My company is very thoughtful and provides mental health support as part of my layoff package (read "I lost my job but at least my demons are happy." if this is new to you). It's thoughtful and also ironic - "hey we're letting you go and making you really upset but we'll pay for you to see a shrink, good luck!"
The first step in the process is to call the 24/7 hotline. The first time I called the phone just rang. And rang. And rang some more.
I let the phone ring about 24 times and then hung up. It's really cruel to promise 24/7 assistance and not have call-forwarding....or musak....or a HUMAN BEING THAT ANSWERS THE PHONE.
A couple of cranky days later I tried again. This time a very nice woman picked up after 5 or 6 rings. She informed me that everything is confidential and won't be reported to my boss - yeah that's ok I'm not so worried about how I look at that job now. Then she asked some basic questions and made me all teary and choked up on the phone and I know she immediately put a big red flag on my file. But she also sent me a list of therapists that I could contact.
The second step of the process is to randomly call therapists. The list is really just a list - names, credentials, locations, phone numbers. It's like online dating without a profile.
So I called my first therapist and got her vmail. Ok that makes sense because she's probably working with someone right now. Her vmail message had a lot of information....and optional phone numbers to call if you felt like committing suicide.....which I considered as her message droned on and on....
Finally I get to the part where I can leave my message - of course the "to bypass this droning message press #" comes at the end of her message - and I don't actually know what to say. Do I start with "hi I'm crazy and was told to call you?" or "I don't think I'm normal but I might be can you help?"
So I stick to the basics and leave my name and number and a request to "find someone to talk with about some stuff." Excellent. I'm sure she'll know exactly what I need after hearing that.
Next I called a back-up therapist. If the mental health program sent me a list, I might as well shop around right?
So I call another therapist, get a much shorter and more upbeat message, leave my message which now sounds really breezy and happy now, and sit back and wait.
2 days later the droning therapist calls me back. When I answer the phone she just says "Hi this is Jane, you called me".... which causes me to think frantically who this could be because I call lots of people for lots of different reasons and I don't want to tip my hand. She gently nudges me with a "you wanted to talk about some therapy..." which turns my lightbulb on and sends my scurrying to the back bedroom so I don't have to talk in front of my family about all this (I'm crazy but not quite ready for that yet thank you).
She's just as monotone on the phone as on her voicemail message. I make a tentative appointment (tentative because I'm not sure I really like her but she's the only one to call me back) and then call the second therapist and leave a message.
You know, therapy would work a lot better if the therapist actually calls you back instead of leaving you hanging which really isn't a healthy feeling at all thank you.
By the end of the week I'd cancelled the tentative appointment with a "thank you but I've met someone else" voicemail - and dammit but I had to listen to her whole 5 minute vmail message because I couldn't remember which damn button to hit to bypass it.
And the second therapist still hadn't returned my call.
Which is making me insecure. Which is the opposite of what a therapist is supposed to do. Which makes me wonder why I am trying to be more open about myself when the therapy world feels so closed....and annoying.....and just downright crazy!