Starting Bipolar Treatment – Dr Suzanne A . Black and Mr. Stuart Jessiman

bipolarThrough the Door : The Initial Consultation – Part I

I arrive at the door of an address of an English speaking psychologist in Paris given to me by my wife – This is someone I don t want to see.; but, my increasingly erratic, increasingly violent behavior is threatening my marriage , job and basic sense of well-being . I know I need help now. Yet despite this, I have no appetite for this forthcoming therapy session. Previous therapists have left me thinking all this talk business was fruitless – a pointless exercise in rabbiting on about any old thing that came to mind and believing it meant something valuable. But here I am knocking on a door of yet another one of these bloody therapists. But my life is unraveling: I felt very close to the edge. Even for the cynic enough is enough. Voila ! So here I am where I don t really want to be – feeling like The Myth of Sisyphus doing an encore performance.

The door is opened and there is “the therapist”. Gosh, she looks rather serious, rather Audrey Hepburn in her manner and attire. I didn’t know therapists had fashion sense. Worse, I think she is going to take this all rather seriously. I want help, but I don’t want any of that seriousness now. She offers her hand and shakes mine in her American fashion. Mmmm, Americans do take therapy seriously and this situation is clearly not going to be an easy ride! By comparison with those wet rag English therapists I’d met, this woman looked like she was ‘on the case’, to use a British expression. She was to get right to it, hup to it right now.

She leads me to the ‘chair’, here I am to sit while being asked questions about God knows what. We do the small talk chatter thing to relax me and dispel my fidgety angst. She was pleasant enough and it all went quite quite well – after all we Brits do are the experts at small talk. It’s the serious emotional stuff we find unappealing; we simply don’t do that sort of thing.

Unconsciously, I am trusting my innate, skilled ability to deflect attention away from me by deploying humor and inane questions. She is clearly American, but I asked her where she is from. I don’t know why I ask this question since had she said Boise, Idaho, I’d have been lost. Why America, of course! she replied, “it is a big country”, I said . “Yes, indeed it is! It s many countries contained within one country!” I don t know what she’s on about, but have nothing to add of interest. I mean, Russia and Canada are pretty big ,too!

But now, the trial begins.

I, the psychologist, asked my quite evidently anxious patient, what brings him to seek consultation at this time, and why, of all the English speaking therapists in Paris , he chooses to see me? He says , he wanted to talk to a woman, since his experience with male therapists usually results in a combative and competitive mannerism –a wholly unproductive approach to seeking help , n est ce pas? He doesn’t speak French, but rather an educated and fast flowing British English full of strikingly creative allegorical imagery and eloquent prose. He speaks with quite some velocity and often ventures into verbal cul-de-sacs that can be difficult to follow – quite a bipolar characteristic , or what we in psychiatry refer to as tangential and circumstantial reasoning, which many people who are not bipolar find absolutely maddening!

After half an hour or so, I, now the designated patient, became conscious that this woman seems to understand something of what I am trying to say despite hiding it in a flow of conversation that I am trying to move away from issues of feeling, emotion – that sort of thing. But she seems to “get me” and steers the conversation back to how I feel – oh, horrors , blimey !! This is weird. This is unnerving. Perhaps we are on to something here! But, I remain cautious – This whole business is demanding I speak of pain, my pain , madness and sadness, and even gladness, not subjects I generally examine in any great detail as a rule. For goodness sake, this psychologist has the temerity to coax my unwillingness to speak of such things and bring them to the surface. Damn her !! All very new, indeed! No other therapist got close to tempting me to reveal anything of myself … until I met HER.

We bipolars are masters at manipulation through cunning, charm , and humor. It is sometimes planned, but oft times spontaneous and quite arbitrary . It paints a portrait for others of who people think we are . Yet, this is often at odds with our emotional pain s character that is us at our worst moments, which may be many.

By the way, us bipolar folks have a propensity to disclose seemingly arbitrarily in a gush of verbal outpouring to those of our unwitting audience – us being swept away by the enthusiastic rush of our emotions in the moment, only later to regret having spilled the beans at all. Yipes!

To be continued and continued and continued in upcoming blog posts perhaps ad infinitum as us bipolar folks excel so well at.