Last week I met my new primary care provider. I’ve been searching for a doc for a couple of years since the Best Doctor in the Whole World retired. I try not to hold everyone to his standard. I got spoiled.
So, everyone who’s anyone has recommended this OB/GYN nurse practitioner. Great, I thought. I was a nurse. We can relate.
And, indeed, she was vivacious, and friendly, and practical (gotta love that). Then, we took a sharp turn into The Twilight Zone.
I would characterize this NP as an evangelical Christian, which would normally be a non-issue for me. As a self-proclaimed mystical atheist, I’m always interested in what other people believe. I told her that. She laughed and said she wouldn’t try to convert me. I laughed and said it wasn’t possible.
So, with that bit of self-disclosure out of the way, she asked if I ever had thoughts of harming myself. I gave my standard Psych History answer—”I tried to kill myself once. I still have suicidal thoughts, but I recognize them as symptoms and a signal to get help.”
She said, “We all have bad thoughts, and most people go through some period of depression.”
(Okay, I thought. She’s not a psychiatric nurse practitioner. She may not know the difference between clinical and situational depression. Just go with it.)
“Where do those bad thoughts come from?” she asked (rhetorically). “If you believe in God, then you have to believe in the Devil…”
I must have gotten a LOOK on my face, because she stuttered to a stop and started talking about vaginal health. Was I imagining things, or was this educated, medical professional about to tell me mental illness was caused by the Devil? I was so shocked, I don’t remember what else she said, just that we wrapped it up pretty quick, and I was shuffling to my car in a daze.
The daze turned to anger before I left the parking lot. Are we in the Middle Ages, I fumed. What was next? Burning at the stake? Dousing?
Rage fueled a deep hopelessness. I missed my old doctor. Did I have to choose between the cold, condescending woman who took over his practice or this kind-hearted religioso? Did I have to start the search all over again?
I met with my meditation group later in the day and felt righteous satisfaction in their outrage as I told the story. It’s a hot itch, indignation. It gets under the skin and festers.
So, as we sat together in silence, I took a step back from what I was feeling. I called up the part of me that observes my thrashing around with gentle curiosity. What happened?
I saw that I’m not as tolerant as I like to believe. I don’t like people pushing their religion at me. I don’t like the blank stares when I say I’m an atheist. As the pastor at the First Unitarian Church in Des Moines said on Sunday, I’m more than willing to share my faith with people who are genuinely interested, curious and open-minded. But, that happens rarely. It’s just easier to keep my mouth shut.
What does it matter anyway? I tried to look a little deeper.
My ego hates to be misunderstood. It hates to be dismissed or categorized. And it really hates to be discredited. I’m proud of how hard I’ve worked to regain some functioning in the world. Proud.
I looked at my choices again. Cold, Condescending Beeyatch or Evangelist? I tried CCB the last time I got bronchitis, so I knew what to expect. I had a feeling the Evangelist would be kind and thorough. I suspected she would take very good care of my body. And that’s what I needed her to do. I might have to set some boundaries. If I could nudge my ego aside, there might even be A Teaching Moment.
Coming home from meditation with my friends, I turned up the music and sang down the highway. The ego is a stubborn little cuss. Mine can be paranoid and hysterical if the mood is right. Anything can offend it, and it defends itself with teeth and claws. But, like a mediocre poker player, it has a tell—that hot itch of indignation. When I feel that under my skin, I know it’s time to back up and look again.
I’m glad for that signal, and I’m glad I know what to do with it.
Thanks, Ego-Girl. Keep raging.