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WHAT TO DO WITH A DREAM
...of one of your doctors, the one with the electricity
in her hands, the seizure control, your brain,
the one with her parchment, her calligraphy pens
and fondness for what you would never call
even in the most polite company the F word
but say it out all four letters naked under the sun,
a dream of someone you trusted with the frailty
of your life and the brain that has served
you adequately, though not as well as it could,
a dream that she not plays but is Medea, hands
sticky with her boys’ rich, warm, lifeless redblood,
a dream— but is it only that or does it say something
more than the mind’s fanciful confusion
of its female characters? You can’t will yourself
to forget this collision of identities any more
than the expert silver burglar can forget the success
of his life of crime and go chalk-line straight.
There is only one question in the back of your mind:
will she handle you with care or play out the script,
taking your life not just in her hands but with them?
Thhis poem is about Dr S at St R's hospital, where I had my second set of ECT sessions (electroshock therapy). The first 8 were voluntary, as I believe I have written elsewhere before. But I grew terrified of the anesthesia, which I experienced as falling off a cliff into an abyss like a black hole, being sucked into it really, then seconds later being hurled back to consciousness, only to immediately vomit, sometimes all over myself if the recovery nurses weren't prepared. The vomiting wasn't so bad though. It was the experience of being sucked off the cliff into darkness then propelled violently back to the world that scared me to death. So one day, instead of agreeing to follow the others like sheep to the slaughter (we had to walk a long way from the ward to the ECT suite on the other side of the hospital) I snuck to the kitchen and stuffed a pear in my mouth and ate it as quickly as I could. That effectively ruined my ability to have ECT that day as you were not allowed to eat or drink anything after midnight.
After that episode I simply refused to go, and since it was voluntary and I had asked for this treatment in order to rid myself of the delusional need to set myself on fire, which ECT had effectively cleared one other time, no one could make me. So I thought. But one day Dr S came into my room and started talking about the need for me to continue ECT, how I was not doing well, had been in the hospital a month and had not improved and that ECT was the treatment I needed as pharmocological interventions were clearly not enough. THEN she said, softly but clearly, you are going to have ECT whether you like it or not and I have the authority to make that happen. You have to understand that. Whether you go willingly or kickiing and screaming is up to you. But eventually, you will go. Do you understand what I'm saying?
I didn't believe her, frankly. I didn't believe there was any way she could force me against my will to undergo such a barbaric treatment. But as you all know, there was. She took me to probate court, got Lynnie assigned as my conservator and also got her to agree to sign papers allowing Dr S to give me ECT involuntarily...Needless to say, I was pissed. But I also sorta knew it was for the best as I suspected nothing else would work to rid me of these terrible thoughts, frightened as I was of the anesthesia. Amazingly enough, the second series of 8 sessions was not as bad as the first, and I got used to the anesthesia after all. But as for outpatient maintenance sessions, once a week to begin with, diminishing to once a month eventually -- those I would not tolerate and despite the court order, I decided to risk it and refuse, figuring no one would force the matter after I was discharged, nor would the police actually come 35 miles just to pick me up and forcibly bring me to St R's for the treatments! I was right. I wrote a note to Dr S telling her why I wasn't coming and mailed it, and no one made any fuss. I simply dropped out of treatment and never went back.
A few months later I set my leg on fire, but I think that was due to the general failure of the treatments not to my refusal of maintenance.
Anyhow, as to the poem, in my dream Dr S is Medea, an ancient mythic Greek woman of whom all you need to know is that she murdered her two children, sons, in order to get back at her husband, Jason of Golden Fleece fame. To dream of the doctor this way is very suggestive as she literally had my life in her hands, as the poem says, and that is what it is all about.
Joe's bipap alarm has been going off every night several times, and we thought the machine was broken, that there was an air leak somewhere that was triggering the alarm, which simply wouldn't stop. But even with a new machine, last night the alarm woke him and he realized, being more alert than usual, that he had not been breathing, and that is why it had gone off. That is what I fear the most, that this sort of apnea -- stopping breathing briefly or longer during sleep -- which ought to wake him to take a breath, won't do so because of his sedation. But he feels so good and alert during the day that I can see why he just doesn't want to spoil that by taking any Zyprexa then, and I appreciate that immensely. When I was on Zyprexa, the visiting nurses and Dr O made me take all 35 mg during the day so they could make sure I took it. But it made me sleepy, so much so that my day/night cycle was reversed and I'd stay up all night simply because it was then that I felt most alert. Damn, this is a problem! I don't want him to have an iota less of quality time during the day...Yet I fear for him at night, sleeping as deeply as he does with a tendency to accidentally take off the machine mask and not put it back on...
I had an aha! moment with Dr O on Wednesday when I finally understood part of step two that I hadn't before. When I have a feeling -- the reason for her mantra "the feeling is primary" -- like rejection or feelings of being hated or of fear, it is so intolerable to me that I IMMEDIATELY resort, or my brain does, to making up a story to render the abhorrent feeling null and void, irrelevant or unimportant. If the story is so much worse, the feeling fades into the background and goes underground, and I focus then on the story, the delusion my mind has constructed in its effort to avoid feeling the feeling! I understood this viscerally, in a way I hadn't before...Or had perhaps understood several times before, but it felt like something new. It must seem like I have the same revelation over and over to her, to you. But I keep losing the insight, losing insight altogether, and have to regain it all over again, especially after a hospitalization. I imagine it must be frustrating to Dr O, though she doesn't show it...
I think part of the problem is that I don't pay attention very well. So I keep missing her explanation and don't know how to ask her to repeat herself, so ashamed am I of NOT paying attention. I fake it most of the time, since I have not heard a lot of what is said. I try to act like I understand much more than I do. Oh, sometimes I am there, and do pay attention. But only when the sentences are short and the answer or question is short. When faced with a long unbroken question or soliloquy that I can't interrupt with a question or anything to chop it into hearable quanta, I lose attention within a minute and have to keep pulling myself back to whatever is being said, which gets harder as I lose the train of thought, missing more and more. This is my problem with reading as well. I can't keep my attention on the subject at hand very long, but start daydreaming or thinking about other matters very quickly, sometimes before I've read a full page. Occasionally I get into the reading and can read several pages before becoming distracted. But usually it is only a few at best...Partly I get sleepy, but mostly I simply zone out and start thinking of other things and lose track of what is being said on the page. Ditto conversation. I have to try very hard to pay attention and NOT lose track. If I do even once, I am sunk as everything hinges on staying in touch. With Joe I can ask him to go back and repeat himself, though he never realizes quite how far back he must go. But not with most people.Posted by pamwagg at December 1, 2006 10:37 AM