“Something‘s missing. Something‘s wrong.
I used to know where I belong,
but now each day feels like a fight.
Nothing in my life feels right.
My mom tap-dances on my nerves.
My father has this way with words
that makes me feel like I’m a child.
My credit bill is running wild...
And then there’s the environment...
Let’s not start on the President!
My friends are all so self-obsessed,
and my chihuahua is possessed!
My Facebook posts are massive fails,
I’m terrified of vapor trails...
Oh, I just want the world to stop!”
“... Ma’am, this is a coffee shop.”
#therapy #coffee #chihuahua #whatisthepointofthese #challengeoftheweek
The next one comes in—
I see his shadow, forming thin
When I ask him to take a seat
He looks really beat•••
O, and his face••••
All blank, just a grey space
He turns his face toward me
Then its his eyes that I first see
Ah, he’s ready to begin•••
I’ll try not to be so mean
He laughs and tells me that,
Something is troubling him
He’s afraid of something••••
Now that’s very concerning
The room grows darker
His shadow gets larger
I gasp and hold my breath
As I rush toward my shelf
With one hand I grab
My long golden garb
The shadow fears the light
That shines from it•••
My garb glows brighter
& aft’r a little while••••
The shadow fades away
Into a burst of stars **
A few seconds later....
I stare at the faceless man
But his face isn’t blank...
He smiles and sheds a tear
Monday, 24 June, 2019.©
He sits there
Telling me his life story
In no particular order
Spilling secrets like sugar,
Sweet, all over me
He is so self-aware.
And I watch him grow
As he takes apart his life
And rebuilds it in his mind
In a way that makes sense.
He is so self-aware.
I blush often.
I hope he is not so aware of me.
As I cross my legs, trying
To remove the tingle I feel as he speaks.
His voice, like honey
As it trickles into my ear
Where I now, to my shame
Wish his whispers would float
He often looks at me
Like a flash of sunlight
On a wing mirror.
I’m like a girl again.
I wore black trousers
And white buttoned up blouse
Each week I dared a little more,
Subconsciously at first, to tempt him.
A skirt, quite long
But shorter each week;
A looser blouse
And thinner, so it showed the outline of my bra.
Soon I left a button open
Or one midway down
For him to glance inside.
Blouses got thinner
Bras got darker
Skirts got shorter
Buttons! I just want to rip them all off
Look at me!
Look what I’m offering you!
For fuck’s sake
Take me now!
As his voice flows like honey
And his eyes search his past,
Fixing his life
As he destroys mine.
You stare at me,
I stare back,
My hands shaking
Like emerald leaves falling
You open your mouth,
Another inquiry I have no response to
Anxiety grips my heart,
Squeezing it tight,
The fear won't let go
More prying words directed at me
Sweat beads on my forehead,
Trailing down clammy skin
The panic increases and increases,
Jumbling thoughts in my head
Yet another question
You stare at me,
I stare back
Deep down, I know
You'll never truly understand
“Family is everything,” the doctor says knowingly.
I want to kill him. I do not mean to say that he irritates me and I want the irritation to cease; thus, I am making my point in the most hyperbolic way that seems fitting to the common vernacular. Not at all. I want to be the specific and real cause of the good doctor’s unnatural corporeal conclusion. I click the ballpoint pen in my right hand.
As he continues to elaborate on his latest epiphanic affirmation, trying to draw deeper meaning from a shallow and vapid waste of otherwise breathable air, I visualize how I am going to do it. I possess quite a library of experiential reference material from which to draw, having now rid the world of forty-two similar … irritants.
I once killed an obnoxious woman in the middle of rush hour traffic with her own smartphone. Holding the device four inches in front of one’s face does not qualify as hands-free, my dear. That was impulsive on my part, and while satisfying, not on par with my typical well-planned methodology.
“Really,” the doctor continues, smugness settling comfortably in his voice, “it’s more about nurture than nature. You are an outcome of parental choices, nothing more.”
The parents that once lived next door to me used to perform vociferous angry tirades each time their unaffected goth daughter bothered to come home late, breath smelling of weed and ejaculate. It created a ritual of sorts, wakening to these rowdy recitals, the counterpoint of mother or father screaming their disappointment to the inevitable mumbled, “whatever’. She came home one night to find dear mom and dad hung by matching electrical cords in the foyer. Those kills were too close to home for my usual comfort level, though necessary for my healthful sleeping habits.
