Shadow, Sunlight, and Diagnosis

“Just Amber.” The doctor said, momentarily glaring at my mother with an icy stare. Mom sat back down and with a broad sweep of her arm, indicated that I should follow the doctor. As I walked down the hall, I could hear my mother’s irritation in the steady swish slap of each glossy page she turned.

The door to the office was open and the doctor let me pass as she reached for the door to close it. For a moment, I wondered where I should sit. There was more than one option, including a very cliché couch. My options were limited, however, when the doctor sat behind a large mahogany desk. I moved to the upholstered chair in front of it. As I sat, the cushion sank down much further than I expected. I felt trapped. I felt very, very small.

“So why are you here?”

“Because my mother scheduled an appointment.”

“Yes, but why?” her second question felt impatient, almost demanding. Everything was starting to feel very convoluted-there was something artificial about the whole thing: the sunken seat; the imposing desk; the big hair, wide muumuu, sharp toned, glaring doctor. It felt like it was all designed to intimidate.

“You do know why you are here, don’t you?” Her questions crashed through the inner fog that was forming in my brain.

“Yes,” I said quietly. “I am having trouble concentrating, anxious. I can’t focus.”
“Why? Has anything changed recently?”

I felt like I was on the edge of a slippery slope. Don’t say it. Don’t say. “I’m hearing things. Sometimes I see something move out of the corner of my eye, but when I turn, nothing is there.”

The doctor scribbled some notes in my file. When she was done, she folded her hands and stared at me, “What kind of things are you hearing?”

“Just murmurs. I don’t know. I can’t quite tell what it is, but it’s there.” I knew this was going bad. I knew I sounded insane, but if I wanted to get better, I needed to be honest.

“You know these voices are not real, right?” Her voice was stern.

I stopped to think. Did I call them voices?

“I don’t know, I . . .”

“They are not real,” she insisted, raising her voice slightly. She picked up her pen and made some more notes.

I contemplated her words in silence. Maybe she was right, maybe it was all my imagination. It’s just . . . it seemed so real.

“I want you to fill both of these prescriptions, and start with a half dose for the first week. One is a mood stabilizer, the other is an anti-psychotic.”

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