This is the thirteenth 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.
Those Trick Questions
After a slow start, I had managed to interject one of my edicts into the conversation at Dr. Garratt’s, on Tuesday, during my introductory consultation, at which Annie was also present. To this point I have elaborated on the unfortunate differences between this appointment and the one in Laytonville, last week with Norm, as being significant.
If I have given the impression until this point, that I view Dr. Garratt, in any other light, than that of a dedicated practitioner of his profession, then that is just first impressions speaking. I have said that Norm and I hit it off in a very short period of time, but Annie pointed out two pieces of relevant information. One was that Norm knew in advance that he would not be seeing me as a patient, and knew that our meeting would be only fifteen minutes long. Therefore, he had no intention of doing anything other than listening to me, and then sending me on my way. The other piece of info was that Norm gained nothing, in such a short time, by asking clarifying questions or trying to direct me in any way, so he gave off the impression of being less heavy-handed.
I have mentioned that one reason why Dr. Jill and I * were so successful together, was that she diagnosed my primary issue of anxiety within the first session and a half of my therapy, something that can only be done, by asking probing questions. Therefore, it was/is unfair to evaluate Dr. G after one consultation. I have said all along that I am a fan of the process, to the extent that I believe in it, and have seen successful results, within myself, firsthand. Therefore, it does not matter what I think of him as a person, only what I think of him as my doctor, and that takes time to build trust. That’s what I am grappling with now, along with Annie.
What about those meds, for instance, the ones that I had adamantly asserted, that I did not want to have to take? I had been thinking long- term, and had been foreseeing the possibility that he would prescribe something for when a diagnosis had been completed. Now he suddenly shifted gears again, and asked me, “How about your sleep habits? Do you get plenty of sleep?”
Oh those trick questions. “As a matter of fact,” I began quickly enough, on solid ground here, “sleep is an ongoing issue, as in, I don’t get as much as I would like. I used to lie awake while I was still teaching, until 3:15AM, when I would get up and start the fires, brew the coffee, and bring a cup to Annie, at 3:45.
“What time do you normally go to bed, now, and what time do you get up?” Uh oh, now I’m in for it.
“I generally try to make it up until eight at night, before retiring. On a good night I will get four hours plus, but most nights are not all that good. I know that my sleep patterns are messed up, and I may even have sleep apnea, but that is just a guess.”
“Well, lack of sleep is definitely something that promotes some of the concerns that Annie has mentioned.”
“Well, I always nap during the day, and frequently I will return to bed for an an hour and a half, or longer, in the early hours, before Annie wakes up. I always take a late morning nap, and I frequently take a late afternoon nap, especially if I want to listen to a ball game, or watch a film. On average, I get at least seven hours, per 24 hour period of time. It’s just that I have an unconventional lifestyle, which includes the ability to sleep, at any time I hear the music.”
“You hear music?” Dr. G was looking at me in a new light, his head cocked, his eyes alive with interest.
“Well, I hear the music that I always listen to when I nap.” Dr. G did not comprehend, and Annie helped him out.
“What Mark is saying is that he listens to music on his headphones when he naps, so that he does not hear what is going on around him.”
“We have dogs, and they go off routinely, so my headphones allow me to nap undisturbed.” I added that, and then went on. “Because I always listen to the same CD, when I get tired, I automatically start running that song through my brain. It’s not as though I were having an aural hallucination.”
Dr. G’s eyes twinkled merrily, as though he could read what I was thinking. If he could have, I would have told him that I hear music in my head 24/7. In fact, I have three tracks going on in my head at all times, one musical in nature, one a running dialogue inside my head, like a stream of consciousness, and then a “projects track.” I tried to explain that to Annie, a while back, and I tried again this morning.
“You mean you hear them at the same time?” she ventured, cautiously. “How is that possible?”
“Well, the tracks are going simultaneously and I focus on the one that requires the most of my attention. I don’t know what you want me to say. I assume everyone has the same thing going on in his or her head. How would I know otherwise?”
She looked at me a little funny. “No, no I don’t think so. That’s not the way my head operates. I just think it must be kind of hard, for you to try and follow what’s going on.”
“Think of it as me being in the pool room, chilling with my homies, and we are listening to the stereo, say Groundation is playing as we shoot a little stick, and make with the palaver. In the living room, clearly visible and audible through the two four-foot arches, is a ballgame, the sound of the action rising and falling with the cadence of the game. So simultaneously, I am in a venue, which features my conversation with the guys shooting pool, I am singing along with Groundation, “It takes a weak heart to judge those who suffer,” and I am rejoicing because the Panda has just rocketed a ball off the base of the wall in Triples Alley, the ball has taken a wicked hop, and Pablo is burning rubber around first base, thinking inside-the-parker all the way. What’s to understand? That’s what’s going on inside my head, 24/7.”
Just take that ballgame in the background, and transform it to back in the day, when I was teaching, and that third track was planning, planning, non-stop. What was fourth period social studies, going to be doing when we wrapped up the feudal period at the end of this week? Now that third track writes stories 24/7. while the music plays, and the stream-of-consciousness comments on the pertinent details of the morning. Whatever.
I woke to the realization that Dr. G was proposing that he write a prescription for something that would allow me to sleep. “I once prescribed this medication, for a guy who had not slept for two years, and he slept like a baby within two weeks.”
But I did sleep, I wanted to protest, just not in seven hour blocks. Out the door we went, with the prescription in my SF Giants wallet, ready to stop in at the Laytonville Pharmacy to pick up the “meds.”
* I narrate my emergence from panic attack disorder in “Six Days a Week,” posted in July of 2011, my inaugural post.