“I know, I know” the doctor chuckles, “it’s a cliché. But, really, the root of it all comes down to your mother.”
My mother was my first kill. She had breastfed me until I was seven. While I do not entirely remember suckling at that age, specifically, the slow deflation of her breasts common with her advancing age, signaled to me my deflating need of her. Conversely, her inflating sense of alarm at my proclivities as a young man signaled to me that I could not simply allow her to disappear into the elderly ether as one might choose. I held her under the bath water until the thrashing and the bubbles ceased. Ironically, floating weightless in the oversized whirlpool tub, her breasts then seemed full and as capable of sustaining life as perhaps they once had. I suckled once more but came away with nothing but the taste of lavender bath salts and disappointment. That kill had called for a degree of respect and care that I have not offered to any of the other forty-one.
“You know, the relationship with your mother can have some interesting effects on other more intimate relationships,” the doctor suggests as an afterthought.
My intimate relationships make up eighteen of my kills. There never seemed a more appropriate manner to end said affairs without unnecessary emotional exchanges. Seven women by knife, three men and two women by garotte, three women by smothering, one by poisoning, one pushed into traffic, and one by an elaborate and very nearly unsuccessful hanging during a rock-climbing excursion. Some were indeed suckled, though none were drowned.
Concerned I may be stiffening up sitting in the overly-deep, overly-plush couch, I glance at my watch to distract the good doctor from his self-impressing soliloquy. I tense my legs, preparing as he stalls in mid-sentence and glances at his own watch as if his internal session clock is somehow in question. As he looks down, I launch myself like a coiled viper. I wrap my left arm around the back of the doctor’s head, his expression instantly wrinkling with fright. My right hand plunges the ballpoint pen through his carotid artery, and I withdraw quickly as blood begins pulsing forth, hot and eager, from around the plastic shaft. He tries feebly to reach to the intruding implement, but the rapid blood loss renders him unable before he can even touch it. His vacant expression and slackening flesh tell me he is nearly gone already.
“Thank you, doctor,” I tell him, pulling my pen from his neck with a wet slurp. “I am feeling much better already.”
A Patients Poem
Walking in the therapists room,
not a single window in sight,
felt like I was walking into doom,
until he turned on the light.
A gorgeous sofa and a bean bag,
dazzling books galore,
shelves, chairs, and a flag,
but then he closed the door.
“What’s the matter?”, a voice so nice,
but my mind was engulfed with flames,
he was giving me such good advice,
that was one of his aims.
Walking out of the therapists room,
It turns out it wasn’t so bad.
For now my mind wasn’t filled with gloom,
and my feelings weren’t so sad.
“Thank you for your time and patience. Make sure to work on those exercises, and please, don’t be late next time.” If there will be a next time, I wanted to add. Warily, I watched as the skittish bloke bounded out of the room with one last over-enthusiastic farewell.
Heaving a loud sigh, I ran a hand down my bleary face. I can’t take this anymore. One more unhinged character and I think I’m really going to gouge my eyes out. Seeing as I was almost done with the day, I gathered up my papers and began to arrange them in my file cabinet.
As I was sorting out the last of the batch, I heard a ‘beep’ which I knew was for an e-mail. Please let it not be what I think it is. Begrudgingly, I trudged to my computer and opened the e-mail. I wasn’t even shocked at all this time as I read the message from the company. Of course, since when have fate and I ever been on good terms. I had one last patient for the day.
‘Tyler Evers; Age: 11’
That’s all? Just how am I supposed to work with this? Applying for the special care unit had proven to be one of the greatest mistakes I had ever made. I had assumed people would have been ‘cured’ of their problems so I wouldn't have to receive patients but as it turned out, I was gravely wrong.
Letting out a long breath, I began to prepare for the patient just as I heard a knock. “Come in,” I said. A pale brown-haired boy walked in and sat himself on my black couch without even as much as a greeting. I hope this goes fast.
“Hurry, I don’t have all day you know.” Perplexed, I looked around to find the source of the voice and my gaze landed on the boy who was looking at me with curious and expectant eyes. Did he just—
“Yes, I did, now come sit.” I just stared at the boy in front me in shock and then to the window. I should be able to get to there in three strides and quickly jump out.
