This is the twelfth in a series of episodes, detailing my dawning realization, that I have some mental issues, that I must address, or risk losing those around me, who mean so much to me. I do not know how many installments this will entail, because I do not have an outline, for this particular avenue, that my Life has chosen to pursue. Because I have always found writing to be therapeutic, I am going to share my journey with anyone, who cares to read along. Believe me, I am not having that much fun.
Cool the Engines Down
Why was I having problems telling Dr. Garratt what was on my mind? After all, I was here in Comptche, at this psychiatrist’s office, so it was my turn on the phone. One reason is because that has been my problem all along. There are already too many facts, stacked one on top of another, and I have barely begun my discussion about emotions; everyone knows that emotions take up more space than facts. Ask any middle schooler, which is what I am, external appearances to the contrary.
Another reason I was having difficulty loosening my tongue, is because Annie was seated beside me, both a bonus and a burden. I do not have to explain the bonus part, Annie’s presence needing no justification, but the other deals with the fact that we are both examining the same person [me], using the same criteria, but drawing different conclusions. Annie’s presence here, though not imperative, was certainly key from the perspective that Dr. Garratt needed to hear the concerns, which those around me had been feeling. I could give a clinical synopsis, but was in no position to be objective.
So I began my summary with a disjointed account, which immediately made me try to over-correct, feeling a rise in my level of concern, that I had not experienced with Norm Bigelman, at the Long Valley Health Center. I was trying too hard to avoid falling into the trap of spilling too much information, without a coherent enough storyline. The net result was a guy, quasi-amping, scrambling to include relevant information, but rapidly falling behind in his efforts to be succinct and articulate, the two attributes that Norm had complimented me on, as having in my repertoire.
Unexpectedly, Dr. G interrupted me and asked if he might hear from Annie. This was the reason she was here, but the timing of her input seemed off to me, because she had far less to say than I, and I felt that I was in only mid-stream, with little or no chance at completing the canvas, before Annie took the scissors to it. I mean, that is what she was supposed to be doing, providing additional background to the story of what I was experiencing, but it seemed to be a peculiar manner, to go about the task. I am pretty linear, and prefer to take on a chore, from beginning to end, before moving on, so this interruption came as a surprise.
He asked her to give a brief summary of family concerns. Annie said, “For some time now, going back to the final two years of your teaching, your sons and I have been noticing your fluctuating moods, ranging from depression to outbursts of energy, that may be accompanied by emotional sentiments. Certain incidents seem to trigger more reaction from you than seems necessary, or even normal. You seem unaware of the impact these emotional outbursts have on those around you.”
Style points aside, when I realized that Annie had reached back to my last two years of teaching, and was expounding on her belief, that I was severely depressed at this time, I felt this was a bit out of the scope of my current thinking, which was centered on the last eighteen months, not seven years ago. So, as always, when faced with the unexpected, my tendency to panic, nurtured for 48 years, kicked in. I started to shut down, my face becoming stony, as she intoned, leaving me vacuous and uninterested. This did not go unnoticed.
Where was my platform that I had employed so efficiently with Norm? Where were my five commandments, laying down the ground-rules, one of which as that the new Mark was very assertive, and would not hesitate to pull the plug on the whole gig, if it were not all systems go? I was not feeling warm and fuzzy at all towards this Tim Robbins fellow, whom Dr. G so closely resembled.
If I had felt warm and fuzzy, I would have been using potty mouth all along, and I could no more say the eff word with Dr. G, than I could with Sister Annunciation, my fifth and eighth grade teacher, at St. Martha’s Elementary School. I just did not want to see him flinch. When had I informed Norm that he could expect to hear nasty language from me, he told me that he had been known as the S.A.T. guy at a former venue, which stood for Smart-Ass-Therapist, which tickled my funny bone. Yes, I thought Norm and I could have made a go of this therapy stuff.
Now, as I managed to regain enough moxie to mention that I was opposed to meds of any kind, I found myself explaining that I was nervous about side-effects, to the point of distraction, probably not the best approach, since that point of distraction appeared to have different thresholds, at different times. I said side effects are too important of an element, for me to put aside, and that too often the meds prescribed by doctors, ended up causing just as serious pain, as the original malady.
When pressured for specifics, I mentioned the ability to remain physically close to Annie, because that was an important aspect of our relationship.
Dr. G surprised me by asking, “Why is this so important to you? That you not lose this ability to be physically close?”
My initial fleeting thought was, “It figures that I would have to explain this to you,” but that was balanced by the cerebral part of me that said, “Slow down, get your game brain on, and take the question seriously.” Why was he asking it? Was he thinking that a temporary hiatus was involved, while we sorted this whole mental business out, in which case I was less antagonistic, or was he suggesting something more long-term? That was the question, but I could not sort it all out at the time; I had to wait until I started to pound on my computer keys. That’s when my mind goes to work, on the job of sorting and classifying, and making some sense out of it all. I sure do not do so consistently with my mouth.
All my mouth does is get me into trouble. This time I responded carefully, and did OK. “Annie is the whole reason I am here. I am trying to save my marriage. I do not believe that it is important that I actually perform the act of making love, but I do believe it is important that I be able to if we want.” There, that would have to do, until a week from Friday, which is when we are scheduled to meet again, this time in Mendocino, where Dr. G also has an office.
Later, when Annie and I were hashing over things, still one more time, she wanted to say something, and even tried twice, biting off her words in mid-stream. Finally, after staring off dreamily for a moment, she said slowly and distinctly, “You keep saying you are in therapy because of me, and because you want to save your marriage. But that is the wrong approach, if you are really going to get anything out of this. It has to be about you, Mark, and not about me.”
I understood what she was saying, and amended my statement to, “Yes, of course, you are right. What I mean is our marriage is the catalyst for getting the process under way. The goal is to get a diagnosis of me out of this therapy. Whether or not I agree with it, is an entirely different thing.” Her point was registered, delivered and signed for.
Until a week from Friday then, I will mull it all over, and try to make some sense out of it all, before I occupy the hot seat again. Maybe I can find some way to cool the emotional engines down and with them, the hot seat too.