I come from a family of shrinks. My mom is a shrink, my dad is a shrink, and my sister is a shrink. In addition, my oldest sister, who is technically my half-sister, has two other parents who are also shrinks. Basically, you can’t open a closet in my family’s house without a shrink falling out. Growing up, we had no office supplies that weren’t decorated with the names of the next great medication in anxiety prevention, mood disorders, or the cure for floppy boners. We used my mom’s prescription pads to take phone messages, and knew the clear signal that if the door to the TV room was closed, it meant there was a patient in the house, so, basically… hide. In short, Crazy is the Donovan family business, and business is good. People often ask if having shrink parents has made me really well adjusted. I respond by telling them that I wrote a book about how ridiculous my love life is, I have no pictures in my phone that aren’t of cats, and that I’ve been seeing a shrink twice a week for years, and they begin to get the picture. Then start backing away slowly.
Actually, in seriousness, while I have been shrinking it up for a decade, I don’t see it as any particular indication of being a loon. I’m one of those annoying people who thinks everyone could benefit from therapy, and I’m far better at being a human than before I started. (Yeah, that’s right. I used to be even weirder than this) I’ve learned a lot from my doctors: about myself, my family, and what I need out of life to be happy. One thing I have not learned, however, is how to keep my shrink from falling asleep. Seriously. I’ve been to several different therapists over the years, logged countless hours on the same swiveling leather chair that they must hand out with the diplomas, and the one thing I’ve discovered is that sooner or later, no matter how fascinating your personal calamities, every shrink takes a snooze.
It starts the way you’d expect: first with the heavy eyelids, then the slightly drifting head bob, then the full-throttle, Holy-Crap-I-Feel-Like-I’m-in-the-14th-Hour-of-a-Terrence-Malick-Movie conk out in the seated position. It’s not flattering, believe me. I mean, it’s unpleasant enough to watch your words chase someone from consciousness in front of your very eyes, but when you realize that that person is not only bound by dignity but also BY THE MONEY YOU PAY THEM to listen to your crap, well… it doesn’t feel great. Frankly, it’s the sort of thing you’d like to discuss with your shrink, if only they didn’t seem to be having such a lovely nap.
Despite having so many therapists in my family, I’ve never gotten an adequate explanation for the therapist slumber. At first I thought it was one of their tricks. You know, the things shrinks do that strike you as obnoxious, but are all clever/awful parts of the Healing Process. Like, if you’re on a topic they don’t find fruitful, they might offer less conversation, subtly guiding you to an area they find more productive. I mean, I have problems speaking up for myself. Maybe they were pretending to sleep to see if I’d object? But I checked with my family, and it turns out, that’s complete nonsense. Nodding off is not part of the psychiatry handbook. Their best guess was that the doctor was genuinely tired, and just had a brief moment of sheer unprofessionalism. And you know what I say to that? Screw you. I’m the one with the problems, let me be unprofessional. You sit there, listen, and offer up vague aphorisms in return for US currency! That’s the deal, and I expect it to be honored. So, in an effort to get the most out of my therapy, I have developed some techniques to wake up a dozy doctor. It doesn’t happen often, but I feel better knowing I have a plan.
1. Throw the Box of Tissues at Their Head: Who uses the shrink tissues? There’s always a box next to your seat, like the therapy is gonna be soooo good that you’ll just be overcome. Kinda arrogant, right? Look, just because I’m scared of long car rides, small spaces, big spaces, public bathrooms, and cinnamon toothpaste that doesn’t mean I’m some sort of cry baby weirdo! So what should I do with the shrink tissues if I’m not going to weep into them? Easy. Throw them at my therapist when he starts to fall asleep. I have a friend who swears he did that once, and his shrink never fucked with him again. Sounds tempting. Very tempting.
2. Fall Asleep Yourself: Oh really, Dr. Felber, aching for a little shuteye? Well, as it happens, so am I. Mostly because of those little white pills you seem to think are the key to my everlasting happiness. So if you’re gonna snooze, then I’m gonna snooze. Then pretty soon we’ll just be two strangers asleep in a room together. Who wins then, huh? WHO?! (Oh right, you do. Because you’re getting paid.)
3. Start Confessing Murder and See What Happens.
4. Ask Your Shrink What He Thinks of Michelle Obama’s Bangs. No one can resist this topic. In some cases, it has brought people out of comas.
5. Tell Them Calmly and Politely To Please Not Nap During Your Session: This is of course the most adult and rational way to handle the situation, but if you were capable of that you wouldn’t be seeing a therapist in the first place, now would you?
6. Touch Them: Ever touched your shrink? Totally freaks them out. Even just an innocent little handshake makes them queasy. I’m pretty sure no physical contact is in the handbook. So, if you see your doctor nodding off, just stand up and poke ‘em right in the face. They’ll never sleep on you again. Or sleep at all, for that matter.
7. Wait it Out: This is my newest technique. Your shrink starts to look sleepy, and you just stop talking and stare at them. At first, the lack of sound is just what they need, and within seconds they’re slumping over. But soon an alarm goes off in their head, that probably says something like “Oh shit, it’s too quiet in here! He noticed! Wake up!” Their head jerks up like a scared kid in science class, and they look at you with all due shame and humiliation. It’s passive-aggressive as hell, but it gets the point across. And as a kid from a family of shrinks, that’s about as healthy a result as I can expect.