Psychiatric Interviews

Filling out new psych patient forms is like looking at the scariest parts of yourself - all at once, in nervous handwriting, crammed onto a few sheets of paper.

Whenever I have to fill these out, I couch it in hours of self-care. I ground myself, build myself up a little, and bake something yummy. Then I gingerly slide the packet out from underneath a stack of heavy books. I wipe my brow and click the pen.

It's as if a complete stranger sits you down and says, "Now tell me all the things you hide about yourself."

That stranger makes a permanent record of all your shadow aspects and matter-of-factly says, "Mm-hmm, and how broken is your body?" You're asked to list your ugly medical history, your family's medical history. Not all the years you were fine and healthy, just all the times the poo hit the fan.

You realize that you're holding your breath. You're still alive, but only because there is a tiny amount of air escaping in and out of your lungs.

Without pausing, that stranger levels you by asking, "Tell me about the mental health of your blood relatives. How messed up is your family?"

You're beginning to shake and wobble. You think, Good Lord, I'm only 3 questions into this packet. You tap the pen on your lips and also think, How many extra pages stapled on is too many?

Finally, the stranger gathers some benign details and statistics. Just when you think you're nearing the end, you flip the page.

You must run down a checklist of "behaviors." These aren't pretty happy shiny behaviors because that wouldn't tell them anything useful. They don't ask, "Are you helpful and kind?" or "What do you excel at the most?" or "Are you good at baking cookies?"

Instead, that stranger leans in close to you and whispers, "How do you cope with all this pain and uncertainty? Do you spend too much money, join cults, bites your nails, eat only purple foods? . . ."

In the end, I check the boxes, feeling a little piece of myself chipped off with each mark. I tuck the packet under the heavy stack of books, so it won't accidentally end up on fire in the backyard.

Then I watch the Food Network and wait for my family to get home and help me remember that I'm really okay. All the things I have to do to stay healthy are difficult, but at least I'm doing them.

There are a lot scarier things than these psych forms. Not ever doing the psych forms, for instance, would mean that I was living in denial or in fear and not getting treated. My battered brain chemistry would be dictating my decisions.

I consciously choose to look at my darkness, so I can be the light, as well.

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