“Oh, you’re too kind mister,” he said, sarcasm dripping from his voice as he spoke. “Please put aside your suicidal thoughts and let’s begin the session.”
Too stunned to speak, I sat down in my seat and regarded the boy with curious eyes. He simply shot me a wide innocent smile and I quickly composed myself. The quicker the better.
“Why are you here?” I asked in what I hoped was a steady voice. I think it was.
“It was don’t worry,” he said. At this point, I could only stare at him with a look of disbelief plastered on my face. “To answer your question, I was sent here. Now Mr.—”
“Payne,” I quickly said.
He just laughed. “I already knew. Anyway, Mr. Payne, why are you here?” He asked.
I stared at him confused. “What?” I questioned.
“And you’re supposed to be a therapist?” he asked coolly with a raised eyebrow.
“O-of course, I am,” I sputtered out quickly.
“So, answer the question, why are you here?” He tried again.
“I work here,” I replied.
Rolling his eyes and sighing, his gaze met mine again. “It’s obvious you work here. Okay, what did you want to grow up to be when you were younger?” He asked.
Curious to know what he was getting at, I answered. “An astronaut.”
Nodding his head, seemingly satisfied with my answer, he continued. “Why?”
“I’ve always had a fascination with the stars and the other heavenly bodies,” I answered, my mind in a jumbled mess.
“Interesting,” he noted. “Well, why didn’t you become one?” he asked. Is this an interrogation? His laugh brought me out of my stupor.
“What?” I asked.
“I asked you why you didn’t follow your dreams and become an astronaut, aside from the fact you had some ‘family issues’,” he said doing air quotes with his fingers when he said family issues.
The word flabbergasted would not even be close to describing how I felt in that moment. “How did you know that?” I asked warily.
He just shrugged. “Eh, I have my ways. Now, you’re avoiding my question.” Was I? “Why didn’t you follow your dreams?” He asked again.
Too stumped to actually comprehend anything again, I found myself responding. “I guess it’s because I dropped out from college, that’s why.”
“Interesting,” he responded. “Your familial problems or whatever were that bad?”
My head bobbed up and down on its own accord. “Yeah, I guess, it was very tough time and I needed to find a way to support my family.”
“Alright, but what made you think that was your responsibility? Is an eleven-year-old really asking me this? You’re still young, twenty-six I reckon,” he said. At that, my jaw dropped. He probably took a lucky guess, yeah that’s it. A very lucky guess.
“Think what you wanna,” I heard him mutter. “Answer the question,” he said again.
“I just felt responsible since I was the eldest son,” I found myself replying.
“Hmm, okay then,” he said while rubbing his chin. “What’s stopping you from achieving that dream now?
“I need money,” I replied immediately.
Nodding his head as though he was noting something to himself, he spoke again, “Why didn’t you try going back to school and looking for a side job at the very least? It’s not your fault your family is like this, so why let your own dreams be sacrificed?” he asked boldly.
I actually found myself pondering upon his words. “Well, honestly, that thought never came to me. I thought I had to be completely devoted to work to help them.” I responded truthfully.
“So, you used your psychology degree from your first year to get this job,” he said nodding his head in understanding. I can’t find it in me to understand him anymore. “Well, I’m glad we made progress. Think about what we discussed today alright? I’ll see you tomorrow.”
With those last words and a curt wave, he was out of the room. I found myself pondering over the whole interaction. Wow! How did I never think of this before? With a new found determination and a set mind, I began to pack up all my things. Goodbye haunting therapy sessions. Hello Antarctica!
Half of Me is Missing (Chapter One)
“I don’t belong here. I’m not like the others. We don’t look the same or act the same. I don’t understand their sense of humor. They are crude and I am refined. I am intelligent and their capabilities are mediocre. I don’t fit into this family. How did I get here? It isn’t fair! I don’t like these people. I don’t like where I live. I deserve much better. Please, doctor, explain my situation. I don’t deserve to suffer in a place where I should not be. I can’t understand it! Help me, help me! I can’t go on any longer. I would rather be dead than in these circumstances! Part of me is missing. I have known this all my life!”
