When I stepped into the psychiatrist's office, my first thought was, stay calm, and keep quiet. Ok, that's a lie. My first actual thought was, that blue chair isn't aligned with the other blue chair. But it was all ok, because once Dr. Parker told me to take a seat (on any chair I wanted) I pushed the chair under me as I sat down, so my move would look indiscreet. I think it did…I know it did.
"It looks to me like you haven't been improving, Ryan," Dr. Parker said, monotone. I narrowed my eyes and made it look as if I were confused about his comment, but really I was confused—about why he would keep two red pens and one blue pen in his breast pocket and two blue pens and one red pen in his mug. It puzzled me, why the disorder? "Ryan, I'm concerned." Dr, Parker carelessly grabbed a blue pen from the mug and began tapping the desk. Why is he torturing me? I sat up, my back rigid, and tried to avert my eyes from the mug calling my name, helplessly. The colours were now totally out of proportion! Just when I was trying to cope with the mismatched colours, when I was telling myself, it's ok, at least the colour ratios in the mug and the pocket are the same, and at least I have that. But no. Now I didn't even have that!
The tapping continued incessantly. I looked up at Dr. Parker's narrowed eyes. "Ryan? Is there something you want to tell me?" I shook my head. I felt like a child being scolded. Dr. Parker sat up, and sighed—loudly. "Ryan. Just get it off your chest."
I looked at him, and closed my eyes. "Your pens in your left breast pocket and in your mug are mismatched."
"Do you feel better now?"
"Yes," I said, relieved.
"Are you sure?" Yeah! I said I was calm now, so I'm calm, doctor' I nodded, fervently.
"Then why is your knee shaking like that?" The doctor pointed his pen at my right knee. I placed my left hand on my left knee and my right hand on my right knee. I think they stopped….
"What's bothering you Ryan?"
"Why haven't you fixed the pens, doctor?" I mumbled.
"Why haven't you fixed the pens, doctor?" I repeated, quite loudly.
"I am not going to fix the pens Ryan. If you tell your knee to stop shaking, it will stop shaking. Trust me on that," he added as I looked at him confused. I am not a child, you moron! Why would I talk to my body parts?! "Try it, Ryan."
I looked down at my knees, and noticed my left pant leg higher than my right, so I began to readjust them.
"Stop! Stop it, Ryan! Please, just stop!" Dr. Parker dropped his pen and the mug dropped with it. Furiously I began replacing the pens in the mug, dropping the picture frames and file folders on the rest of the desk. Befuddled, I furiously began to adjust everything, and perhaps a little ditheringly, reached for Dr. Parker's breast pocket.
"Ryan! Sit down this instant! Calm yourself," the doctor said and sighed, adjusting his brown, wool sweater. "The pens are fine the way they are! Can you repeat that to yourself Ryan? 'The pens are fine the way they are?' Try that, Ryan. I want you to try that."
This time, I managed to settle myself down. And not because I had managed to fix the pen colour arrangements (so that it would be all three blue pens in the mug and the red ones on the desktop, although that did make me feel better) but because I knew I could do that. Calm myself down, I mean. I had it in me. I saw the problem, solved the problem and could now relax about the problem. What a wonderful world!
"Ryan, can you look at me?" Dr. Parker tapped his fingernails on the desk to get my attention. My gaze traveled to his weary blue eyes, and I noticed the wrinkle lines underneath his lower eyelids: seven under the left, seven and a half under the right. "Ryan, I am very concerned. You seem to be worse than when you were the first day you came in here…I think I'm going to do some tests with you today. How does that sound, hmm?" The doctor smiled kindly, and for a second he reminded me of a kind grandfather. But he wasn't one, he was a doctor; two very different things.
Nonetheless, I nodded.
As the kind doctor fumbled through his desk drawer, my attention was caught by the back left of the room. Two large, brown sofa cushions sat on one large brown sofa. That was fine, except of course I didn't particularly like brown. It's what was on the table in front of the sofa that disturbed me: several (let's be honest, about four or five) sheets of paper were sitting precariously on the edge of the mahogany coffee table; just about to fall over; just hanging on for dear life.
My vision faltered. This was not happening. This was one of those horrible moments; the ones where I had to fix the problem, but was almost always too late to fix it.
However, my attention was once again brought back to the faithful Dr. Parker. He seemed to have found what he was looking for.
"Ryan I want you to tell me what the first word is that comes to your mind when I give you a word. Alright?" The doctor smiled reassuringly. I nodded distractedly. "This needs all your attention Ryan." I nodded again, this time more focused, the papers in the corner of my view. I had a few minutes to tolerate the doctor. But then, I suppose, I would have to fix the problem.
"Time?" the doctor said, enunciating as if that would make my hearing better.
"12:00," I replied. We played this game before. It was so easy; child's play.
"Obstacle." I noticed the doctor blink several times.
"Minimal," I responded, without blinking. So easy.
I hesitated. "…trouble. Are we done, doctor? Because-"
"Yes, actually. We are done. Ryan, can you explain to me a few of the answers you gave me? They're very different from when we did this test the last time. Which was…oh let me check my papers…" The doctor began rummaging around in his drawer again. My vision focused clearly on the problem at hand. The papers had not moved, but I could see the upper left corners slightly blowing. Was there a draft from the window? I slumped down in my chair. No! There was no draft. There can't be, Dr. Parker says he always checks the room for any possibly hazardous situations before I get here. I relaxed and laid my fingers on the edge of the desk. "The fifteenth! The fifteenth of January! Correct? Yes, of course. Only a few months ago."
