I got a call from Dr. Awesomesauce’s office this morning, which was supposed to be a reminder of my appointment set for Monday, but turned out to be a request to push it back a week because of changes in his schedule. Of course it’s not a problem, I’m doing fine and can certainly wait another week to see him (although after this weekend’s garage sale I’m sure I will need therapy). But I don’t like the implications of “changes in his schedule,” because I know how freakishly hard he works and that he’s been less than thrilled with his situation at the mental health clinic for some time.
The man works six days a week. I know this because he told me so at our last session. Not only does he work three half-days in the clinic and two and a half days in his private practice, he is also a consulting psychiatrist for the hospital AND a clinical professor. I told him I was worried about him getting burned out, and he admitted to me that he was already pretty crispy around the edges. Who wouldn’t be? He’s got more energy in his baby finger than most people have in their entire bodies, but even the Energizer Bunny’s batteries need recharging every now and then.
This is not the first time I’ve had to worry about losing my psychiatrist. Things have been dicey at the clinic for well over a year; in fact, there was a point last fall when the hospital was trying to get him to give up his clinic patients, and he did reduce his hours. But I also know he’s been restless for quite a while, and that he stays on mainly because he really loves teaching residents; if he didn’t, he would have gone back to full-time private practice a long time ago.
At one point, we had this settled: if he gave up the clinic, I would follow him to his private practice and pay cash, or use insurance if I had it. But that was when I had money; now I can barely scrape together enough to pay the rent and bills, and there is absolutely nothing left over for frills, e.g. therapy. At the clinic, I can at least put it on my tab, which is growing larger and larger (although why I’m still not getting bills is a mystery). But if Dr. A goes, I’m in a world of hurt—not just because I’d have to start over with another doctor, but because I don’t WANT another doctor. It took me over a year to trust this one completely, and I don’t relish the possibility of having to see someone else who doesn’t know me the way he does.
It’s bad enough that I just lost my primary care physician of over 20 years. I feel bereft of his laconic wisdom and even his badgering, but I can deal with it. Losing Dr. A would be a clusterfuck, plain and simple. This man has literally seen me at my worst and never judged me. He challenges me intellectually; he makes me laugh; he makes me think. I am never allowed to get away with half-assed responses to his pointed questions, but neither am I allowed to leave the office without feeling better than when I walked in. We talk seriously; we tease each other unmercifully; we share funny stories. And it all works. Now how do you replace a one-of-a-kind doctor/patient relationship like that?
Short answer: you don’t. And while I will undoubtedly survive if Dr. A gives up his clinic practice, I can’t imagine actually anticipating sessions with another doctor. Besides…..who else is gonna give me crap about that yellow toucan shirt?