Jasmine was pacing the floor in my inner office in Portland, Oregon, twisting her hands, agitatedly. I noticed that she seemed to have little control of her body or her thoughts. Her fevered rosy cheeks and full lush mouth intoxicated me against my will. Jasmine pushed her black, silky curls back from her beautiful, distraught face as she begged me for some explanation. Tears were coursing from her luminescent green eyes, leaving a transparent trail down her cheeks, as she sobbed in my office.
I am Dr. Engels and I desperately want to help my patient. However, I have no inkling as to why she feels this way or how to help her. This is the first time I have ever seen Jasmine cry which makes me wonder whether we have reached a breakthrough. The past few months, she has been sullen and uncommunicative although she finally admitted that she has no feeling or empathy for her family. I have no recourse but to adjust her medications and to seek answers from other psychiatrists. Before I discuss her hypothetical case with other doctors, I decide to ask Jasmine’s parents to come into the office to see if they can shed some light on her perplexing and bewildered thoughts. Jasmine is now twenty. I can see no hope for her until we can get to the bottom of these aberrations. I hate to admit to myself that she is so physically lovely that I can’t help feeling a stirring in my loins every time I scrutinize her looming presence in my office. I try not to stare at dots of moisture between her full breasts. I fight these feelings since I realize I must remain impartial. As I gaze at her flushed, appealing countenance, I try valiantly to persuade myself that there must be hidden beauty inside her as well. If only I can delve deeper into her problems to obtain more of an understanding of her psychological issues, then I may be able to delude myself that she can be helped. After all, I am just human myself; yearning intensely for her to be well and functioning so she can live a productive life. I desperately want this disturbed young woman to be one of my success stories.
I pause to make a note in her patient records that Jasmine sometimes behaves in a provocative and seductive manner which is, at times, hard to resist. I must struggle against my attraction to her and strive to help her in any way possible. No matter how valiantly I duel against these feelings, I feel the pull of desire and the need to bask in her light. I tell myself that I am a learned psychiatrist who must put these lustful responses aside, although it would be tempting to succumb to the charms of my tantalizing patient.
I realize that she may have a neurological disorder that results from damage to her right posterior parietal cortex which manifests itself as unawareness of her body parts which may explain why she is insisting that part of her is missing. These patients maintain that specific parts of their body are missing from their awareness. But Jasmine seemed to feel that her body had been divided into two separate parts, believing that she would not be whole until she understood and rectified this phenomenon. She could possibly also suffer from nihilistic delusions persuading her that part of her body was missing. She certainly seemed to have a distortion of her body image. I knew that it was important that I understand the reason for her problems before I could begin to help her.
“Jasmine, I would like to ask your permission to contact your parents and set up an appointment with them to obtain some background information about you so I can determine the best course of treatment for you.” I advised her.
“Suit yourself,” Jasmine answered hopelessly as she strode out of my office, “although I don’t think they have any understanding of me, at all.”
As I continued treating this fascinating patient, I began to keep a journal in the event that I might want to write a book exploring her feelings of anguish and mental pain in the future. But I had no idea what I would encounter along the way. And I could never have had any conception of the hazardous and tortuous result of my journey. If I had realized what I would encounter in the pursuit of truth and understanding, I wonder if I would have continued with her treatment. I will never know. I was so completely captivated and enamored by her complex problems, that I could not deny the challenge. I completely ignored the cold chill of fear and trepidation coursing down my spine. I have to concede that I was very apprehensive but, at the same time, found myself invigorated. However, I had no idea of the depth of darkness hidden in her soul which would eventually become evident and destroy us both.
More than Anxiety
“So, Emily, what brings you here today?”
Jacob was in his late 40s with large glasses and ears that stuck out slightly. While waiting for me to speak, he fiddles with his hearing aides. I take a deep breath and begin.
“Well, about three years back I did something really stupid. You see, I decided to write a book fictionally based on my college days and most of my friends took offense. Kimberly in particular. Even though she was one of my closest friends sophomore and junior year of college, by senior year, it was obvious that I did something to displease her and she went about turning all my friends (who I introduced her to) against me. She would have gatherings and deliberately exclude me and I suspected (and now know) she was badmouthing me behind my back. In any case, I thought as now grown ups in our 40s, we had gotten past that and we could be civil. I was wrong.”
