T-shirt and baggy jeans, carrying a box of what appeared to be gardening supplies. I followed him into his home, where I was met by a gambolling cocker spaniel.
"You're not afraid of dogs, are you?" asked the doctor.
"No, but if I were, this would have been a very bad therapy experience so far."
I followed the doctor through a warren of rooms in his house, filled with figurines, piles of dusty books, and inspirational signage. It might have been a set-in-progress for Hoarders.
Finally, we reached the so-called "office" at the back. It was dark and strange. Open cardboard boxes of medication samples lay scattered about the floor, and dusty prescription pads (many already filled out for various drugs) covered the table. If I had the inclination to steal prescription pads, it would have been the work of a moment, for the doctor wandered off at least twice.
I sat on the couch.
"Can you slide over a bit?" asked the doctor, gesturing. "The dog usually sits there."
I slid over obediently and the spaniel made herself at home, with her head on my lap. I wondered how many patients with a dog phobia sought this man out! I stroked the dog. She seemed like a nice animal.
"Extra fees for touching the dog!" barked the doctor, and laughed.
He opened his laptop and I heard the sudden maniacal shriek of a child. I jumped from my seat, disturbing the dog.
"What the hell was that?"
"Just my son!" he chortled. "I must have clicked on a video file by mistake!"
His phone rang. It played an Irish jig. It rang three times during our session, and he answered it each time.
The whole time we spoke he stared into his laptop through glasses bespackled with smudgy fingerprints. I wondered if he might be staring at weird porn? I wondered if I might be about to be murdered! The dog would lie forlornly by my corpse for warmth. The child in the next room was a prisoner of the two doctors, and would be forced to say incantations over my body such as "MEEPLE GLURPLE VEAL."
Despite all this, I kind of liked the old coot. He used profanity! He told me he could cure my panic attacks. He said he knew how horrible and painful they could be, and that when it came to such things efforts like yoga and meditation were like dandelion seedlings tossed into a storm. And he didn't prescribe me any SSRIs.
Instead, he said: "Take this fucking Xanax! It's really a delightful drug. One should thank God every day for its invention. Fuck yeah, it's good!"
I expressed concern that Xanax was known to be addictive. I wondered if the doctor himself was snacking on Xanax at this moment.
"Do you know that 40,000 people a year die in driving accidents?" he said. "Does that keep you from driving?"
"Actually, doctor, yes it does. I have a driving phobia!"
"Oh, well...never mind that! Did you know that thousands of people die a year from eating food? Does that mean you won't eat food?"
When I got up to leave I asked to use the bathroom, and he went in to turn on the light.
"Whoops!" he said. "Forgot to flush!"
As the toilet gurgled down a forgotten poo, and I stared into its waters, I suddenly felt much better.