When I was a kid I would frequently have night terrors; the kind where I woke up screaming and crying, having no memory of what in my own mind had scared me so much. Apparently, this phenomenon isn't uncommon in younger children and adults, but my parents acted as though I was a broken child they now had to suffer through "helping". My home was a proper one, with a Mother and a Father, no siblings, but I did have a wonderful Grandmother. While we weren't rich, we weren't poor either, and my Father was always donating money to causes that made him look good. Growing up I always felt like a flaw in their design of the perfect family. Eventually I discovered that I truly was a flaw, a mistake made in the middle of the night decades ago; I never forgave my parents for what happened, it was truly the stuff of night terrors.
My room is quiet at night, not quite in the calming, sleep inducing way, but more in the familiar noises way. During the day the door remains open, I can hear those around me walking around, talking about things that don't matter, and every so often there's shouting or fighting. At night the quiet seeps in under the door. The lights are softer, I hear snoring and faint coughs; it's soothing, and helps with the passage of time in my head.
During the day there is a routine to follow. Wake up at 5am, shower is between 5:15 am and 5:45am , morning zen time lasts from 5:45 am to 6:45am, maybe eat breakfast, get ready for work at 6:45am, have a commute to work at 7am, work from 7:30am to 4:30pm, commute back to homebase at 4:30pm, have dinner at 5:30om, evening zen time is from 6pm to 7:30pm, and then bedtime routine is from 7:30pm to 8pm, with bedtime being exactly 8pm.
I sound like a nutcase when I write this down or say it out loud. Like there are many things wrong with me, instead of what actually is wrong with me.
I'm told that this journaling exercise will be good for me, that it will help me not be in such a panicked state all the time. That perhaps if my thoughts live on these pages, my brain will have enough of a reprieve at night to sleep the whole way through; especially when I take my medication. Allowing myself the discipline of structure will be exponentially beneficial to my care and well being.
I wonder if they believe any of this crap. I need them too. I need to be out of here; I don't want to die in here.
"I used to have these black outs and when I woke up I'd be any number of places. They really freaked my mother out so she sent me to see every doctor under the sun. By the time I was sixteen I had seen three neurologists, half a dozen cardiologists, a brain stem specialist and had a truly lovely, though expensive, visit to the Mayo Clinic. After I turned eighteen and graduated high school I thought I could be done with seeing all the doctors. My mother and I have never been similar thinkers and this time she proved me so wrong. Just because there was no cut and dry or easy explanation from the world of medicine that didn't mean there wasn't a reason. Hence why I'm here, sitting in your office. For the last five years I've been getting tossed between every sort of brain shrink in town. You're lucky twenty three. At least you have chairs instead of couches, but you could stand to spruce the place up a bit."
"You seem relatively optimistic about seeing me, why is that?"
"Well, I got to pick you. My mother just knows I'm seeing a new doctor but nothing more than that. You don't have any set rules about sessions, and you have a flexible schedule. Believe me some of your compatriots in the field are absolutely insane when it comes to what they consider standard operating procedure."
"And you think that allowing patients so much freedom is a good thing?"
"Its different. I don't think that I need the structure anymore, I need to be able to have some semblance of control or else I know that I will stop showing up, the insurance company will save some money not having to pay for my sessions for a while, and I'll have to deal with a never ending shit storm from my mother because once again I quit therapy. I know you are fairly new so your lack in structure is also possibly due to a naivete surrounding the field, or maybe you think you can be innovative and be the 'fun' therapist. Whatever the reason I know that I appreciate it. Can we change the subject now?"
"Sure. Why don't we do some basic background stuff. I know you wrote down your history for me, and that I've been able to collect your substantial record from your previous doctors, yet I have a feeling that you didn't tell them everything and I'd like to know why. So lets start simply. Tell me about the first time you remember blacking out. What were you doing before, during, and after when you woke up?"
"Wow. Okay. Um, the first one I really remember was when I was fifteen. I was a sophomore, in first period biology so it was early, like seven in the morning, and I was tired. We were reviewing something and the teacher knew I'd already done everything so he didn't care that I put my head down. Then slowly I felt like I was falling. I remember that I couldn't move my arms or legs, I couldn't speak or open my eyes. I'd been running around like a chicken with my head cut off because of ROTC and National Honor Society, and suddenly it felt like I was somewhere else. I didn't even feel connected to my body, I was in a completely different place. I could vaguely hear my teacher and a friend trying to wake me up, but even though I could hear them and felt like I was screaming for help, my body didn't respond. It felt like it took hours for me to finally wake up when it was really only about forty five minutes or so. The next thing I knew I was having an oxygen mask placed on my face by a random EMT and a dean was going through my stuff and trying to call my folks."
"And this is the first time you remember blacking out?"
"Yup. The ones I remember are all like this."
"Do you believe its probable that there are a series of blackouts you don't remember? Perhaps when you were younger times you remember nothing about?"
