I know there’s more to life than conversation. You’re probably getting sick of them. But here comes another one. Dot.
“I’ve had a few ups and downs,” I told the doctor.
“And, they were up, and they were down.”
“More than the normal ups and downs?”
He nodded, fumbled with his knee, slid his chair closer to mine, searched for clues in my eyes. He had one of those chairs on rollers; mine wouldn’t move.
This guy was impatient. He wanted specifics. Up and down didn’t mean shit to him.
“Yeah, it wasn’t normal,” I said.
“But then you called here, re-scheduled your appointment,” he said. “That’s good.”
So he fumbled through some papers in my file, found the one he was looking for. He told me my present dosage was being good to my internal organs, but that perhaps my organs were metabolizing the shit too well, such that I needed to increase the dosage in order to attain the therapeutic levels again.
So my organs were doing too good of a job; getting my brain in trouble. Well, it’s nice to be healthy enough to withstand that shit, but why can’t my body just work as a complete unit?
“That’s not the problem,” I said. “I didn’t take the pills for awhile.”
“How would you know?”
“I can count. You re-scheduled your appointment from last week to this week. You would have needed a prescription last week.”
“You figure it that way?”
“I try to.”
“It’s not my blood level.”
“Probably not. But let’s increase it just a little. I hate to over-medicate anybody.”
So this is how psychiatry has changed. Just a few years ago, everything focused upon the male’s external organ. Early on, just the existence of the penis was in the psychological spotlight. Later, one’s skill at using said organ was all-important. Now, they’ve gone inside. You go to a psychiatrist and talk about your brain, kidneys, your liver, your heart. They might even prescribe something that stops the old wonder wand from working right – not to worry! The ones inside are the ones that count.
We decided the main problem was my memory. All those fucking dots floating around. I kept forgetting, missing my pill-popping time, neglecting to seize the moment.
Doc had a workable solution: reduce the number of pill-popping times by half, giving my memory a break. Skip the daytime doses, he said. Instead of taking it at eleven and six and twelve and eight and on and on and on…. Double up and take it at bedtime and wake-up time. He said this would be easier.
“So how do you feel about those ups and downs you had?”
“The same way I feel about everything else in my life.”
“Not so good?” he said.
“No, not good.”
I thought about it for a second. I was going to expand upon it. It was more complex than that. Yet, I supposed, simply put, that was it.
“Yeah, I’m a little embarrassed.”
“I don’t blame you,” he said.
Then I asked him about The Wimp. I suggested I bring her in for a visit.
“She’s depressed,” I said. “I think she’s got the same thing I’ve got. Inherited.”
This did not grab him the way I thought it would. I guess these guys hear stuff like this from guys like me all the time. So and so needs help. So and so needs help. My mom’s manic. My dad’s having problems. My sister, my uncle. My dog’s a mess. He wasn’t impressed, turned back to my folder, wrote something down.
“We have several child psychiatrists on staff,” he said.
“Wouldn’t it be better for her to see you, since you already know my case?”
He shook his head.
“No. I’d be glad to meet her,” he said. “But I’d probably refer her, if she needed it.”
“Then maybe I’ll call back and talk to somebody else about her.”
Hey, if he didn’t want some more business.
Anyway, The Wimp didn’t need a psychiatrist. She needed her mother. Damn, so did I, for that matter. That house was not a home without her. It was just a bunch of rooms filled with one-way conversation: me the one doing the talking, The Wimp going about her business, giving me the silent treatment.
That night, at the kitchen table, as we sampled several different pasta salads from the restaurant, I told her about my conversation with the doctor. I suggested we make her an appointment with one of the child psychiatrists on staff.
“What?” she said. “No way.”
“I think you’re depressed,” I said.
“No I’m not,” she said. “You are.”
“No I’m not,” I said. “You are.”
Alas, conversation. Two-way. Here we go again.
“Listen,” she said. “You have a chemical depression, right?”
“And you take anti-depressants, right?”
“So you must be depressed, or you wouldn’t take it.”
“I would be depressed if I didn’t take it.”
“Whatever,” she said. “I’m not the one who’s depressed.”
“But you hardly talk to me,” I said. “That’s a sign of depression. It’s inherited.”
“I hardly talk to you, but I talk to my friends,” she said. “It’s not like I can’t talk. I just don’t talk to you, don’t have anything to say.”
“Hey,” I said. “You could hurt my feeling that way.”
“Wow,” she said. “That really tears me all apart.”
“You don’t care about my feelings?”
“You mean you don’t care?”
“That just makes it even. Why should one person care about another person’s feelings when the other person doesn’t care at all?”
“Not care? Me?”
“Dad,” she said. “Mom’s always told me that vulnerability is important in a relationship, but that’s going overboard.”
“You’re eleven years old!” I said. “I’m your father. You have to care about my feelings. It’s not healthy not to.”
“Life’s too short,” she said. “There’s enough pain in the world without asking for more. That’s like creating pain when it doesn’t need to be there.”
“Where’d you learn all this crap?”
“So what did I do to hurt you so much?”
Stupid question. Thankfully, she didn’t answer it.
“Never mind,” she said. “It’s not your fault. You’re a manic-depressive. You can’t help it.”
This was getting out of hand. No wonder she had so little to say to me. She was my daughter. She knew too much.
“Hey,” I said. “What do you say we have a dinner party? I have this great friend. She’s a manic depressive, too. Just like me. She has a little girl and a little boy. We can invite them all over.”
“Can Margie come?”
“Sure she can. We’ll cook burgers.”
“Sounds good,” she said. “But let’s not have burgers.”
“What do you want to have?”
“Anything but burgers.”
“Something from the restaurant,” I suggested. “They can cater it. Lasagna.”
“Not lasagna. Pizza!”
“I’ll fix salad,” she said.
“Friday night,” I said.
“Saturday. I’m busy Friday.”
“What are you doing Friday?”
“I’m spending the night with Margie.”
“What are you two going to do?”
“How should I know?”
“Well, invite Margie here Saturday night. Pizza.”
“I will. And you invite that manic depressive friend.”