Friday, November 30, 2012

"Sucks, Doesn't It?" A Memoir, Entry 4

Chapter 4

  Appointment number two has arrived.
  “How are you doing, Liz?”
  “Fine. A little edgy, maybe. I can’t seem to shake the anger.
“That’s certainly understandable. As we discussed in our previous session, an emergency c-section can be a huge shock . . .” Her voice trails off as I fade her out. Don’t know why I do that. But soon enough, I adjust my antenna. “. . . At least you’re being proactive in seeking treatment. I’m impressed. Most people don’t realize there’s a problem until they go through drastic mood changes, anger binges, and crying spells.”
“Yeah, well, the anger thing bothers me. I feel it's way out of proportion to the situation.”
“Not really, Liz. You feel like someone didn’t do their job. It almost cost you your life. Perfectly normal to be angry about that.”
“Maybe, but people make mistakes. No point in throwing a hissy fit about it. There are worse things in life.”
She furrows her brow and thinks very carefully about what I just said. Something’s buzzing in her brain now. I can sense it.
“Tell me what happens when you get angry, Liz.”
I glare at her. Did she just insert an alien probe into my mind? Seems to me, we’re chartering off course. I don’t like it. “Why? It’s no big deal. I just pop off a bunch of profanities, then calm down.” Squirming a bit, I mutter, “Anyways, it doesn’t happen very often. Once every two months or so.”
Suddenly, the chair seems to tilt to the right. The room gets darker. My lungs decide to take a mini-vacation. I look around for a window. There isn’t one. My foot begins to tap, tap, tap, faster and faster. I swallow. Is it my imagination, or am I getting smaller and smaller? Soon, I’ll be a speck of dust on the chair, and Dr. Penguin will need a magnifying glass to find me.
. . . . . .
. . . . . .
“Huh? What? I’m sorry I didn’t hear the question.”
A look of concern crosses her face. I sit up straight, determined to regain my status of normal client in her eyes. Somehow I feel the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction, breeding a sense of foreboding in Dr. Penguin. She confirms it in the next question.
“Tell me about your childhood, Liz.”
Well, hell. How did I not see that one coming? Dammit. “Why? I don’t see the relevance here.”
“There might be. Clearly, you had anger issues well before these traumas. And if you really want to resolve the anger problem, we need to dig deeper.”
“Oh.” But I’m getting an irritating tic in my eye as I spew out the four sentences that comprised my childhood. “It wasn’t bad. Could’ve been better. Lots of people had it worse. No big deal.” I stand up and make noises about leaving. She backs off and we set up another appointment.
At that point, the voice inside my head explodes. “What the hell does that have to do with the price of rice in China, lady? Stick to the point. It’s none of your goddam business! Who do you think you are, anyway? . . . A fucking nobody! That’s who.”
Good thing I’m finally wising up to the fact that Psycho Voice is coming from within my head and not out of my mouth. I smile warmly at her, take the appointment card and leave.
On my way out, I scrunch up the card and toss it. Fat chance, lady. Slam dunk. We’re done.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"Suck, Doesn't It?" A Memoir, Entry 3

