Jake is a friendly hippie with a gravelly voice and a casual cardigan. His long, gray hair pulled into a low ponytail.
“Take a seat,” he growled like a character from The Simpsons. I wondered if he was a smoker.
The walls of his office were covered with combination of military honors and modern art. There was a stiff-looking couch along the wall with a throw cushion that read: “You never see a motorcycle parked outside of a psychiatrist’s office.” Perpendicular to the couch was a stodgy, upholstered armchair. A couple of leather easy chairs faced each other in the center of the room. Everything was a jumble of contradictions.
“Which seat?” I asked, sensing a test.
Challenge accepted. I paused to consider my options.
I didn’t want to be adrift on the huge sofa. Next to that pillow.
The leather chairs were positioned a little too closely together. This appointment was the mental health equivalent of a match.com coffee meeting, I wasn’t sitting in his lap.
So I chose the armchair and carefully placed my thermal mug in the center of one of the many black, circular coasters that dotted the side table.
“Alex told me about your situation in broad strokes, but why don’t you fill me in on the details?” he prompted.
I wondered how literal Jake was being. Which situation did he mean? What details did he want?
I hedged. We chatted about my background, covering the basics: kids, parents, divorce, job, money, house. It was very much like a blind date: tentative, polite, edited, desperate.
“But what brought you here?” Jake asked, a little more insistently.
So I recounted the whole bus stop incident.
While somewhat sympathetic, Jake merely shrugged, generally unimpressed by my anxieties.
As we wrapped up the session, he gave me homework.
“So you’ve got an assignment, don’t worry, it won’t be too much work,” he said. “Create a ‘fear’ list, going as far back as you can remember. But just the biggies,” he told me. “I’m looking for an outline of the primary triggers for your worrying.”
Here is what I handed him at our next appointment:
Jake clearly wasn’t expecting a typed, formatted table. That’s probably what tipped him off to the OCD.
After a long pause, he declared haltingly, “Uh, umm, very ….. comprehensive.”
I didn’t know it at the time, but Jake is very rarely at a loss for words.