This morning I made calls to ten more therapists whose names were given to me by the network my health care plan referred me to because they have no more capacity. I have now contacted about fifty therapists and found no openings in a process that has lasted six months. Even before that, my visits had been dropped to one every six weeks.
The pandemic has ripped the band-aid from several wounds in our society, and I hope this is one of them. There is something fundamentally wrong about mental health care for the non-wealthy; it has been wrong for a while, but this is a tipping point. The ERs are going to be flooded more than they already are–mental health ER visits have increased markedly in many areas.
California’s process for licensure as an MFT or social worker is one of the longest and hardest in the nation, and structured in a way that makes it nearly impossible to achieve working part time because if you don’t finish in six years they make you start over. Counselor trainees, and anyone not working in out-of-pocket private practice, are overworked to the point of breakdowns. Usually, their one goal is to get into private practice and escape their hell.
What is the answer? Peer counseling? A lower-level licensure to work with clients who mostly need coaching and someone to listen? What the hell do we do about this? I want to help, but licensure has been off the table for a while because I can only work part-time. I know I could do useful counseling, if there was a framework to do so. But there isn’t.
My sister died a month ago. It seems like a very long time, but it also feels as if it happened yesterday.
Grief makes time do strange things. So does depression. So does mania, for that matter. All of these things make our already subjective sense of time much more subjective. But there’s another way grief changes time–you get caught in memories.
I’ve always been resistant to talking about my childhood. Even when I tell my story to a group of fellow addicts or some other group, I act as if I sprang into being as a teenager. “My childhood was better than some, and worse than others,” is the most I will say before moving on.
But I did have a childhood, and my sister was part of it, as were her conflicts with other family members. When she left home to join the military, it affected us all. When her addiction developed and she began to go in and out of destructive behavior, that affected everyone too. When I developed an eating disorder, I looked to her as an example when she was doing the recovery thing. When I myself became a drug addict decades later, I felt even closer to her no matter how little we were talking.
This month has been hard. Not just because I’m sad, but because her death has ripped off the band-aids on all sorts of toxic family stuff. But I am called to strength now. I need to bring passion to my recovery work, because the addiction that slowly destroyed her body still wants mine. After nine years clean, it still waits, and watches, ready to catch me if I fall into self-pity or run too far away from my feelings.