The Patient

It finally happened I have become my own mental patient. After years of practice in the mental health industry I finely cracked it. I am now lying prostrate upon my own psych couch and talking to my alter ego who is sitting across from me in my proverbial doctor espresso colored leather chair. I look over at my alter ego... sitting there so patiently. Yellow legal pad in hand. A 200.00 dollar black ink pen scribbling madly upon the lined paper as I spew forth my putrid fortitude of rotten maggots upon the zombie like creature who nods occasionally and says, “Is that so? How does that make us feel?” “Well frankly doc,” I answer in a sarcastic tone, “It makes US feel like crap! Otherwise do you think I’d be lying here talking to myself as if I was two people?” “We see,” states my alter ego looking pointedly down over its spectacles. “What has brought you to this place where we are now our own patient?” “Finally!” I sit up excited because now someone is going to finally listen to me! ME for once! “Well, Doc” I say, “It’s like this…

Ever since I can recall as a child I have been a notorious giver. It began really at my birth. I was a disappointment due to my gender. My father wanted the opposite of what I was and he let it be known verbally and emotionally in my growing up years. It was no secret that I would never measure up. So instead of having the screw you mentality I became the giver. Giving and giving to all no matter who they might be. My giving seem to become mostly my listening to others problems.”

I pause here, feeling a welling of childhood memories come to the surface as my eyes begin to leak but I hold fast and keep the encroaching water works at bay for the moment. I look over at my alter ego and notice they are still listening to me. So I begin again…

“I was the one who they all went to when they needed someone to listen, someone to care, someone to dump on, something done, something fixed, someone or something is what my identity became. In my giving I became an empty soul, so I began to crave love. Love. Such a strange and misunderstood concept. Not only did I need love but I would become so overly anxious and depressed about it. I felt at times I understood what it would have been like to have been Van Gogh. A tormented and confused artist who in his need to be appreciated, listened to and loved became absolutely mad in his depression. To the point of cutting off his own ear due to his hearts attraction that denied him her affections…how empty he must have felt Doc to have cut off his own ear even! This is how I see myself… empty in this world. Do you not see the symbolism behind cutting off his own ear Doc? What is the point of having ears to hear when no one cares about your ears?! All they want you to do is listen to them! Damn them to hell! I will cut off my ears as well and then they will know what it is like to not be heard!” My alter ego notes my agitation and calmly says, “But we are listening now.”

Gaining my composure once more I return to a calmer state of procedure. “Yet I feel even though I gave all I had and could always be counted upon there never was anyone I met along life’s path that gave back to me or just gave in the first place without my doing anything. So I just kept thinking well it means I am not good enough. I must be an unpleasant thing to look upon or just plain old uninteresting. I thought maybe if I just kept giving then I would measure up to someone’s standards and they in return would nurture my need. Alas… it is not so.” My alter ego says to me in its own monotone voice, “Yes go on… you need something in return.” Grabbing a Kleenex and kicking myself mentally for letting emotional grief of a need over take my supremely professionally trained mind to not show emotion I delve back into my ‘need.’

Authors Note: At this point I feel the need at a little after 6 am to go and make myself a coffee. The kettle is put on. I notice the laundry from the washing machine needs to be placed in the dryer. Done. I grab the instant coffee this morning because I am too lazy to mess with the whole orgasmic experience of coffee bean machine world. The green mug will do this morning, as I place a heaping spoonful of brown granules into my mug. “OOOOOOOOOOO” blasts the kettle. I pour in the hot water and mix the poor excuse for euphuism around and around a few times. I add French Vanilla creamer to make it palatable, grab a blueberry yogurt and as I head back to my bedroom to resume my writing for some reason Rod Stewart's ‘Maggie May’ begins to play in my head… ah go figure back to writing.

“In my college years I went through a series of relationships. It seemed that my partners would always find someone else more interesting or better looking than I. Then all be damned if not more than two weeks later they’d be back calling me whining at me about their new love and how awful they were. So there again of course what did I do… I just listened. Never mind they had just screwed me over and dumped me for this idiot they now are crying to me about! So I’d sit there with them over the phone and let them pore their hearts out to me. Id listen for hours. Heck I even listened to peoples problems that I didn’t even know! I can’t count the times I would be minding my own business just standing waiting to cross a street corner or sitting and studying in the library and some lame brained imbecile would come over by me. I being stupid would smile and say, “Hey, how you doing?” Wrong thing to do! It would be not more than five minutes that would pass and I would hear their whole flippin story! I just stood there and they would tell me intimate details of whatever and about whomever and I would just listen. They would end their dumping session- hug me and say, “Thanks for listening I needed to talk” and that would be it. Off into the shadows of human debris they would carry on with their lives and I… I would be left wishing someone just once would ask, “Hey, how you doing?”

I pause as the phone rings in my office. My alter ego looks at me as if to say you best get it. I raise myself from the couch and answer the phone. It is my spouse they need to talk when we, I, get home. I hang up the phone, sigh, and feeling tired and worn return to my couch and lay my weary head down.

My alter ego looks over at the clock. “We’ve only fifteen minutes left. Shall we go on?” “You know Doc why I went into this profession? Honestly?” My alter ego leans forward and says, “We already do know, don’t we?” I flinched at the answer because we did know and it seemed so empty.

Sighing I said, “I suppose.” Taking in a deep breath I begin, “Then it happened one night and I really thought my life would change. I thought I had found my own piece of utopia when I finally met my mate. It was magical. It took place one evening right after graduate school I was sitting in a local coffee shop. I was reading the latest digest on Psychology Today and Tomorrow when all of the sudden someone tapped me on the shoulder. As I looked up from my reading material- there they were. A smile that radiated, a warmth that said I’d like to listen to you. They said, “You dropped one of your papers behind you, let me pick it up for you.” They did and handed it to me. They introduced themselves and stuck out their hand to shake mine. It was a handshake that I didn’t want to let go of. As we shook hands we introduced ourselves to one another and they said they were in their third year of similar study and wanted to know if Id be willing to share some of my insight with them. We made a date to meet that next evening and for hours they just sat there and listened to me. They asked me questions about me, about my childhood, about where I grew up, about whether I like chocolate or vanilla ice cream. From that one date we spent hours, just hours, of nothing but listening to one another. It was an even exchange! Had I found paradise or was I just dreaming? My need for someone to listen to me was being filled and I felt respected, accepted and loved for the first time in my life. Our engagement came quickly, along with a marriage a year after we met. Soon after we finished our masters degree in similar fields and then came the house, the kids, the dog, the cars, the pool, the you name it… and what had been keenly mine had all the of sudden vanished over night. No longer did my mate want to listen to my day, my week, my dreams, my desires, my fears… No now it was I once again who became the dumping ground for everyone else’s needs Whether it was my spouse who whined about their daily happenings or my children who whined about their daily happenings the home I looked forward to- to come home to- was now the shackle that felt just like my prison walls here at work.”

We both look up at the clock. Our fifteen more minutes is up. I smile at my alter ego and in return they smile back. As we both slip on our coats and grab our car keys we both say, “We aren’t really mad it is just a case of need and if there is no other being other than self that can fulfill that need… well…”

Shutting off the office lights and turning the key to lock our office door we take each others hand and head towards the window at the end of the nineteenth floor.

Song River Copyrighted 2008