We started with two therapists, one for my husband and one for me. We were like any 40-something couple in L.A., airing out our cluttered heads. Then, when our daughter S turned five, we added another. She suffered from a crippling fear of dogs that had, as our therapists said, “begun to interfere with daily life.” Her first therapist, Dr. P, was a kind woman in a charming bungalow in Pasadena. After a few months, the dog phobia was gone and we decided to end the visits. Weekly therapy wouldn’t be a necessity.
More Anxiety to Manage
A year later, S became gripped with anxiety again, and we were sent to someone new. Dr. S had a fabulous office in a charming guesthouse in the Hollywood Hills. The drive there was long, but S loved seeing the impersonators in front of the Mann Chinese Theater — Darth Vader, the Power Rangers, and Superman milling about on the sidewalk as we sat in traffic. But S couldn’t sit still. Her frenetic energy at six was difficult to manage. Over time she had become filled with a rage that would find its way to me, or to her little brother. We stopped seeing Dr. S when things got better. By then, S was seven, and, seemingly, happy.
When S suddenly stopped sleeping, at age nine, we returned to therapy. We wanted a long-term therapist for our daughter. After a few screening interviews, we found Dr. K, a young woman who reminded me of the actress Kathryn Hahn. She was eager and open, and seemed to “get” S. Better yet, S loved her appointments with Dr. K, and after a few months she resumed sleeping. As we continued to see Dr. K, it became clear that we should consider an ADHD assessment.
Dr. C was brought in to oversee the testing and became our ADHD specialist. Straightforward but exuding a warmth that felt authentic, Dr. C began working with S, getting to know how her brain worked.
As our life became hyperfocused on our daughter, our marriage began to show cracks. We were neglecting each other. My husband suggested we add a couple’s therapist to our “roster.” I agreed.
On our first visit, we climbed the stairs to Dr. E’s office. We sat in the waiting room as the Eagles blared, which made us giggle. “What are we doing here?” I wondered. I grabbed some peanut M&M’s off her snack table, and gave the session a shot. She was kind and giving, but didn’t shy away from tough questions. I began to see that my feelings were tied to S’s. The emotional umbilical cord hadn’t been severed, only now I felt like the one dependent on nourishment.
With S’s ADHD diagnosis came the inevitable trip to the psychiatrist. We batted around the idea of medicating, deciding to at least see someone and hear what they had to say. Dr. R had been suggested to us. We visited her and listened. After we left, filled with hope, I thought to myself, “we have six doctors…six.” Who had we become? We’d built a fortress of mental health providers around our family. I was grateful, ashamed, and overwhelmed.
And then there were seven. Later this week, we’ll be meeting Dr. P for the first time. She is a cognitive behavioral therapist, recommended by “the team,” who will help with S’s trichotillomania. And I’ll do my best to stop judging who we are, who we’ve become, and how we got here. Isn’t that the point of all this? I guess I’m still a work in progress.