Even prior to Dovi getting diagnosed with autism, I was struggling with a host of issues. I had a pretty bad Internet addiction, and was plagued by feelings of low self esteem and inadequacy. In a community where your value is measured by how good a homemaker you are, I was at the bottom of the totem pole. During my struggle with infertility, all I ever wanted to be was a stay-at-home-mom, and I was shocked to find myself having little patience to my children and even less patience to housework. I felt overwhelmed by my workload and tasks, and the smallest thing felt huge and difficult for me. I also suffered from anxiety and and an obsessive tendency. In short, I was a basket case.
So when you add something like an autistic child to the mix, my life was a tinderbox just waiting to explode. It didn't take more than a few weeks for me to realize that I needed help. Serious help. I was not coping with the added stressors of ferrying Dovi back and forth to his multiple therapy sessions and the mountains of paperwork, networking and resources to follow up on. The harder life become, the more I gravitated to my computer for distraction and solace.
But finding the right source for 'help' was not easy. I knew of just one clinic of social workers who took my HMO, and they had endlessly long waiting lists. Then Dovi and I were practically incarcerated in our home, so I couldn't even entertain the thought of seeing a therapist every week if I couldn't leave the house.
Once Dovi's therapy was moved to the basement and my mornings were free again, I began to seriously look into getting help for my many issues. I was not coping and definitely needed help.
I called the clinic, which I'll refer to as P.E.B. The intake coordinator at P.E.B. is someone named Rita Joseph. There are three LCSW's at P.E.B. - let's call them Elka, Mira, and Nina. I had seen Mira during my infertility struggle once and was very impressed. She came highly recommended. Relief Resources, the referral organization for mental health, also recommended Elka. Unfortunately, the waiting list for both is months long. When I called Rita, I discovered that she no longer worked at P.E.B., and the intake person instead was a man. I felt extremely uncomfortable, as I would be baring my soul to a very Orthodox-looking invidual. Indeed, it was extremely unpleasant; he barely made eye contact with me and didn't seem to have the slightest experience with Internet addiction. He then diagnosed me with OCD.
OCD is the last thing I would call myself. I am the messiest person around, and while I tend to be obsessive and impulsive - not compulsive - OCD I am not. I didn't feel any closer to getting 'help.'
As I had suspected, Elka and Mira were not available, and instead he sent my case to Nina. I had a short phone conversation with Nina to set up my first appointment, and I was extremely unimpressed. She had a thick accent and I didn't feel comfortable with her at all. I was beginning to despair. Was I forever doomed to stay in my rut? I couldn't afford a regular therapist nor did I have the time or patience to travel to one. I was limited by my HMO and my location.
Upon speaking to Relief Resources again, I was told about a second clinic in my neighborhood. I will refer to this clinic as The Clinic. I was a little hesitant to go there, as it services patients with real, bona fide mental illness, some of them pretty severe. They have a Day Hab on premises and some of the individuals hanging around there can be unsavory. But I asked around a little and learned that they are staffed by excellent LCSWs and have gotten a recent reputation as servicing the local population really well. I called and spoke to the receptionist, who told me she needed my insurance information, would submit paperwork for me, and she would know whether I was approved within the month. When I asked cautiously about the level of anonymity and confidentiality, she told me there were 2 waiting rooms in the clinic and I could sit and wait away from the public view. The receptionist was clearly not from my neighborhood and that made me feel better right away.
As I was sitting and waiting for approval from The Clinic, I received another one of those Phone Calls That Changed My Life. This time it was my sister, who is two years my junior and the most wonderful human being to grace the planet (bli ayin hora). She told me to listen to her until the end without interruption. She really wanted to help me get out of the rut I was stuck in and felt that weekly therapy sessions at The Clinic were only part of the solution. In her opinion she thought I would do well to see a psychiatrist for one session to get to the bottom of my issues and maybe get some meds to help jump-start me out of the pit. I balked. I'm not crazy! I dont want to take medication! I thought she was the crazy one. But as it turned out, she had done all the legwork; she had called Relief Resources and spoke to the director himself and got a recommendation to a fantastic psychiatrist in Manhattan who was known to diagnose his patients in one session. She even called a few charitable organizations and got the funding - $450 - together for me to pay for it. I couldn't say no. I called to make an appointment, anticipating a months-long wait. Turns out they had an appointment available for the next Monday. Just as I had finished scheduling the appointment, I got another phone call - this time from someone named Linda, the intake coordinator at The Clinic. She told me I was approved by insurance, and she could see me as early as Friday. Now I was really confused and torn about where to go. But Linda also thought I should see Dr. Goldman first, get a diagnosis, and then come back to her for weekly sessions. So off I went.
Dr. Goldman turned out to be a wonderful doctor. He listened to my long history and told me that my symptoms were textbook ADHD. While I wasn't surprised - I suspected as much for years - it was such a relief to find out I was neither lazy nor crazy, but was plagued by a G-d-given disorder that was making life difficult to handle. A prescription for AdderallXR later, I was out the door and on my merry way to fixing my life.
A week later I went to see Linda. It was so much easier to come armed with a diagnosis. Linda was impressed; she wouldn't have thought ADHD based on the short version of my story. As intake coordinator Linda is in charge of matching the cases with the therapists. In some instances she keeps the client for herself. I was thrilled to be given the privilege of being one of those cases, as we had hit it off instantly.
For the past 2 years, Linda has been my lifesaver and my life anchor. She has saved me countless times. Firstly, she set me on a path of recovery from Internet addiction. True, I'm still here, and more than I would have liked. But I am not addicted. I can be away from the computer for hours, even weeks when I have no connection available, and survive without withdrawal pains. She has helped me figure out how to stay centered, deal with the constant stress raising a child like Dovi brings, and she has taught me visualization techniques and even EMDR. I have had several times of true crisis when she was able to come through instantly - I email her if something massively urgent needs to be addressed - and redirect my all-over-the-place emotions and center me again. She has also reacquainted me with G-d and helped me open myself up to miracles and opportunities I had never noticed before. She helped me move my social life from the virtual one to the real world and rejoin the community I had quietly been ignoring. I owe her my life.
Let me say this: I don't know how any parent of a special needs child, or a mother of a high maintenance, high stress family and life, manages to get through life without therapy. When I think back to how I functioned pre-Adderall and pre-Linda, I'm amazed I didn't land in the Loony Bin.
So this post is a tribute to Linda, if she ever chances to pass by here. You've changed my life like no one else could, and you know that.
If anyone reading this actually lives in my neighborhood or nearby and wants more information about The Clinic, Linda, or Dr. Goldman, please drop me a line.