Talky, Talky, Talk
The next week I got on the phone and went through directories of local professionals. Some of them focused on families, others on teenagers or couples’ counseling. I had no idea who to call. In the end I started to reach out to general practitioners rather than people who advertised specialties, e.g. substance abuse.
I screened them. Each prospective analyst was informed that I am a married guy in his thirties. I said I was feeling low and wanted someone to talk to outside of my friends and family. I also stated that I was planning on retiring early and I thought that might have something to do with my current mental state.
One guy seemed really enthusiastic about seeing me. Over the phone he said he worked with many people who were going through a transition from a life of work to one of retirement, albeit none as young as myself. He said he’d love to take me on.
I made an appointment with Dr. Katz for the following Monday.
Before I know it, I’m sitting on the middle cushion of a recently upholstered leather couch in his office and he’s asking me how I am and what I’d like to get out of these sessions. I tell him I’m not exactly sure — that mostly I want to stop feeling lousy.
He asks me to describe the whole “lousy” thing and I tell him: loss of appetite. Drive. Interest in the world. Things seem harder to do than normal, especially work, and exercise.
Any problems with this in the past?
Nope. Not that I remember.
When did you notice this happening?
About six months ago.
Anything you suspect might be a trigger?
Well, the two big changes in my life over the past year are, one, I got a new job and two, like I mentioned on our call before, I don’t have to work for pay anymore, even though I’m still employed.
From there we work backwards. Over the course of four or five sessions, we make it through the whole thing. My life. My disappointing experiences in various work environments. The discovery that I could quit and retire early through saving and investing. A feeling that working for any employer at all isn’t going to produce any lasting happiness or satisfaction. There’s a lot to these stories and it takes time to get it all out, but at the end of it I feel he has a decent grasp on the history and evolution of my mindset.
He asks a bit about my family. I tell him the basics: Divorced parents. Grew up on the poor side of things. Family struggled with money. One brother, one sister. Neither of them are very responsible, but they’re good human beings and we stay in touch.
And my social contacts. I tell him I see a good friend other than my wife at least once a week. Sometimes two or three. And I get on with people in the office okay. Don’t hate anyone. No serious problems.
Then my wife: What’s our relationship like? It’s good. We love each other, support one another, spend a lot of time together. Sure, there’s the occasional tiff but they’re usually not serious. We’re close, you know?
Finally, he asks a few questions that are, ahem, ‘dark,’ like do I have trouble getting up in the morning (sometimes, on workdays), am I drinking (no), do I have thoughts of hurting myself (absolutely not, never), or others (not at all, since I’m no longer working for Hell and don’t want to punch my CEO in the nuts anymore.)
And, of course, have I ever been depressed before? (Nope. I get down for a day or two here and there, just like everybody does, but nothing like this.)
That’s that. I’m coming to like the guy. It seems like he’s intent on just gathering data – constructing a coherent vision of my life, my goals to this point, and maybe how my mind works.
By the end of these sessions I’m getting curious as to what he thinks, but he hasn’t given anything away yet.
But once he gets there, Dr. Katz has plenty to say.