"What kid doesn't have those? I mean, sure there are a lot of things about my childhood I don't remember, but who remembers everything?"
"I'd like to try something. Its a little different and it may sound archaic, but its continually had results."
"Positive or negative?"
"Results are results, in the field of psychotherapy it is hard to distinguish between positive and negative as they differ for each patient and situation. What may seem positive to one person, i.e. the unearthing of memories long forgotten, can have a negative impact when those memories are of some long forgotten trauma. On the other hand suddenly remembering everything or anything you hadn't before can be seen as a negative experience and could have a positive return when suddenly those lost memories of Nana come flooding back. "
"What exactly are you doing? Hypnosis?"
"Precisely. Its an old method, but with some advanced knowledge of the human brain there has been a resurgence of the use of hypnosis. "
"So you want to hypnotize me. And what? See if you can make me quack or remember some long lost trauma that would suddenly explain all the blackouts and give my mother a clean cut answer?"
"Something along those lines."
"And I'm the crazy one."
"I've never called you crazy."
"We also just met."
"And our time is coming to an end for today."
"So you waited until the end to tell me about an old fashioned method of therapy that has to have one of the worst track records in history and you really think that I am going to come back after all this to get hypnotized?!"
"Basically. I have some handy literature for you if you'd like."
"Is this your M.O.? Handy literature? How often do you do this?"
"Honestly, you would be my first patient who I think could really benefit from this type of therapy. I've never suggested it before."
"I have time to think about it right? Its not like we'd start until I said so or anything, you need consent paperwork signed and stuff."
"And stuff yes, but the sooner the better really."
"I'll take your literature, but I can't promise I'll say yes."
"I wouldn't want you too until you feel comfortable."
"Yay for grown up decisions."
"This one is simpler than you think. And we will only do as many sessions with you under hypnosis as you feel comfortable. Then the next session would be us watching the recording of you entranced. Just so that you are aware of what goes on. If after several sessions there is no improvement, or you are uncomfortable then we simply stop and think of something else. I know this is extreme, but I also think that this is something potentially beneficial to you."
"And you get nothing out of it. No fancy research grants, no weird perverse pleasure, no scandal by selling the tapes to my mother?"
"Absolutely nothing except the knowledge that comes from the sessions."
"Let me think about it. I'll do some research and get back to you."
"We won't even bring it up again until you do."
"You're welcome. Now, let me ask you a few questions about your 'blackout' stage."
"When you are mid blackout, do you feel as though you are somewhere else? Or do you feel somehow connected to the situation around you?"
"I guess a bit of both. Sometimes I have no idea where I've been and other times I have this out of body experience thing where I end up watching my life like a ghost."
"And when you come too? What's that like?"
"Usually I feel like I've been asleep. Sometimes its as if I've just run a marathon. I guess it depends what I do while I'm blacked out."
"So you black out, yet some how remain cognizant enough to do things?"
"Most of the time. At least that's what I'm told. Apparently I've done everything from going through school to dates and even sex while blacked out. I actually hate that term. I don't feel like I black out, its more like I space out, or just can't remember what I've been up to for the last however many minutes, hours, or days I've been 'out'."
"Interesting. Do you ever attempt to keep a log or diary of these occurrences?"
"I was supposed to. The first shrink I saw wanted me too but she was really bizarre about it."
"Super controlling. If my entries didn't match the format she'd given me they were some how invalid. Another doctor once had me just jot down everything I could remember. Which also sucked because he insisted I didn't remember enough. After a while I just gave up recording them, they didn't seem to help anyway. They were always so jumbled. Sometimes I would write down lists, other times it was like I wrote the beginning of a novel or something. Once I used an entire notebook to write poetry as if I were Shakespeare."
"It sounds as if you've had zero continuity between these recordings."
"They were also spread out. Sometimes weeks or months would go by between me writing stuff down."
"Did you ever do it because you wanted too?"
"I don't think so. Usually talking about them bugged me so I'd keep quiet."
"It was easier than talking about it. Easier than explaining over and over about what was going on in my head, or what my home life was like. Its all that crap that made me hate seeing shrinks. None of them ever asked anything unique or came up with any other way to treat me. Meds and talking seem to be the only way I could be cured. I never even consider myself to be sick."
"Mental illnesses don't always let people think they're sick."
"So you did read my background."
"Yup. You were diagnosed manic depressive bi-polar around the time you started blacking out."
"Indeed. Hence why I saw so many doctors before I saw shrinks. They thought I was having a bad reaction to my medication or something. Not that I was fine on the meds. Do you want to take me off them or something? Each doctor changes the regime."
"For now lets keep your medications the same. There is no reason to change anything unless you feel you need too."
"And for now our time has come to a close."
"Its been a pleasure meeting you Dr. Nico."
"It has been quite the delight meeting you as well Greer. Please feel free to call when you'd like to come in next. For now please read this carefully before deciding about the hypnosis."
"Sure thing. I'll be in touch soon."