Chapter 3

Back to the present. I’m in Dr. Penelope Penguin’s office feeling a wee bit defensive, and quite frankly resentful as I take a seat across from her. The worst of it is, I’m paying uber dollars for feeling this way. Bummer. But I don my best southern belle persona, the kind that bleeds exquisite manners, but ditch the mint julep, southern accent, and crinoline skirt. 
She introduces herself well, though. Ah, but she should. She’s a therapist for criminy’s sake. Mercifully, we quickly move beyond the awkward, starry-eyed stage. (It also helps that I’m a very open, friendly type person. Talkative, that’s me. Talk, talk, talk).
Within five minutes, I think I’ve discovered two things. One, she’s highly educated and articulate. That’s good. And two, she’s soft-spoken, oozing layers of compassion. Doubly good. Plus, appearance-wise she kind of blends into the wall, which gives her a rather humble look. Although I guess she could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. But I’m just not sensing that. And I’m usually pretty good at distinguishing psycho from normal. However, just in case, I keep my psycho detector radar up.
It occurs to me to wonder how I’m coming across to her. Probably she’s relieved that she doesn’t have to dangle a pair of pliers in front of my mouth to elicit answers to her probing questions. Well, but see, here’s the thing. Talk’s relative. So, the kind of talk I tend to indulge in, is the kind that advertises cheap, blue-light specials. But, on the other hand, I do wrap my cheap in gilded paper, and Dr. Penguin appears to be quite impressed with my ability to toss out words like a juggler riding a skateboard.
At any rate, the forty-five minute “hour” goes by very fast. In that time, I tell her the most important stuff about me. Like, how pissed off I am at Dr. L&D that I had a terrifying near-death experience. She nods her head sympathetically and says something like you’re probably experiencing some degree of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  She briefly explains what that is, before jumping into the why’s and wherefore’s of breech births and the trauma that can arise from an unexpected cesarean section. In the process, I learn all I never wanted to know about labor and bad deliveries. It turns out that Dr. Penguin used to be a mid-wife. By the time she finishes talking, I feel like I could be a mid-wife too. If I wanted. Which I don’t. Ever. Ever. Ever.
Eventually she winds down and asks me if I have any questions. I want to say, Well, no. You said it best. Damned if I’m not ready to apply to medical school. But I chicken out and shake my head, instead, and she smiles warmly. “Ok, then, in our next appointment, we’ll explore PTSD more fully, and I’ll give you some tools to cope with it.” She stands, I stand. She smiles, I smile.
And I’m off. Into the wild blue yonder, feeling blissfully relieved that I’m not crazy, that I’m really normal, and had a perfectly normal reaction to trauma. Nearly dying two times in one’s life is really traumatic. In case you didn’t know. It won’t take long for Dr. Penguin to fix me.
“Says you, Lizzie.”

Friday, November 23, 2012

"Sucks, Doesn't It?" A Memoir, Entry 2

Chapter 2

Three weeks later, I’m on my way to Silver Spring to see the therapist. Doubts creep in. After all, therapy isn’t cheap. And really, aren’t therapists just a bunch of lazy buttinskies anyway? Seems to me all they do is sit on their hindquarters listening to a garbage-load of whine, then murmur false reassurance when they get a little sleepy. Winken, blinken and nodden. I giggle at the image that brings up, but stop and chastise myself. How would you know what they do, or don’t do, Liz? Hmm . . . let’s deliberate a moment. Well, there was that one time in my early twenties when I got up close and personal with a psychiatrist. 
As I speed down Route 29, I flash back to 1976. Basically, it all started like this. I’m in conference with my English professor. We’re discussing, among other things, the merits of Beowulf. I don’t think there are any. It’s bloody long and painful for me to read, and so very boring. I tell her this. She gently disagrees and we go round and round until finally I say something like, fuck Beowulf. Without warning, I drop to the floor and crawl around, rambling profane nonsense before falling into some kind of catatonic state. Then it’s Liz, meet psych ward. Enjoy your stay.
