Part Five: Why Did You Decide to Move to Argentina?
They’ve let me out. I’m surprised. It’s never happened this way before. The psychosis has waned, a side-effect. I’ve got a paper bag with my stuff in it, some x-rays of my shoulder, a note for school and work.
It’s not so bad this time, coming to each professor and showing my excuse. At least I haven’t shown up for my speech class wearing a horned, rubber mask to give my presentation or laughed loudly and derisively at another student’s comments. There wasn’t time for things to get so out of control. I was only gone for a week and my work had been strong before this happened. I’m back in the blood stream of the student body.
They’ve taken me back at the comedy club, too. Tearing tickets, replenishing empty popcorn baskets.
This time the break with reality is easily explained. It was the drugs. It was the accident. It was the stress. It’s understandable. And though the campus is booby trapped with humiliating memories of prior freak outs, I feel angry enough at the injustice of the situation that I can rise above the humiliation. I feel conspicuous and worthy of ridicule, but I can vindicate myself through normalcy.
I stay inside my head, walk the campus like a street smart punk, avoiding eye contact. What I’m really avoiding is the stares I imagine, the whispered insults and gossip of people who have the energy to brush their teeth every day. I still feel attention directed toward me which may or may not be paranoia. I train my eyes ahead like I’m walking through a bad neighborhood and keep my mouth shut.
I’m doing everything right – everything they’re telling me to do – but I feel worthless. Up in the morning. Bike on the front of the bus. I heft it off at campus feeling like a hero because no one can see my pain. I’m stronger than they are. My classes are populated by students who are mostly younger than I am by about 10 years. Their blank acceptance of the material is frustrating, their disinterest is alternately contagious and infuriating.
Once a week, I go to court ordered alcohol classes downtown for my DUI led by a high energy, fast talking, forty-something former crackhead named Michael who wears a tie and has good intentions. “Your higher power could be a rocking chair! That’s what one man I know did. When he heard ‘higher power’ he just pictured his grandmother’s rocking chair. Your higher power could be anything at all. You don’t have to believe in God to have a higher power.”
My cohorts are mostly middle aged men wearing industrial boots who watch blankly as Michael draws graphs on a large pad held by an easel. His zealous metaphors miss the mark. We hear the same jargon at every meeting, the same stories, because Michael makes up for our reluctance to share by sharing himself. It’s hard to imagine him on crack, any more animated and repetitive than he already is.
I attend biweekly counseling sessions with a bookish woman named Diane who listens to my perceptions without challenge. I have been assigned to her through the county after discharge from the psych ward.
Despite all the help I’m getting, I feel alone. I can make people laugh, but I can’t find comfort. I’m disconnected. The places I go are obligatory: work, school, alcohol class, counseling. It’s a semester of requirements. My advanced video class is the only creative outlet I have and I spend hours in a hard chair, my hand going numb from using the mouse, working on a video about my mental problems.
I interview people from my life, insisting they refer to me in the third person, taking accounts of incidents they remember. It’s depressing, watching the footage over and over as I listen to the same words about the things I did and said that hurt them, confused them, worried them, editing their recollections of what a fucked up person I am.
“She had all these necklaces and she thought they looked good, but they did not.” Back up. Hear it again. Cut it. “She was really freaked out.” Back it up. Cut it. Back it up. Listen again. Back it up. “She was really freaked out.” No. Again. Shaving off milliseconds. “She came to my house and yelled at me.” “She came to my house and yelled at me.” “She came to my house and yelled at me.” No. Again. Too long. Again.
Back at my lawyer’s office, things have hardly changed. There is still no word on the driver’s policy limits. I suggest going after the doctor who prescribed the me pills, but it’s explained to me that what I have is a preexisting condition. My medical records would be called into question and based on my history of psychosis, it’s best not to bring in my medical records. What we need to do, DeCamillis explains, is to stick to the case as it stands. The accident report has come through and it’s not as clear a case as he would like. I was going the wrong way down the sidewalk and the police have not assigned fault to either party.
“What do I do about a doctor? I’m not going back to Bloemer. He doesn’t have a clue. I’ve been calling around and I’m having trouble finding anyone who will see me. The doctors I’ve been calling won’t see accident cases.”
“Well, Kate, like I told you before, I have a shoulder injury myself. And I see a chiropractor, Carol Ward. Carol’s the best. I go in there hurtin’ and come out feelin’ like a million bucks.” He flashes a shit eating grin at me. He has the face of a cupie doll. Round eyes, apple cheeks.
Carol Ward’s office is in the wealthy suburbs north of town, 30 minutes of highway away from what I consider civilization. After the first appointment, my dad is tasked with driving me out there three times a week for treatment until my mom gets back in town. Carol Ward is more than happy to see accident victims and explains to me that the money will come out of my PIP fund, so I won’t pay a dime.
Dr. Ward seems a little off balance herself and has the bedside manner of a child molester in an after school special – I sense I’m actively being lured in. She uses my name as much as DeCamillis in soothing tones manufactured to make me feel nurtured. Being near her makes me anxious, but I feel I have no choice. This has been recommended to me by my attorney. I want to cooperate. I don’t want to make waves. I want to do things right for once. My pattern of noncompliance has to come to an end if I want to hope for a positive outcome.
During the first appointment, she explains to me how she was once an ER nurse who hurt her back lifting a patient. This accident was the genesis of her passion for chiropractic care. She had to fight to get what was coming to her, and it wasn’t easy. She feels my pain and she wants me to know that she knows how I feel being hurt through no fault of my own.
“I’m gonna get you your money, Kate,” she whispers. A secret between girls.
I feel no improvement. Not right away and not after weeks of tri-weekly treatments. What I feel is a pinching pain deep in the joint. Some days I can’t turn my head to either side. There is talk at every session of getting me my money.
During conversations with Dad during the drives back and forth, he tries to convince me to see a real doctor. The surgeon his jock friends swear by will not see me. I can’t get a good answer from anyone about where I can go. DeCamillis says that referring me to a doctor is not something he can do, is in fact against the law. I wonder quietly why this isn’t the case in his referral to Dr. Ward whose rigorous schedule of therapy is rapidly draining the funds I have immediately available for treatment.