Her building is pretty non-discrete and sits amongst a crowd of hospital structures. She works in an office on the 2nd floor. And she has a view, which is nice. I often find myself looking out the window as she scribbles notes.
When I walk into the lobby, the fist thing I have to do is announce myself by writing my name onto a waiting list and pressing a button on the wall which let's her know her next appointment is in. Then, I grab a clip-board with a standard questionnaire attached to it. I have to rate, one through five, a plethora of personal questions. Well, they aren't even questions, they're just words:
Depression 1 2 3 4 5
Stress 1 2 3 4 5
Anxiety 1 2 3 4 5
Sleep 1 2 3 4 5
Restless Leg Syndrome 1 2 3 4 5
Diarrhea 1 2 3 4 5
I finish it and wait. I get a glimpse of the other folks waiting. None of them seem outwardly depressed. Do I? I look through the magazines. Even ones I would never otherwise open. I Instagram one of the empty chairs.
There is an elderly couple beside me and they are talking very loudly about nothing in particular. The woman gets up to check on their appointment time. She farts rather loudly. Everyone pretends not to notice.
"Andy." It's her. She comes to the door herself to call her patients.
I get up and walk past her towards her office. She is tiny. I'm 6' 2". It always feels weird walking in front of her. My pants sag. In her room a beaten down cream-colored couch awaits. I hand her my questionnaire and sit.
Her: "How have you been doing since we last met?"
Me: "Good, good." Half truth. You know how it is. Pat answer. It's the same response we all give random someones when they ask "How are you, man?" Good just comes out of our mouths.
Her: "That's great to hear. How's your anxiety been?"
Me: "Not bad." Again, half truth. For instance, right now, as I write this, I'm sitting in a chair, drinking coffee, tensing and un-tensing (is that even a word?) my legs, scratching my head and worrying wether or not this piece of writing is going to be worth a shit. At times I will get up and walk around my office. Just pace. Look out my door to see if anyone is noticing. I also have this habit of gnashing my teeth to the beat of whatever music is on. Right now it happens to be Ornette Coleman. I scratch my nose a lot.
Her: "When you say 'not bad' do you mean better than the last time you were here?"
"Uhm, well, I'm not sure." True.
"Think about it a minute."
Silence while I think. I look around her office. A fan, a tiny refrigerator (what does she keep in there? Her lunch? What does she eat? Drink?), a shelf filled with self-help books and covered in pharmaceutical flyers. The meds. Sales folks give those flyers to the doctors. I think about the sales people and the meds they pedal. "Worse. I think."
Her: "Do you think it's the fact that we reduced the (insert drug name here)?"
How the fuck should I know? "Ah, maybe. Sure, I think so."
She scratches on her note pad. I notice my file has gotten thicker and thicker. Have I been coming here for that long? Holy shit, I must really have a problem(s). "Well, let's up the (insert drug name here). What do you think?"
She's asking me what I think about meds? "I have no idea," I tell her. True.
"How's your exercising going? I see here you've lost 10 pounds."
"Pretty good. I walk the dog every day." Lie.
"How long are your walks?"
"30 to 35 minutes." Lie.
"Can you up that to 45 minutes?"
"Yeah, I think so." No. I love my dog, but 45 minutes a night?
I can't help but wonder what she's thinking, if anything at all. How many patients must she have? Is she curious why my t-shirt says "Listen to Gwar" on it? Does she ever wonder about me, or is she thinking about her next break when she can rummage through her tiny fridge for a yogurt? Wait, she doesn't like milk-based products.
Her: "How about diet? Are you eating the things we talked about?"
Of course not. "Ah, I've been trying. But I slip and have a burger on occasion."
"OK. But have you thought about erasing the carbs? Can you have the burger without the bread? Maybe just wrap it with lettuce…"
"Hmmm." That's dumb. If I have a burger, it has to have bread. I want to tell her about all the things my mom fed us growing up. Our closest thing to green food was Iceberg lettuce. But there's not time to look backwards here — that's for therapy. Which reminds me, I should set up an appointment.
The questions come rapid fire.
Me: "Does writing count?"
"Sure. Are you a writer?"
"Uh… I write things down." Does that count?
"How do you feel from a 1 to 10? 10 being great."
"You mean right now? Or yesterday? Or an hour ago?"
"Let's say, right now."
I hesitate. "Uh, a 7 and a half?" But I know I'll be at least an 8 after I leave her office. "Do you ever have anyone say 10?" I ask.
She scribbles a bit, "No." Hands me a prescription, "OK then. I'll see you again in 6 weeks."
Cool. That's about when my next Bender is due.
Bender. Originally published in issue #41 of Monster Children. 2013.