Deciding to talk about the (most) recent incident with my clinician has become a lot more than I had anticipated. It started because I felt the need to talk about the horrible place I was in when he first started treating me. I want it to be known the hell I was going through, and the amount of trust I put in this person to help me get past it. I need to show how insidious this was, and about the torture I put myself through thinking it was me or that I was reading more into his words and gestures than was there. Talking about that last part is where it started getting complicated because the reason I started torturing and blaming myself was that I was told by people that I trusted – that I love – that I was wrong about what was happening. In their defense, I’m very good at hiding pain, and I probably didn’t convey how much I was hurting. But, assuming that I haven’t lost my entire ability to write, this series would.
I’ve been sitting on this entry, wondering how much I really want to reveal of that ugly time, and I finally decided that talking about it all is what I’m supposed to do. I’m meant to just lay it all out. If there’s anything good to come from this – or any of the shit I’ve experienced – it’s always been my hope that by talking about it, I can help someone else to not suffer what I did, whether it’s mentally, physically, medically, or emotionally. I’ve fought against them all. And I know millions of people are battling them now, and they feel like they’re alone. I know I did. Maybe I can help someone else not feel that way. Maybe helping others isn’t as monuments as laying your life down for someone, but by laying your life out for them.
In deciding to be very, very honest here, I’m including this alert that:
TRIGGER WARNINGS include: Mention of domestic violence, death threats, sudden illness, death, suicide, alcohol, and cutting
I have spread my nightmares under your feet…
“This has been a really bad year.”
The couch was way too soft. I shifted around uncrossing my legs and then recrossing them in the opposite direction.
“I used to say that 2008 was the most hellish year I’d ever lived through, but I don’t know if I could say that now. The only reason that I’m not calling 2015 that is because I’ve had seven years to heal from the trauma of 2008. But I did go through some awful shit. I mean, you were there for a lot of it so I don’t have to tell you. But I think the 2008 version of me would resent it if I invalidated myself just because I’m from the future. Wait.” I looked toward the ceiling as I thought. “Did anyone die that year? No, I don’t think so. Only my ex-husband threatening to drive to my house on Easter to kill me and himself. My poor grandfather slept on the couch that evening just in case.”
I sighed and looked down again. “But anyway, this year didn’t start so bad. My health took another turn in 2013, and they still don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I’d started to feel a little better.
“And then Lily died. She was almost fifteen, but you’re never ready to say goodbye. I can still remember the day she was born. She was so small that she could fit into my one hand.” I was staring at the geometric pattern of the ugly carpet. It began to dance in nauseating swirls as remembered the tiny white puppy. I blinked the memory away before the carpet could make me throw up.
“Then my health started falter. Again. I passed out at work, and they carted me off to the hospital. Of course none of my bloodwork was ‘bad enough’ to explain anything.” I allowed myself the luxury of another sigh. “Whatever.”
“But then Kira got sick on the first day of July. She basically passed out the same way that I did and ended up taking her own trip to a hospital. She was extremely anemic. They thought she might have a stomach ulcer or…something worse. I couldn’t even consider that, so we just fought as well as we could for a full month. Medications and vet visits, two blood transfusions.” I squeezed my eyes shut. I would not cry. I bit my lip until the metallic taste of suppressed grief was on my tongue, but I did not cry. “But I knew she was tired. And I had to let her go. Within thirty days she was gone. She had only turned eleven that month. She was only eleven.
“In September, my friend killed herself,” I plowed forward.
The sharp intake of breath made me glance at the wizened little woman in the easy chair for the first time since I’d walked into her office and started spilling my guts. Roseanne was sitting across from me with an open grimace. It had been five years since my last session with her. She had never been one to hide what she was feeling, so her unhappy expression was a familiar one. Her office was different though. It was in the same building, but in a room on the opposite side. Apparently she didn’t find her new office any warmer than the previous one because she was wrapped in a sweater the way that she had always been before.
“How did it happen?” she asked as she tightened the sweater around her shoulders and huddled further into her chair.
“I don’t know.” I shook my head. “I don’t think I want to know. We hadn’t been friends that long. She was just one of those people that you instantly click with. She was so beautiful and talented and smart and funny and kind, and so many people loved her. I don’t know why she did it. I don’t know why she didn’t reach out.”
“Does her – .”
“But a few weeks after she died the VP of my department at work told us that there was going to be a project to clean up the unbalanced accounts,” I said a little too loudly. I was doing my best to take her on the abridged version of hell that was 2015, and we’d never get to the end if we stopped to sight-see.
When I saw Roseanne’s mouth shut, I continued it a softer voice. “The Finance Manager was put in charge and she was going to take two people – one person from each reimbursement department – and assign them to work solely on this nightmare project instead of their regular jobs for the next three months.” I attempted a smile, but I couldn’t even muster the sarcasm. “Guess who she chose.”
Roseanne nodded. “You.”
“No. Not me. The Finance Manager wanted someone else from my department, someone who my immature supervisor wanted to be friends with. My supervisor told them to take me instead. And even better, I wasn’t allowed to work at my own desk. I had to move across the building to be next to the Finance Manager so that she could babysit me and the other girl on the project.”
“Ah.” A thin hand ventured from the confines of the sweater. It trembled slightly as Roseanne brushed a few frizzy stands of salt-and-pepper hair from her forehead. “At least we’re in December now, so you’ll be finished soon.”