The doctor slipped off his glasses, and leaned forward slightly. His eyes crinkled revealing even more wrinkles than before. I quickly leaned forward and began to count them, slightly having forgotten the papers on the desk. "Ryan. Why did you say…? Ryan?" He cleared his throat loudly, and leaned back in his chair. "I am very worried about you. Like I have said before, you are not improving. When you came here the first time, two years ago, remember that day Ryan? You said you desperately needed help? You wanted to get better."
"I don't need help, doctor. I told you that on January fifteenth. Remember?" Once again, I noticed the papers. My bones quivered. They moved. Only the slightest bit; I didn't see them move, but I felt them move. My eyes watered and narrowed.
"Yes. You told me you didn't need help anymore a year ago, Ryan. I think that's the same time when your recovery started to relapse." The doctor stood up and began to pace behind the desk. Every four seconds, because of his damned pacing, I couldn't see the papers. What if they fell without me seeing them? What if I missed them? I buried my head in my hands and began to moan. I couldn't take it. I had to save the papers from falling. What a mess that would make. An avoidable mess.
"Ryan, are you listening to me? Ryan, what's wrong?" The doctor came closer. He nearly put his hand on my shoulder, before I stood up. As I did so, he jumped backwards, startled.
"The papers. There's a draft. They'll fall," I mumbled.
"The PAPERS! There's a draft. They'll FALL!" I panicked, I couldn't contain myself. Admittedly, I became hysterical.
"What papers? Ryan, sit down. Stop it this instant."
"Right there, I need to pick them up, I need to fix them. I need to fix the problem. I saw the problem…" I didn't blink. My attention was fully needed for the papers. My legs sprung forward. The doctor grabbed my wrists and pushed me back, but my eyes did not falter this time. "THE PAPERS! They're a problem! I have to FIX the fucking problem! Let me FIX IT!"
"Ryan. Stop it. Stop it right now. This is not healthy!" The doctor's grip loosened, and I sprang forward. Nothing could hold me back.
"I saw the problem, solved the problem and can now relax about the problem. I saw the problem…" I repeated this mantra in my head and verbally. I had to say it to keep myself focused. To do the right thing. "I saw the problem, solved the problem and can now relax about the problem. I saw the problem…"
Quickly I hustled to pick up the papers. But I saw the top sheet wriggle at the pressure of my running. I was making it fall! I was creating the wind making it fall! No! I can fix the problem. I won't make it worse. It won't be my fault! "I saw the problem, solved the problem and can now relax about the problem. I saw the problem…" I grabbed the sheet halfway through its fall. But the others began to fall while I picked up the other one. They were everywhere. I couldn't stop them. "I can't stop them. I can't stop the problem!" My vision became cloudy. I think I was crying; tears of frustration and anger.
"Ryan. You can't fix everything!" The doctor came closer and I could hear the anger in his voice. I looked at him, shell-shocked.
"Yes I can! I saw the problem, solved the problem-"
"No you did not solve the problem! Look, the papers are everywhere!"
"It's not my fault…" I whispered.
"No it's not. It's never your fault if you can't fix something. You have to understand that."
"No!" I yelled, and quickly went back to shuffling the papers together. There were so many. So many more than I had thought there were.
"Don't you see? You're distracted! You're always distracted Ryan! Distractions can be minimal! Just like you said. You don't need to be like this." He put a gentle hand on my shoulder, and I convulsed. He could not touch me and tell me I was wrong.
"No! You don't understand! These are not distractions. This was not a distraction. It is a problem! A problem, you goddamn doctor! Aren't you listening to me? Isn't that why you're here?"
"First of all, you make these things your problem!" He picked up a sheaf of the settled and organized pile of papers on the table and dropped them, much to my horror. I shrieked and quickly began to gather them and set them in organized piles. "Second of all, why are you still here Ryan? Hmm? You said you don't need to see me anymore." He folded his arms.
I cringed and grit my teeth. "Every Saturday, I come here. You know that."
"But why Ryan? Why every Saturday? You hate coming here, don't you? That's what you said on January the fifteenth, isn't it?"
"Because…that's how it is," I said my voice cracking. The papers were set and completely organized. But for some reason, I couldn't relax. The problem was solved, and I could relax. But I wasn't. My stomach tightened and I leaned against the sofa, once again, burying my head in my hands and sobbing.
"Ryan. It doesn't have to be like this. I understand you like routine, or rather, you need routine. But, I'm thinking, maybe you need more help. More than I can give you."
"No. I saw the problem, solved the problem and can now relax about the problem. I saw the problem…" My voice slowly hardened and I stood up, the tears still running freely. I watched the kind Dr. Parker walk to his desk and write on his pristine white prescription pad.
"I'm worried about you. I really am. What I'm going to give you…it will help you and your…uh…problems. They'll go away for awhile. Huh? How does that sound? Good?" The doctor savagely ripped off the page from the pad and jabbed it into my palm. Quickly, he shoved me towards the door. I could smell his perspiration and watched him wipe his forehead with his purple handkerchief. Without a word, he pushed me out the door and banged it shut. Staring at the page in my hand, I wiped my eyes.
As I walked along the building, I folded the paper into fourths, and tossed it into a nearby garbage can. Whatever that was, it could never make my problems go away. Because problems are always there until you see them and solve them. Only then can you relax about them.
"I saw the problem, solved the problem and can now relax about the problem. I saw the problem…"