Tuesday, March 19, 2013

No. 443 – Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 1

Performer: My Morning Jacket
Songwriter: Jim James
Original Release: Evil Urges
Year: 2008
Definitive Version: none

Evil Urges was one of the several albums I bought in August 2008, as I noted, to mark something of a renewal. It ended up being anything but. Starting Labor Day weekend, depression began to set in with Laurie. Well, it started before that, but it really picked up in the fall.

Beginning in August, Laurie and I spent four straight weekends away from home, and it was a real regression. Torch Lake, as I recounted, was OK; Columbus to see a game at Cooper Stadium for the last time was fine.

Then came Labor Day weekend, and our annual trip to Ludington to visit Laurie’s uncle at his summer home was, well, not bad, but it was the first time that Laurie really started voicing sadness—sadness at having her summer ruined, sadness at causing so much pain, sadness at the prospect that things might never be the same.

The next weekend, we went to Maine—my first time in a decade. I was excited to be there, and the fact that Hurricane Hanna was bearing down on New England and expected to hit the day we were planning to leave made it more exciting. Laurie enjoyed it, she said later, but it seemed as though if she were feeling anything, it was emptiness. And it only got worse from there.

One thing was certain: Laurie’s psychiatrist wasn’t helping.

Laurie decided to change psychiatrists in August. She didn’t feel as though she bonded with her Evanston doctor, and she decided to go with the psychiatrist recommended to her by her therapist—Dr. Callahan.

Dr. Callahan was in fact the same psychiatrist I failed to connect with the fateful day that Laurie went to Evanston Hospital in May. Actually, as I mentioned, I connected with her briefly only to have her put me off until she could get to work. Apparently, it took her two weeks to get to work, because that was how long it was before I heard from her again. She apologized, saying she got very sick that day after we spoke on the phone, but by then, the point was moot.

Based on my experience, I gave Dr. Callahan … well, not quite a thumbs-down but a very tentative thumbs-sideways. Laurie, however, still was overwhelmed by the weight of all that had happened, and she wanted to go with a known commodity. A recommendation from Kay was good enough for her, and I wasn’t going to argue with it.

Laurie liked Dr. Callahan at first. She definitely wasn’t as rigid and formal as Dr. Anderson, whom I liked for reasons I’ll get to eventually, but, well, after the previous summer, I needed to see good results. The results weren’t good: Laurie wanted to sleep all the time and didn’t know what to do with herself when she was awake if she weren’t at work and didn’t have anything firmly planned.

Dr. Callahan tried this medication, then that one, then an additional one and this extra one, and, oh, by the way, here’s another one you can try if you’re feeling particularly anxious. Wait, what are the other ones for then? The mix didn’t seem to be working. Laurie seemed on a one-way express train heading south. Before long, I was along for the ride.

A couple of times, I was asked to attend a session in the evening. I did this with Dr. Anderson, but it didn’t seem helpful. In particular, the vibe I got from Dr. Callahan, and how she interacted with Laurie didn’t inspire confidence. When the second meeting was a carbon copy of the first meeting, I’d seen enough.

Just going to the medical building in Skokie where Dr. Callahan’s office was (and still might be for all I know) was creepy. This building was like walking into a Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger movie. There never was anyone at the front desk or at the desk in the doctor’s reception area. We never saw anyone walking the halls, and only half of the overhead fluorescent lights were on. If someone wearing a goalie mask carrying a bloody butcher knife turned the corner, neither Laurie nor I would have been surprised. Afraid, yes, but not surprised.

We hit bottom in November right around Thanksgiving. I remember a particularly depressing evening out with Steven and Michael where I began to wonder whether it ever would get any better. But then … just when, like the man said, you wondered how many nights a soul so full of life remained untouched … something wonderful happened: Dr. Callahan disappeared. I’m not exaggerating.

I made up my mind that Dr. Callahan was worthless, but slowly, surely, Laurie started to come around to that conclusion, too. The final straw happened the night we were to have a third joint session. When we got to the empty reception area, we waited and waited … 15 minutes … a half-hour …

Finally, we made enough noise that another doctor came to the door and said that Dr. Callahan wasn’t there. He said he’d call her and see what was going on, but it was clear we weren’t going to have our session.

That did it for Laurie. How unprofessional do you have to be when you blow off an appointment with a patient without even an excuse? Laurie had a couple other names from friends; she was going to call the one most recommended the next day. As we walked out into the night, it started to snow, and Laurie smiled. It was like the first time she seemed alive in a month, and it seemed like a good portend of things to come.

We never heard from Dr. Callahan again—no phone call, no apology, no rescheduling, heck, no scheduling of future appointments, nothing. Laurie wondered whether it was because Dr. Callahan thought she couldn’t help Laurie, which would be unforgivable without at least passing her off to someone who could. She also wondered whether it was because Dr. Callahan went nuts herself. Maybe. I certainly could speak to her instability.

It turned out Dr. Callahan’s disappearance was a blessing in disguise—a classic example of addition by subtraction—but that’s a story for another time.

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