I have only one really clear memory of that little visit. My first meeting with the psychiatrist. Which doesn’t surprise me since he was the oddest-looking man I’d ever seen; a cross between a funeral director out of a horror movie, and Cary Grant from the movie “North by Northwest.” Or so I thought at the time. Anyway, Dr. Freud Wannabe strolls into my room wearing an elegantly appointed grey suit, brilliant white shirt with, most unfortunately, a silk bow tie clinging to the collar like a bloody red inkblot card. Totally crashed the suit, in my opinion. He takes a seat next to the bed, leans back, and gracefully crosses a leg. 
“Miss Dingaling? My name is Dr. Bow Tie Freud. I’m the hospital psychiatrist. I only have a couple of questions. Try not to be nervous. Just do the best you can. All right?” He clears his throat. “Can you tell me what this phrase means?” Pausing dramatically, he murmurs, “A rolling stone gathers no moss.”
I burst out laughing. So much for drama. This guy’s funny. We’re off to a roaring start. Until . . . I realize he’s serious. I put my serious face on and mumble, “What did you say?” Patiently, he repeats the question. Instantly, I have this vision of Jack and Jill tumbling down the hill together, gathering speed, not moss. I giggle. “No. I haven’t the slightest idea what that means. Sorry.”
He jots something down, looks at me again, and says much more softly, “All right. Can you tell me what this means? Birds of a feather flock together.”
I stop giggling and try to focus on the question, because now I’m thinking this must be some kind of IQ test and I’m flunking worse than a college dropout. But then again, maybe the doctor’s just plain loco. “I’m sorry, Dr. Bow Tie Freud, but I have no idea what that means. Are you feeling alright today?”
He sends me a strange look. My third apology in as many seconds whooshes out of my mouth like a tornado sweeping over the lush, emerald cornfields of Kansas. “Sorry, that was rude.” But the good doc seems to realize I’m truly concerned about him. A gentle smile frames his mouth. “Well, just one more question, Miss Dingaling. Can you tell me who the President of the United States is?”
My smile opens up like an angel descending from heaven. Yeehaw! A question I can answer. I’m not so dumb after all. “GERALD FORD!” He chuckles and nods his head. 
I’m released from the hospital three days later, and begin therapy with the man. At the end of my second session, he sadly informs me that my mother is unable to pay for anymore sessions. An incredibly compassionate look appears on his face. But he totally catches me by surprise when he informs me that he brought my “case” up before the Texas Vocational Rehabilitation Commission. He's quite sure I’ll qualify for college tuition assistance from them until I graduate. Then they’ll help me find a job. I just need to fill out the paperwork.
I stare at him like his head morphed into a giant red rubber ball, matching the color of his bow tie. Case? I had a minor stress problem. “What? How did you manage to do that? Don’t you have to be pretty sick to get this kind of help? I’m not sick. I feel perfectly fine now.”
He stares at me with eyes the color of warm cocoa. “Liz, you’ve got a form of mental illness called schizophrenia. That's as sick as you can get . . ." My antenna shuts off for a blurry few minutes, then . . . "But my hands are tied since you can't afford treatment. The only thing I can do for you now is send you home with a prescription. Call the office when you need a refill. If you have any adverse . . ." blah, blah, blah. A lot of blah, I think, as he drones on and on. The man is so far off base, he has landed on Mars. After all, I’m not hearing voices in my head. And I for sure don’t wear aluminum hats to ward off lethal gamma rays from outer space. But I fill out the paperwork anyway. I’m not dumb.
I thank him very kindly, and tell him I’ll somehow pay him back for the sessions we’ve already had. He says not to worry about it.
I leave the office and promptly throw away the prescription.
Schizophrenia, my sweet ass!

