Last year, I was approached by an old colleague from SF to be on the advisory board of a new initiative on digitally-based education in Africa. After several months, this turned into work. While I felt entirely comfortable with my old colleague, I also began working with new folks. I wasn’t sure what they’d make of my experience here if they came across it. So, to be safe, I took it offline for a bit. You never know, but now I do and feel confident my colleagues would be supportive above all else.
That said, I’ve always felt that if people don’t understand this, well, fuck them. Still true. It is a little trickier when trying to get back to the work world after time off. Add ageism and sexism in my working world, well then, it’s pretty clear.
Alas, I’d like to keep BionicFarmer open and rolling into the future. “Fuck ‘em if they don’t understand”, as my stepfather would say in the kindest and most straightforward manner in such a situation. Indeed.
Continuing from where I left off… My last post was from November 2018 where I discussed the side effects of my ECT treatments. Just before that, I’d written about the psychiatrist/therapist whom I saw for 4 years only to be dropped by her just as I began ECT.
As it turned out, the disregard for my health and care from that doctor/therapist I’d seen for so long was more damaging to my well being than any side effect from ECT. As mentioned, it takes 5-6 months, on average, to find a new psychiatrist (common in any major city). Never mind I had to find a therapist as well. Thus, the second half of 2018 and the first half, and more, of 2019 have not been so great.
Gratefully, the Charité allowed me to see their Ambulant doctor (outpatient) for basic psychiatric check-ins and prescriptions. In the meantime, I had access to the physician search for Berlin’s statutory health insurance providers and filtered for all doctors and therapists who might be available. I printed it out and called each and everyone to check on availability. This, alone, was grueling. If you’ve ever encountered German doctors’ voice recordings of their “Sprechzeiten” (speaking times), you know what I mean. “I’m available Monday from 9-12, Tuesday 9-13, Wed 13-19, etc”. in rapid-fire German, of course. Even the native speakers have difficulty discerning these messages.
As expected, most were unavailable. Worse, I’d leave messages and never hear a word back. This, while I was still visiting the Charité for ECT treatments over the months. Still experiencing memory problems, still a bit lost in the fog until treatments stopped. My final, 29th ECT was in March. Over the ensuing months, things became clearer but no less difficult.
At last, in March, I found a new psychiatrist who is/was there, always, for me. She heard my story and told me in our first meeting, “If you are not feeling well, want to take your life, whatever is going on, you come here. You don’t need an appointment. I will be here”. I needed to hear that.
This new doctor, after our second visit, thought it would be good to go to Ergotherapie (aka Occupational Therapy in the US). Something I did in the hospital. I agreed and began Ergotherapie with a colleague of the doctors’.
I had many appointments over several weeks but instead of a traditional Ergotherapie, we did Neurofeedback. I sat with a helmet of electrodes on my head, watching/playing specialized video games in front of me, while the therapist sat looking at my brain waves in action (or not). It was fascinating, the therapist would say, I can see your depression. Your delta waves are this and your theta (or whatever) waves are that… classic. But also, my brain waves were typical of burn out she’d say. Not surprising.
This was especially interesting to me because, in my 3rd year of art school, I created an independent project in Art & Tech spanning the three classes of robotics, interactive media, and programming (THINK C). 1990. Interactive media meant Hypercard at the time (Supercard too, for color). Lol.
My own project was soldering together an EEG (brain wave sensor), connecting to a Mac II and writing an application to respond/interact with the user/audiences’ brain waves via images I created on the Amiga or Mac. It was a bit much for the time, not to mention, an art student playing around for fun. The whole thing didn’t work in the end but the idea never left me. Human-computer-brain-interaction. Exactly what I’d experience in Neurofeedback 30 years later. The only difference mine in 1990 was more of an art installation/experience and this, therapy.
My Ergotherapist knew I was in search of a psychotherapist and a couple of months into our work came in with a business card. “He’s a friend of a friend, speaks English, it could work.”
I called and arranged a meeting. It was great, very comfortable and only at the end did we find out he doesn’t take my insurance and I couldn’t afford his private fee. (In Germany, therapy is most often covered entirely by insurance).
Big fucking bummer. It seemed like a good fit. Oh well…
During this time my sleeping was very erratic. It was difficult to make it to the Ergotherapie appointments. After a few cancellations on my part, the ergotherapist left me a voicemail. “Here’s another therapist you can try, he speaks English, is an American psychoanalyst, and will take sliding scale payment. I feel you really need to talk to someone.”
I called the analyst straight away. It was in the afternoon and he answered the phone on my first call. We chatted for a couple of minutes of introductions. I said I can’t pay privately. He said he will accept what I’m able to pay. I can make the decision on what to pay and that’s it, no questions asked, ever again.
So we met a few days later and that was it. He’s golden. I couldn’t have wished for a better person to connect with on all this. A win of inconceivable measure.
Images included are random sketches of the author. All rights reserved.