You are here

An untimely goodbye

In mid-July, my psychiatrist broke bad news to me like a bad joke:

“So, did you talk to your family doctor yet?”
“….About what?”
“Getting a new psychiatrist.”

This is not the way to tell your patient that you’re retiring. Thankfully, my psychiatrist is the best in the world, so I was ready to forgive him for forgetting to tell me about his departure in a more gentle manner. He told me he could see me until December, when he and another doctor in the building were closing shop since the office’s lease runs out then. December sounded far away when I learned of this departure in July. No sweat.

Well, maybe a little.

Not only do I not want to search for a new psychiatrist, I am positive that no one can fill my current psychiatrist’s shoes. Not even close. He’s been a pillar of strength to me for over three years, adjusting my medication, offering advice, and giving me hope for my future when I’ve had none. He is the best of the best in a world where it’s hard to even find a psychiatrist, let alone a good one.

But wait, it gets worse.

I was supposed to see Dr. T a week ago today. I got to his office a few minutes early, and hung up my coat in the waiting room. His receptionist looked a me with alarm and said, “Erin, Dr. T is not here.”

I looked toward his office door, propped open, revealing emptiness.

“I left you a message on Friday,” the receptionist continued. “Dr. T is in surgery as we speak.”

I stared at her for a few minutes with a dumb look on my face. Eventually I managed to whimper, “…What for?”

“A brain tumor. He probably won’t be coming back here again; he wrote you a letter you should be getting in the mail soon.”

Oh, God. I started crying immediately.

I don’t remember what else the receptionist told me as was ushered out of the office. Stumbling down the stairs to the first floor, I collapsed onto a bench and burst in to a louder fountain of tears.

I couldn’t believe what was happening. I felt like I was having a bad dream.


I went home and cried for a long time. Dr. T appeared to be the picture of health, but who knows how long he’s been suffering. As I spoke to him about my suicidal feelings, he was probably in fear of his own death.

How awful. How ironic.

After grappling with the fact that I’ll probably never see my psychiatrist again, let alone say good-bye, or even thank you, I decided there was only one thing to do.

Art, of course.

I moved my craft table into the middle of my living room and got to work.

Flowers are the almost cliché gift of choice in these situations, but I knew I could do one better. Fake flowers never fade, come in bright kitschy colours, and can be adorned with my signature buttons!

Dr. T ALWAYS asks “how the button business” is going, and I’ve made him a few pins here and there to make him laugh and show him my craft.

So, seven hours later, I ended up with what I call a “button bouquet!” It slightly resembles a topiary tree…on acid.

Yes, there’s a George Carlin pic in there. It turns out Dr. T and I both saw George Carlin live at Centennial Hall years before I became his patient.

On Friday I left the button bouquet and a card at the door of my psychiatrist’s office, with a note asking the receptionist to pass it on to Dr. T however she sees fit. I hope he likes it; I hope it conveys even half the gratitude and respect I have to towards that man.

It’s hard to remember that our doctors and therapists are human, especially when they display Herculean efforts to help us out of our troubles. This has been my worst fear surrounding treatment, and it’s come true. Thankfully I have other supports to lean on. I hope Dr. T does, too.