Friday, November 16, 2012

"Sucks, Doesn't It?" A memoir

C h a p t e r  1

Capital Beltway, Silver Spring, MD. Sign up ahead. DANGEROUS CURVE

Groan. This is the last place on earth I want to be. Currently, I'm cruising down the highway to Hades with hubby, headed to my obstetrician’s office for the infamous six-week post-natal checkup. And I’m pissed. That probably has something to do with the fact that I take gross exception to nearly dying each time I give birth. Well, make that nearly dying in two out of three labor and deliveries over the span of seven years. The second one, a boy by the way, was the scene of much joy and happiness because I had no pain. It was like I was stoned the whole time as I surfed these massive waves of undulating pain levels, giggling uncontrollably each time the doctor said push. No surprise then that only son ended up a forceps child. But with the birth of daughters one and two, I begged to die, until death actually came knocking on my door. Well, as you can imagine, I slammed it shut as soon as I saw who it was! 
       Ah well, maybe I just need to get over my mad. Won’t be needing Dr. L&D again, anyways. Will I? After all, my baby- raising days are over. Aren’t they? I’m only 36, but I’d sure love to see 37, maybe even 70, before round three of my short, philosophical discussion with Mr. Death goes something like, hell no, I won't go! I mean, everybody knows the third time he comes knocking, you're out of options.
As I plop into a plasticky chair in the waiting room, I try to settle down, but there’s like this F5 tornado forming in my throat. Ok, me, give the poor doctor a break, no harm, no foul. But suddenly, and very rudely I might add, a voice shouts, “Horse shit! Kick his ass out the door on this one. You almost died!” Huh? Who said that? My eyes dart around the room. I’m anxious to nail the perpetrator. But to my surprise, the other patients have their faces plastered to the inside of a magazine. Must be some pretty good shit, I mean stuff, they’re reading.
With considerable effort, I shake off my confusion, then sit back and think more about that rather loathsome voice. Sure sounds familiar. In fact, I could swear I've heard that voice before! But I take another peek around the room, just in case the guilty party is ready to own up to the little outburst. Nope. All is as before. Well, somebody in this room has a major problem.
Another few minutes pass. Then . . . without warning, I bolt upright as I remember exactly when and where I'd heard that voice before! Six weeks earlier.  
I’m in a hospital recovery room, a bit disoriented after delivering child number three by a very unplanned C-Section. Suddenly . . . I lose consciousness and find myself staring into a yawning black hole coming toward me like some trick ceiling about to lower a crushing blow to its hapless victim. I begin to wonder where the bright light is because it’s apparent to me the tunnel of death is about to kiss my sweet sugar bee lips. Well, until . . . a voice from out of nowhere shouts, “Just great! Like I’m goin’ there. Ain’t happenin’. Oh, and God, or whoever the hell you are? Take the bright lights shit with you too, along with the happy angel escort!” And just as soon as one might say, I really don’t want to die now, I abruptly awake to the sound of a nurse exhaling in relief.
Le sigh of relief of my own as I struggle back to the present. But the relief doesn't last long. That strange little voice, so childlike in tone, yet so alpha-male aggressive in lexicon, unnerves me. I ask my husband if he heard anything out of the ordinary. He says no. I tap my temple like it’s a TV and I’m playing with the power button. I watch my right foot swing back and forth, sometimes fast, sometimes not. Shifting in my chair to stop the damn foot, I find myself starting to get really annoyed. Not only with the voice—the waiting is driving me nuts. Doctors’ offices. Sheesh. Mentally I read the sign I’d like to put on the wall next to the receptionist’s desk: Please take a seat in our torture chamber exclusively designed for your waiting pleasure. We’ll be with you as soon as we can, but remember that time has no meaning here, unless you, the patient, are late.
Ok, so I guess I’ll use the agony of waiting productively and rehearse the speech I’ve prepared for Dr. L&D that goes something like . . . YOU’RE FIRED! It’s the abbreviated version, but needs the most practice. Of course, I’m pretty sure I’ll puke up my nerve, and end up saying nothing, or, I’ll say just the opposite of what I intended.
When my doc finally comes strolling in on the second leg of my waiting journey, the patient cubicle, he glances at the baby, smiles, takes off his stethoscope and crams it into his pocket. What’s with docs who shuck the old scope as soon as they walk into the room? It’s not as if they aren’t going to use it in the next half-second. Is it a nervous tic? A bold power move? What? . . . Oh shut up, I tell myself. Focus.
Dr. L&D politely asks how I’m doing as he takes my vitals. I hesitate, because now I'm thinking, don’t even start bitching, lady. You’ll lose a good doctor. Hmm . . . isn’t that the point? My mouth sure thought so. Without asking me, it plows ahead in a veritable torrent of words. “Well, I was wondering how you could possibly have missed the breech that resulted in an emergency C-section and an anesthetic drug overdose which left me nearly dead and in a stupor for two days!” Shit! Mouthpalm! 
Doc takes a giant step back, proceeded by a sharp intake of breath that slices me in half. The, is she going to sue me, wheels are bouncing off the walls of his mind, I can tell. With calculated coldness he replies, “It’s not unusual for a baby to turn at the last moment, and in your case that’s what happened. And I certainly didn’t realize you were having trouble. Nobody mentioned anything to me before I left the hospital. Was there a problem?”
I start to speak when I’m rudely interrupted. “Problem? No, Doc. Really. I enjoyed my near permanent cruise to heaven. You moron!”
I blink. Oh dear Lord, please let there be a bar of soap I can shove right into my piehole! But luckily for me, Dr. L&D doesn’t seem to have taken it badly at all. In fact, he’s staring at me like he’s waiting for a reply. It finally dawns on me that the voice hadn’t flown out of my disloyal mouth like some demonic plane bent on revenge. So, I stammer a bit as I explain what happened post-op, and how difficult that had made the recovery, both physically and emotionally.
He nods sympathetically. “Emergency c-sections can be a really big shock, so I understand what you’re saying. As I said before, sometimes, and for reasons we don’t fully understand, the baby turns at the very last minute. At that point, I have to make a quick decision, before the baby goes into distress. Anyway, if you’re having residual anxiety about the delivery I’ve got a therapist here in the office you can talk to.”
Ok, the guy’s sincere. That’s obvious. I tell myself to back off and take the help that’s being offered. “Ok, sure, I’ll do that, Dr. L&D. Thank you.” We finish up the exam, but Mr. Warmth is gone. Doctors don't like being questioned. That pisses me off again. Maybe my close call could have been prevented. I decide to retrieve the hospital records. 
But first things first. I reluctantly walk up to the receptionist to get the therapist’s card, because something’s jamming my mind around with not-so-subtle messages that far more has gone wrong than just a bad delivery.