“Yes, I’ve had a countdown for the past three months of when I’ll be able to return to my own work and my own desk. Only a few more days.” I repositioned my legs again and drummed my fingers on the knee that now crossed the other. “Or at least it was but then the manager called us into her office two days ago and said that there was still too much to clean up, so she had been approved to keep us for another three months.”
Roseanne frowned and leaned her head against hand.
” I can’t do this anymore. I can’t. I can’t think about the holidays. I can’t think about work. I can’t take thinking anymore. I want it to stop. I want it to all just stop. I don’t have anything left in me.” I shook my head. “I don’t even have enough left to care that I’m admitting I’m weak.”
Another familiar look – one of annoyance – appeared on Roseanne’s face.
“You’re not weak. We talked about that before. The ones who seek help are not the weak ones.”
“I am weak. I can’t control my emotions anymore. And I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t.”
I looked into Roseanne’s face and saw a new expression, one I had never seen in my previous years of counseling with her, not even when telling her about the threats I’d receive. It was genuine concern.
“Kat…,” Roseanne stared at me, but her fingers were intend on plucking at the edge of her sweater. “Kat, do you think there’s the possibility that you could hurt yourself?”
I thought about the previous night. There was about half a bottle of rum in the cabinet that was leftover from making cocquito. I’d looked at the bottle and thought about how I wasn’t supposed to drink because of my heart. But my heart was already broken I’d reasoned, so I’d taken a swig, and then reached around in my tool bag until I found the box cutter. I was making a shelter for the feral cat that had taken up residency on the porch by cutting out the side of a rubber tote. The box cutter was new and extremely sharp, so I’d sliced through the thin rubber with hardly any effort. I was finished and my thumb had been on the lever to sheath the blade back into safety when I stopped and stared at the boxcutter. It was so much sharper than the cheap disposal box cutters. I’d wondered how sharp it really was, and it suddenly seemed logical to press it against the skin of my hand to see what would happen. I didn’t even register that I’d moved until I saw the blood. I was shocked. Of course the blade was sharp – why the hell had I done that? I started to become angry. I didn’t even know why except that it had something to do with me. It was all me. I was so angry at myself that I said I deserved what I’d done, in fact, I should keep going until…
“Yes. I do. That’s why I’m here.” I made sure to look at Roseanne, and not at my bandaged hand.
Roseanne gave a determined nod as if bracing herself. “Are you taking medication?”
“Yes.” I rattled off the names of the two antidepressants I had been taking for years.
“Who prescribes them?”
“My family doctor.”
Another familiar look of disdain crossed Roseanne’s face. “They don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to mental health.” She stood up and wrapped the huge sweater around her tiny frame. I registered that it was a different sweater from the one I remembered. “I’ll be right back.”
I wondered if she was going to call a padded wagon to come and haul me away in a straightjacket.
She returned a minute later with an irritated look. “He’s not there. I didn’t realize how late it was.”
I raised my eyebrows, but that was the closest I could come to caring.
“Ed,” Susan told me. “He’s a psychiatric nurse practitioner. He specializes in adolescents, but he sees adults too, and he’s very good. He knows what he’s talking about regarding the proper medications, and, even more than that,” she sat back down in her chair and leaned forward earnestly, “he listens.”
When I didn’t respond, she continued, “He should be in tomorrow. I’ll speak to him first thing, and I’m sure that he will make time to see you. Are you willing to see him?”
I shrugged. “Sure.”
Roseanne looked suddenly looked uncomfortable. “He doesn’t take insurance.”
“Of course he doesn’t.” I dug into my bag and pulled out my checkbook. Roseanne didn’t accept my insurance anymore either. I was handing her a check when there was a quiet knock at the door.
Roseanne leapt from her chair and scurried across the room. She practically yanked the man on the other side into the room. “Ed! This is Kat,” she nodded in my direction. “She’s on medication for depression and anxiety but it’s not working and she could really use your help.”
He was taken aback, but recovered quickly. “Oh…well, certainly.”
I, on the other hand, was not certain at all. A moment ago, “Ed” had been idea, and now he was a person. A person standing the in the room. A male person. Also, I’d expected someone older, but Ed appeared to be about my age. He didn’t look like as someone who prescribed medication. Instead of business attire, he was wearing a Star Wars t-shirt, and his hair twisted in unruly curls around his head like a toddler’s who had just woken from a nap.
“You weren’t in your office.” Roseanne gave him one of her disapproving looks.
“I’m so sorry. My wife called and needs me to pick up something for the baby.” He turned to me. “He’s teething, and I don’t expect to ever sleep again.”
I guessed that explained his hair. “Yes, I know that’s rough,” I told him in rote response.
“Oh you have kids?” he asked.
“Only the furry ones. Or I guess, one.”
“That’s part of the problem.” Roseanne looked like she wanted to box his ears.
“I’m…sorry.” Ed plucked a tissue from the requisite box on the coffee table and handed it to me. “Your lip is bleeding,” he said softly.
“Oh. It’s chapped,” I muttered. I pressed the tissue against my mouth. “And you know you can only use Chapstick once or twice before it disappears.”
“Ha, ha, that’s true!” He smiled and nodded his head, then cocked it slightly as if he were studying me. “I’m done office hours for the day, but I can find a place to squeeze you in tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” I could tell Roseanne wasn’t keen on the idea of waiting.
“Tomorrow’s fine,” I answered looking at Roseanne.
Ed looked at Roseanne and then back at me. His brow furrowed a bit as he reached out to put his hand on top of my fist clenched around the ball of tissue, and then he smiled reassuringly. “It’ll be okay. I promise.”
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