Waiting in the lobby at the psychiatrist office is like browsing for underwear at Wal-Mart.
There are certain rules for places like that. The first of which is: no eye contact. Second: no talking to strangers. Third: act like you are doing something, even if you are not (this helps ensure rules one and two are carried out properly).
This office is different than say, your dentist office. I mean, it looks the same, but everybody knows that everybody else is there because there is something a little off in their minds. We are all fighting some sort of strange disease that the outside world does not understand and this inevitably leads to camaraderie among patients. A discussion of drugs they're using, dosages, and side effects will often break out near me. And I don't want to sound conceited, but I don't want any part of this.
This is the one place you can't talk to me. This is the one place I shut down and become completely selfish, because honestly, I don't want to be there in the first place. It has taken great effort to bring myself to a psychiatrist, to take medicine, and to admit I struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder. And, for my own pride, I would like everyone in that room to believe I am not like them, because let's be honest...that room has some weirdo's in it. No, I am better than them. I am just there supporting my mom or my friend. Or to see a doctor about memory loss or to interview him for career day or something like that.
And back to Wal-Mart, voluntarily talking about your mental health to a stranger in the waiting room is like asking the woman next to you in the underwear department which bra she thinks is more comfortable or which panties give her all day comfort without riding into uncomfortable places.
YUCK and YIKES. This is totally off limits.
So Monday I was at the doctor's office waiting for my monthly check-up. I know there are rules and stuff, but these check-ups really make me mad. $125 dollars for five minutes face time with a doctor (the kind of doctor who is not even wearing a white jacket or stethoscope) who asks me if I am feeling agitated, suicidal, or addicted. If I were the former you would be able to tell because I have a bad habit of bulging my eyes out of my head and a slight problem with rolling them when I am "agitated". If I were the latter, I would not tell you anyways, because every smart mental health patient knows you can't get your medicine if you say yes to one of those. So the appointment makes no sense to me.
Still I had to go this week. I am waiting in the lobby, following the rules, avoiding eye contact and such, when I feel eyes boring a hole into me. I look up to see a frazzled teenage girl, head cocked to the side, mouth gaping, and staring at me long and hard.
I accidentally make eye contact. Huge mistake.
I jerk my head down and keep reading my Rachel Ray magazine. Minutes later, I still feel it. Her eyes are burning a hole into my skin.
I make eye contact again. Dangit, Jenny. Stop.
My doctor is three minutes late.
Where the heck is she and why is she leaving me here to be tortured? Mental note: find a new doctor because these three minutes are torturous. Maybe a doctor who will just come to my house or slip me my prescription at 7-11 or Starbucks. Or maybe just go to Mexico and get my own stash of medicine.
I look a third time as this girl begins to smile. This was the final straw. A novice mistake to give a third glance. Then it happened in the loudest voice I have ever heard.
"OH MY GOSH YOU ARE JENNY FROM ADDISON ROAD! I KNEW IT! YOU ARE FAMOUS AND HERE I AM SEEING YOU AT THE PSYCHIATRIST."
Yep. She dropped the word famous. She then went on to say the words "radio," "i-tunes" and "oh my gosh I can't believe I get to meet you."
The entire waiting room was staring at me hoping to get a glimpse of someone truly famous who might be joining their club. I am sure I was a let down. Still, they were all staring.
I was dying. I whispered back to her in my best inside voice. Thanked her for liking the music, etc. It got quiet. Then.
"I JUST CAN'T, CAN'T BELIEVE THIS! WHAT ARE THE ODDS? I LOVE YOUR MUSIC. I LOVE YOU. I REALLY DO. I HAVE LOVED YOU GUYS FOR SO LONG. SO WHAT ARE YOU HERE FOR???"
Again, all the heads turned to see if I would confess what I was there for. I told her I was diagnosed with anxiety and ocd. And she got so excited. She had the same things. We were buddies now.
I was red. I felt like the lights on stage had just come up and million people were staring at me while I was wetting my pants or something. I could feel my chest getting a little tight and thought I might be sweating. I wanted to hide. Why did I have to be called out into psychiatric trauma and embarrassment when all I wanted to do was slip in and out of my five minute appointment? Why me God? Why do you like to make fun of me and laugh at my expense?
And then she asked me, this time very quietly, if it was OK?
If what was OK?
If having it was OK? Did that mean we were going to make it?
Geez. I had never really thought about it like that. Like, am I going to be OK or will this do me in? Of course I am going to be OK. But I guess that could be really scary as a teenager when life looms large and being different is excruciatingly unfair. When medicine seems more like a curse than an answer to prayer and when you sit in a waiting room full of slightly weird and abnormal people. This would be threatening if I were 13. It's threatening now, and I'm 27. My heart melted for her. I wanted to tell her the rules. Maybe tell everyone, they were all watching.
But I just smiled and whispered back, "It's OK. It's normal actually. We're normal. We're very normal"
And then my doctor came in and saved me.