Back in Pen’s office a week later.
“So Liz, how are you doing? Any anxiety or panic attacks?”
I lean back in the chair and take a deep breath. Tough question. Not really. “Went pretty well. A few rocking moments, but nothing bad. You were right. The panic attacks are decreasing. AND I can rock without falling to the floor. Yea!”
“The rocking is actually a coping mechanism to help relieve anxiety, Liz.”
“Ok. But how lame is that? Definitely infantile. There’s got to be other ways of relieving anxiety besides rocking or taking meds.”
“Are you on any medication, Liz?”
“Valium sometimes, if I get to the point that I think I’m gonna sail off a cliff.” I cross my leg, square to the floor. Tap, tap, tap, goes my footie. Drum, drum, drum go my fingers. Speed varies.
“What happened to your fingers, Liz? That looks painful. And you left so quickly last time, I didn’t have a chance to ask you about it.”
I glance down at the bandaids surrounding all the fingers of my right hand. The tapping and drumming stop. Time to go on high alert. I'm not sure why. “Oh, just broke a glass and got careless picking up the pieces. No big deal.”
But despite my protestations, I notice she gives me a searching look. I return the scrutiny, and wonder if all therapists do that staring thing. Like as if the client’s gonna suddenly spring out of the chair and bite them in the neck or something. The tapping and drumming begin again.
“How are things at home? Have you been able to resume teaching?”
“Yeah. I started back up last week. But I had to reduce my workload by fifty percent. I don’t have the stamina anymore. Since I got sick, anyway.”
“Have you had anger problems?”
“Not really. I don’t think my anger is any worse than it was four years ago when you and I met the first time.”
I start to get a little impatient with all the questioning. “So, Pen, what’s the diagnosis? You got one yet. I’m in a hurry, here.”
She cracks a smile. “No, Liz. As I said before, it’s still too early in the assessment period. But, I’ve got a tough question for you now . . . Do you ever hear voices in your head?”
I uncross my legs and lean forward. “Do you?” Suddenly I giggle. “Sorry, Pen, the doc asked me that same question in the hospital. So, I’ll you what I basically told him. Any voice that speaks inside my head is my own. See, I have these huge editorial conferences with myself every single day, every single hour, right down to every millisecond. Because every single person on this earth has a continuous flow of dialogue going on in their minds. Probably in different languages, though." A cheshire grin appears.
Pen doesn't reciprocate. She gives me another searching look. “Do you suffer from any depressive episodes that tend to last longer than is normal?”
“No. I mean, sometimes I get a little down. But again, most people have those kind of moments.”
“Do you drink at all, Liz?”
“Oh hell no. Never have. I'm a control freak. And before you ask, I don’t do drugs for the same reason.”
“That's good to hear, because therapy will go quite a bit faster if your mind isn't clouded by drink or drugs.” She shifts in her chair and clears her throat. Change of direction, I betcha. “Now, I’ve spent some time going over the first journal entry you gave me, Liz. I have some questions about that.”
“Ok, shoot me.”
She smiles again, and brings out the copy of my first journal entry. “Can you tell me what you were thinking when you wrote this paragraph?”
“Well, I can tell you this much. I had no idea what I wrote when I wrote it. And I couldn’t comprehend what I wrote a few days after I wrote it.”
“I’m not sure I understand what you just said, Liz.”
“Well, what I meant to say was, I wrote the entry on auto pilot, and when I looked back at it later, it didn’t make any sense to me. Still doesn’t.”
“So, you don’t know what this means, “My thoughts are outside of me now . . . and they remain invisible and elusive so I can’t grasp them and put them back in. Which is really what I need to do to become whole again . . .”
“No, have no clue what I was writing there.” My breathing gets a little more labored.
“What about the pictures you drew with the entry? Give me your thoughts on them.”
Long pause. Oh breath, wherefore art thou? “Well . . . I have drawn the conclusion that I can’t draw, if that’s what you mean.” She smiles at the little joke but waits me out. “Honestly, this is all Greek to me. But if you want me to take a stab as to what I think the pictures mean, then—”
“Yes, I do. Give it your best shot.”
I stare at her. She seems to be shrinking. How weird. I blink a few times and try to focus. “Since I’m a musician, I’m going to guess this humpty dumpty-like fella is a conductor with a baton. The wrapped box is a present. The empty box means it was opened. And voila! we have ourselves a Freudian moment, right, Pen?"
She looks at me oddly this time, before scribbling down some notes. While she’s doing that, a quick glance at my watch tells me my time is up. God Bless America. I stand up and salute the flag.
We set another appointment, and Pen tells me to continue writing in the journal. I nod in agreement and practically fly out the door, though not without a deep sense of foreboding that something wicked this way comes!