Silver Spring, MD
Déjà vu. I’m sitting across from Dr. Penguin, rocking nervously. Gee, I'd sure like to stay off the floor and not lapse into a hundred voices. And knowing I would be in such a state at the beginning of the session, B was prepared to be the initial speaker. In anticipation of that reality, I had dictated on the drive down what I wanted him to say, and not say, having failed to do that when we went to see Dr. Cuckoo. Not that it would’ve mattered to Rip Van Winkle as it turns out.
However, prior experience with Dr. Penguin has taught me that she will most definitely not sleep through the session. On the other hand, I also can’t trust her not to go all female on me if she learns of my self-destructive tendencies. Women are so damn emotional. I don’t care if they are trained therapists. You just can’t take the woman out of the therapist. Simple.
As I listen to B, I’m relieved he only gives the barest details of what has been going on. Eventually, he winds down, and she addresses me.
“Liz, why don’t you tell me what’s been happening since you’ve been out of the hospital.”
The rocking subsides as I hear the gentleness in her voice. “I’m not sure. One minute I’m me, the next I’m some crazy lunatic crawling around on my hands and knees wailing in childish voices I can’t control.
Nodding sympathetically, she carefully replies, “About the voices, Liz. Are they angry, sad, scared . . . what?”
“Hmm . . . scared. Then again, it’s mostly childish babble. But sometimes, I’ll find myself singing stupid nursery rhymes. Really weird stuff.” I pause, as my senses suddenly go on high alert, like a wolf surveying its territory. Narrowing my eyes, I say brusquely, “That’s it.”
She smiles warmly, and I relax a bit. “Well, it’s too early to assess what’s really going on here, Liz, but I can already see that you’re exhibiting many of the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A few years ago, I started to explain what PTSD is, but you left before I could work you through it.” She hesitates. “This time, we have to dig deeper in order for us to get at the bottom of these terrible panic attacks.” She hesitates again. “Why didn’t you come back to therapy a few years ago, Liz?”
I shrug. “Didn’t think we needed to explore my childhood. Nothing really bad happened to me when I was growing up. Maybe a couple of minor incidents is all. Anyway, what’s done is done. It's simply a case of mind over matter now.” I rock a little harder, then mutter, “Problem is, if you don’t have a mind, all bets are off.” Louder, I continue, “So, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get back on track. But I gotta be honest here, Pen. I don’t think PTSD is the main problem.” I explain about my breakdown at twenty-one and what Dr. Bow Tie Freud’s diagnosis had been. “Do you think he’s right? Am I just a walking mental case?”
“Like I said, Liz, it’s way too early to assess what may be wrong, but I’m glad you told me that.” She scribbles something down and looks at her watch. “For the next session, I’d like you to start a journal. I want you to begin by drawing a family circle, listing parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles. And then write a brief synopsis of your relationship with each, good or bad.” She smiles.
B asks her how often I should come to therapy. She replies firmly, once a week. I ask her if these panic episodes will lessen. She says yes, in time they will.
I stand up feeling very relieved, thank her and set another appointment. As I walk out the door, I also feel real hope that I’ll eventually be normal again, and this whole last couple of months of nightmare will fade away leaving nary a scar on my psyche.
Unfortunately, that warm inspirational fuzzy lasts all of five seconds, before Psycho Voice emerges and tosses a grenade in my direction.
“Hey, Lizzie, once upon a Greek myth, Zeus gave Pandora a jar with all the evils of the world in it. Then he tells her not to open it. I know, stupid right? ‘Cos of COURSE she opened it! Then guess what? All hell broke loose!”