‘The Good Doctor’
Once I was whole. Now something was broken. And it was like there’d never be any fixing it, there’d never be any not knowing what it had been like before. And it was growing. Taking control. Fracturing me further. Becoming me in a way that affected my every thought, my every decision, my every action.
That wasn’t just the first thing I knew when I woke the next morning, but the only thing. I ate breakfast, watched TV, and then the survival game began again: get through each second, count down every minute, watch the hours tick by, until I could go back to bed, find sleep, and escape this all.
I eked my way through the morning and into the afternoon, tolerating the occasional flare. I distracted myself as often as I could around those stabs to my head, those fears of Panic! Panic! and when I couldn’t distract myself, I told myself, I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay—
Terrified. Like I’d exploded, come apart, and I was naked, without body, without protection, without any tools to function in the world, nothing but pulsating fear. But then the most amazing thing happened: it simmered. Like somebody turned the volume control way down.
Again, the terror ignited, exploded, consumed me. Then, it would settle—
There was no escape now. I rushed into the house to tell my mum that I was sick – again, the best I could describe it. My dad wasn’t home, so she called my brother John to drive us to hospital. As they were getting ready, I grabbed my pills out of my bedroom drawer – the Ducene and the Thioridazine. I’d probably be seeing some outpatient doctor, so I wanted to show them what I was on, just in case they didn’t have access to my file.
We drove to PANCH, where I was left to wait in the waiting room. I sat, head in my hands, thoughts manic, sure I was losing my mind. I’d thought it’d happen in an instant, but now I decided it’d happen slowly, like an elastic band stretched until it could take no more. Then twang!
That’s how sanity would be lost: with a twang.
I looked around at the other people in the waiting room, and I although I knew they weren’t talking about me, I was worried they were. I told myself that they weren’t. Then the fear surged: Yes, they are. I couldn’t trust my own head. Just like all those other times I’d had weird thoughts and struggled to counter them.
I was seen by Dr Johnson, a big, matronly woman who was in her late thirties and had the demeanour of a lovely aunt. She consulted my file, and asked me what I was feeling. I told her that I was scared, worried, and I didn’t know why – I just couldn’t get the panic out of my head. Then I showed her my pills, told her that’s what I’d been on, but they hadn’t done anything.
She listened sympathetically, then asked me an assortment of questions: they began simply enough, about my level of anxiety, how many times I had these surges of panic, and so on, but then she asked me if I felt the TV was communicating with me, and whether I thought people were talking about me. I answered no to the TV question, worried now if that’s what came next. As for people talking about me, I said I knew they weren’t, but couldn’t stop those thoughts racing around in my head.
Dr Johnson asked me if I’d like to go into a psychiatric hospital. Only three days earlier, Dr Victor had posed the same question to me and I said no. But now I couldn’t go home. I couldn’t face every day like this – every moment. I told Dr Johnson that I would like that, but was worried what my family would think. I asked her if she could put it to them that it was her idea. She said she would.
She disappeared from the consulting room and I sat there, resigned. But at least now something was being done, even if that action meant I was being locked away. I wondered about the people I’d see there and the treatment I’d experience.
The door opened and Dr Johnson let in my mum and my brother, then went off to make her arrangements. She’d told them she’d recommended I stay in a psychiatric hospital, which looked as if it scared them more than it did me.
It wasn’t long before Dr Johnson returned. She told us there were no beds available in the psychiatric hospital, but she’d rang Dr Victor and he’d come in to see me.
Until then, she prescribed that I take two Ducene and one Thioridazine, but that was all, joking that if I took anymore I might sleep until Tuesday. I didn’t see the problem with that. It was seriously a viable option to get away from this. She added that if things got bad again, to come back.
I went home.
Everyone but my dad was quiet that night – he was angry, like this was a personal affront. He shouted a lot – not at me, but about the situation, about doctors and whether they’d gotten it right, and all that. I just wanted him to be quiet because, as so often happened, the shouting rattled me.
I took the pills Dr Johnson had suggested and for a while, everything went back to normal. I relaxed, my mind stilled, and I was able to lay there and watch a movie. But as the movie finished, the edginess returned.
I went to bed, hoping I could find sleep before it got too bad, but I tossed and turned until it all came back: the anxiety, the racing thoughts, the paranoia about going crazy. I told myself to relax, over and over, but nothing. I tried to hyperventilate, remembering Dr Laurie had told me it could lead to passing out. That’d be a way to get away from all this. But that didn’t work either. At one point I was sure I heard a whispered voice. I listened for it again, but nothing.
It was after midnight now, but I could tell from the light seeping under the door that somebody was still up. I got out of bed, returned to the dining room. John was watching TV. He asked me if I was okay. I told him how bad things were and he drove me back to hospital.
I sat in the waiting room while he spoke to the receptionist, telling them that he thought I was having a nervous breakdown. The receptionist said a doctor would be with us as soon as they could, but there might be a wait, as there’d been a huge car accident, and numerous casualties were being brought in.
The wait was hours. John got up every now and again to nag the receptionist. Eventually, we were brought to a consulting room, where I lay on a cot, and John sat in a chair. By now, I was exhausted – this is all it took, three hours waiting around in a hospital – and I fell asleep.
A doctor woke me, a young guy whose name I didn’t get. He consulted my file indifferently, like he was at the end of a long shift and just wanted to get the hell out of there. Then he asked me some questions – mainly concentrating on whether I’d taken drugs, particularly acid. He must’ve thought I was having a flashback. I told him no, and that was it. I was too tired to work out what he thought. He talked to me for a little longer just to make sure I was okay, and to his credit he appeared genuinely concerned, but as there was nothing he could do for me, we went home.
When I went back to bed I felt okay, like whatever fuel had been feeding all this stuff had now run out. Or maybe exhaustion was acting as a natural sedative. It didn’t matter. For now, I just wanted to sleep.