I take a deep breath and continue,
“About this book, I figured that I didn’t say anything bad about any of my friends and focused on my first love and heartbreak. Kimberly did not see it that way and wrote a “review” that was really her personal lists of grievances against me. I was so hurt by what she said, that I distanced myself from everyone who had a personal connection to her, including Abby. Abby, up to that point was one of my best friends despite her closeness with Kimberly. I essentially ‘ghosted’ her, stopped answering her calls, disappeared from her life without an explanation.”
Jacob stopped fiddling with his hearing aides and adjusted his glasses, “And?”
“I wrote a second book, which ironically, was based on the one truly fictional character in the first book. However, there was a secondary character that had a few things in common with Abby. Kimberly saw this book, accompanied by the ghosting, and went on a complete rampage in her review, holding nothing back in her dislike and contempt of me. She accused me of bashing Abby with that character and she was angry on her behalf. I did my best to move on ‘drop it’ as my father and other friends had suggested. I thought I did a good job until a year after I unpublished both books and took down my author blog, I get a private message from Gloria, Abby’s sister. Gloria lives out of town and I guess somehow on her visit home she and Kimberly had a talk about me. Gloria started her message with ‘I know a good lawyer’ and ended with ‘F*** you.’ So you see, despite my father’s advice to drop it and my mother’s stupid cliche sayings like, ‘Empty barrels make the most noise, the tongue wags but the brain lags.’ I can’t drop it, because they won’t let me! And my family doesn’t understand how bad this has gotten. I haven’t even told them about Gloria because I just know they will minimize it.”
I am screaming now,
“I never meant to hurt anybody.”
Jacob scratches his chin thoughtfully,
“So, has Gloria contacted you since?”
I shake my head and Jacob continues. “It looks to me like you have a classic case of anxiety. As for your parents, everybody has their problems. My dad comes up with cliche sayings all the time. ‘Jacob,’ my dad advised, ‘you know a bird in the hand is worth two in a bush.’ Empty barrels make the most noise...that’s a new one.”
He chuckes and waves his hand dismissively, “This isn’t a big problem.”
I can tell then and there that Jacob really doesn’t understand at all, maybe even less than well meaning friends and family do. In the coming weeks, I research anxiety, and this drama really has nothing to do with the obsessive version that Jacob has diagnosed me with. I have good reason to believe that Kimberly, and by extension those around her, actively dislike me because I have history and proof of her actions. Maybe because he is male and does not understand female friend dynamics or maybe because I didn’t make my point clear enough, but I am annoyed by Jacob’s pat diagnosis and his invalidation of my problems. I see him two more times and I tell him what he wants to hear and when I get a $1200 bill for 3 sessions, I realize I should have gone with my first impression that this wasn’t a good fit and he didn’t understand what I needed.
A Bridge Too Far
Why are you here?
Because my best friend made me promise to seek therapy.
If your best friend told you to jump off a bridge, would you?
Of course not. No….well maybe if she was jumping with me. Don't you want to know what is bothering me rather than opening up by judging me about my relationship with my best friend?
I'm not judging you. I'm analyzing your response. I ask all my patients the same first question. You didn't answer about yourself, and I was trying to point that out to you. Your response leads me to believe you are defensively posturing yourself, hesitant about the truth, and perhaps dependent on your best friend. Perhaps codependent, so why don't we start by talking about that?
All that analysis from one sentence? Look. Who's paying who? Don't I get to choose what to talk about if I'm paying for your services? And if I'm coming here to talk about my mental health, do you think it's a good idea to lead with a question about me jumping off a bridge? How do you know I'm not suicidal?
Good. So my comment was not out of line. Why don't you just take a breath and let me help you. Of course you get to choose what you want to talk about, but it's my job to assist you, to guide you towards a better understanding of yourself. That will involve me asking questions. And after I ask a question, if I see a red flag, I'm going to point it out. If any of my comments to you seem harsh and make you angry, perhaps we should peel that onion, so to speak. I like to dive right in with my patients, perhaps even intentionally rile them up, because often times they don't understand their own problems, and my style has been proven effective to reach that ultimate goal. Why don't we start over. What can I help you with today?
Truthfully? Today, right now my biggest problem started when I walked into your office and started talking to you. Let me ask you this? Are there any bridges nearby?