Part of being cleared to be Derek’s donor was a psych evaluation by a psychiatrist and a clinical social worker. When I met with the social worker I mentioned that I was concerned about my anxiety ramping up as a result of pre-surgery jitters and post-surgery pain. Not to mention the worry surrounding Derek’s procedure and recovery. We both decided that it would be a good idea to schedule a meeting with the LICSW (Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker) that I used to see when I lived in Boston.
I’ve struggled with anxiety for most of my life, but when I hit my late twenties my coping mechanisms started to fail, catastrophically. My anxiety had begun to manifest physical symptoms. I was worrying myself sick––literally and I don’t use that word lightly––and losing a lot of weight. I got so jittery and my heart began to race so intensely that one day I convinced myself it was a heart attack. I was managing the Crate & Barrel in Faneuil Hall at the time and I told my assistant that I needed to leave, walked out the door and hailed a taxi. I told the driver to take me to Mass General and I walked into the emergency room. I sat in the waiting room for about six hours before someone came to see me. They ran some blood tests, gave me a cursory physical and dismissed me saying only: “There’s nothing wrong with you.”
I remember telling my LICSW that story. She closed her eyes, muttered some profanity and then smiled at me. “Logan. I’m so sorry you went through that. There was something wrong with you. It didn’t show up on the blood tests or in your vital signs, but you were in pain and you were suffering. You were crying out for help and they pushed you out the door because they didn’t have a way to fix you. But I can help you fix yourself.” I was adamant about trying to make talk therapy work, not because I think anti-anxiety meds are bad, but because I really wanted to be an active participant in my therapy, and I’m stubborn to a fault. I wanted to see if I could re-train myself to manage my anxiety.
For the first two years, I cried during the entire 50 minute session. I would go to my appointment every week, cry and talk and yell for 50 minutes then leave and go to the Harvard Bookstore and look at books until I was numb enough to ride the subway home without crying. Little by little, I started to get better. My LICSW would give me assignments to work on in between appointments and I worked really hard on those assignments. The first time I made it through an appointment without crying, I joked that I felt like I wasn’t getting my money’s worth. When Derek and I moved to Manchester and bought our house, I stopped seeing her; we both felt like it was time. But we agreed that if I ever needed her, I shouldn’t hesitate to call.
When I found out that I was approved to be Derek’s donor, I called her right away and left a message. She called me the next morning and as soon as I heard her voice, I burst into tears. It might have been a Pavlovian response, but I think it was also because she knows me better then anyone else in my life and I knew it was safe to just cry. I had told her years ago that Derek would need a transplant someday and that I wanted to see if could be a donor so she wasn’t completely shocked by the news. She wedged me into her schedule and I went to see her on Tuesday.
It was so great to see her, but being in that office took me back to some of my worst days. Days when it was a struggle to just get out of bed. I have so many techniques for coping with anxiety and many of them work. But I really don’t have a technique for dealing with my current state of near constant worry. I told her as much as I could in 50 short minutes and we agreed that I would either see her monthly or see the LICSW assigned to me at Lahey on a regular basis. She assured me that I can get through this, that I am strong and I’ve already started the process, but that I can’t do it alone. I need help. It’s really hard for me to type that, so maybe I’ll try that again. I need help. I need help managing my anxiety because it is the 9,000 pound granite boulder that is following me around these days.