Office at the hospital: meeting Jung Part 4
Dr Young glanced at his watch and double checked with the miniture clock which he normally used to gauge the fifty minute hour. His patient was a few minutes late and he knew there was a good chance that she might not turn up at all. His decision to have all future sessions in his office instead of the Taverna had not gone down well. Their telephone conversation had been acerbic; he explained why they needed to meet at his office, she answered in monosyllables and referred to him throughout as ‘doctor’ – never a good sign. There was a slight drizzle which emphasized the ticking of his clock and the comfortable silence in his room which was as inviting as any office could be in a psychiatric unit. Ten minutes late, no warning, no phone call – and he couldn’t read her, not yet, she had given very little away other than an all consuming rage.
Fifteen minutes… there could be lots of reasons… late out of school… a deliberately slow walk… window shopping…. winding him up? Angry patients familiar with therapy, seething, poorly and insightful were more than ready to play games. Some patients clued in…. they learned about transference, eye contact and how not to have it, foot tapping, hand clenching, losing concentration… an assortment of strategies for wasting time or creating a diversion, a red herring. Some clients could not confront the truth and would not or were not able to leave denial; denial…most people stayed in denial because the truth had become a monster, it grew stronger and more terrifying the longer it festered inside… he had to make them safe enough to look behind the secret wooden door and stare straight into the eyes of those long hidden demons. When he got them to that point he had to help them stand their ground and embrace reality….a painful and shuddering nightmare that had to be described, in detail, over and over…like an intricate jigsaw which gradually painted a garish image of memories blacked out but not extinguished. A tiny spark, the echo of a flame… they didn’t want to look for or find what was buried inside them, it gnawed at their emotions, burrowed into the psyche and made itself manifest in some other way. This girl, this twenty minutes late girl, had attempted to lock down her past in a suffocation of anger and a grim determination to keep her demons locked away in a vault that she had tried to make impenetrable….even to herself.
Twenty five minutes late – half the allocated session – what was she doing? He thought about the time they had already spent together and the animosity the girl displayed toward him and the other ‘therapists’ she had seen during the past two years. She was articulate, furious, enraged but fundamentally desperate…desperately depressed, lonely and locked inside a world where the past merged with and overwhelmed the present. He had watched the flickers of fear in her eyes when they got close to or even glimpsed a shadow of memories she could not bear to go near. Time had taught her how to push thoughts to one side, drop them into a huge hole and bury them in the hope that they would suffocate and consequently decay until they ceased to exist. Break downs, tremors, twisting fingers, insomnia, loss of appetite, self-loathing…they bloomed in the soil of those buried memories and their poisonous tendrils wrapped themselves like barbed wire around her mind and body. He wondered how so young a person found the energy to fight them off and continue the day to day pretence of a normal life, even more astonishing when it became clear that she had no support from home. She had insisted that their meetings should be low key affairs to be kept to themselves with only the minimum of information disclosed to her parents. It was difficult. They had not discussed why she wanted them kept out of her treatment… he felt that she wished to protect them from knowing about her distress…they would not cope with it. Who were the parents in that relationship and that household filled with brothers, secrets and seemingly inexorable anxiety.
He watched the time tick away and had to stop himself from ringing her to see what had happened. He wondered if she had forgotten that failure to attend could lead to her being sectioned to the psychiatric unit; she was taking a calculated risk and had probably already worked out that such a drastic step would not be taken for one missed appointment. She was feisty and rebellious, determined not to lose her identity, unwilling to concede an inch without he had to drag it out of her, sarcastic, cynical, a sense of humour – and the loneliest fifteen year old he had ever met. Twenty two years as a psychiatrist had thrown up any number of truly sick, bizarre, dangerous, obsessional, neurotic, psychotic and sociopathic people…unreachable patients who needed medication, nursing care and a safe place to live, whether they wanted it or not. Depressives, manics, phobics, wretched men and women who told him they could not relate, ruled the universe, stayed in bed and cried all day, washed their hands for hours on end until they were raw and bleeding. There were very few personality types he hadn’t met and treated, very few who didn’t feel in some way cut off and alone. He had changed tack and qualified as a psychotherapist which had sent a number of older teenagers his way. This girl was his youngest client to date, undoubtedly poorly, definitely not mad …but the loneliest person he’d ever met…and it filled him with an indescribable sense of anguish.
If you think you may like to read Parts 1, 2 and 3 they are posted under Table 42 at the Tavernadimuse. They are also on my personal blog but I don’t know how to get you there from here!