If you had brain cancer, would you date a neurologist? Would you sleep with a chiropractor to ease your chronic back pain? Around my twentieth birthday, I was hit with a sudden onset of crippling depression and anxiety. After two years, several doctors and a veritable rainbow of colored mood-altering capsules, I still felt hopeless. With no cure in sight, I fell for a psychotherapist. Gloria Steinem’s eyes would roll behind her over-sized glasses if she knew, but a part of me had always fantasized that the companionship of a man could fix all my worries, all my internal distress. In the past year and a half, I had four different therapists and not one date. I was frustrated and growing quite lonely. “Like many relationships, therapy does not come with a guarantee. ‘Failed’ therapy can be like a failed relationship,” writes Joanne Flom in “Picking a Therapist is Just Like Dating” in Chicago Wellness Magazine. The idea of finding another doctor was as daunting as meeting men in the city. So when I met Chris, a therapist in his early thirties, I was immediately smitten with the idea of my very own boyfriend-doctor hybrid. He would be my cure.
I imagined Dr. Chris and I going on long walks and talking about my condition. Over a picnic in the park one day, he would get to the root of my problems and I would have a dramatic breakthrough and there would be lots of tears and hugs and I’d never feel depressed again (I hadn’t had sex in over a year — these were actually my fantasies).
We were dating seriously within a few weeks. The reality was that, while were seeing each other, the only evidence that Dr. Chris was a therapist was a bookshelf of Freudian tomes and a closet full of khakis and blazers (though the latter might have just been an indicator of his WASP upbringing). He pursued an intense transcendental meditation practice, rendering him disarmingly calm and difficult to talk to. Whenever I broached the subject of my depression, he was almost dismissive, saying things like, “You should really see someone about that.” When I was too lazy to find a real doctor, I asked him to get me pills. He claimed he couldn’t get me sedatives, but I knew he kept a stash of Xanax in his apartment. While he was off in Transcendental Land one Sunday afternoon, I abandoned The New York Times “Style” section and my croissant and stole a few doses.
I found myself lapsing into depressive and anxious states around Dr. Chris just because I could, like affecting an accent when I travel to another city, having panic attacks with the same frequency at which a visit to Boston might subconsciously make me drop my “r”s. I would stay at his apartment for days at a time, lying around while he was at work. I took a job at a restaurant in his neighborhood, hoping it would be an easy commute, but called in sick on several occasions before quitting altogether.
I eventually accepted that Dr. Chris couldn’t “save” me and we split soon after, both citing our age difference (of over a decade) as the reason. Against all reason, I still cling to the probably-naïve idea that someone might still cure me, be it guy or doctor. Writes Flom, “Like dating, finding a therapist involves taking a risk – a risk that could change your life for the better.” Were it to happen, I’d be thrilled, but the special dude who quells my anxieties could just as likely be a construction worker as a shrink. In the meantime, I’m more inconvenienced by my hay fever, and I’m not courting any allergists.