Sorry to hear about this experience. Would you mind checking if Illustrator behaves this way with other files as well? If yes, kindly try resetting Illustrator's preferences by following the steps shared in this article (https://helpx.adobe.com/illustrator/kb/troubleshoot-preference-issues.html) and sharing your observations. Disclaimer: Please note that resetting preferences will remove all custom settings, and Illustrator will launch with the defaults. You may take a backup of these settings from the location mentioned in the article.
What I belive that means is that Illustrator will still search for images, but you will need to manually click on the orange icon to update. I do not really see a need for the manual update option, if I am correct.
You might want to look at your workflow, as maybe you are using images other than .psd for links in Illustrator which is slowing things down. EPS especially is troublesome, so is a CMYK jog, and .tif can also be. Maybe you have a server issue and and update needed or protocol configuration.