Meeting Dr. Right

  • Here's the last memoir excerpt in my duet about dueling doctors.

     

    To this day I still see Dr. Altman, and after I meet him on Friday, I'll write a blog entry for next week updating you about the recent Geodon switch.

     

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    It was a summer day, the kind of day you'd have a picnic in the park. I had taken off from work to see Dr. Altman, the new guy. I showered, dressed and applied subtle makeup, as if I was heading out to meet a lover. I wore a long black dress.

     

    The office was near Rockefeller Center, and I took the F train there, jumbled up in feelings of elation and distress as I rode the rails under Manhattan. "Love yourself, love yourself," I chanted. "It's going to be okay, read the subway ads, you can do it. Love is all you need."

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    Yet I couldn't control my anxiety when the conductor shouted, finally, "Rockefeller Center." I worried that my eyes were red, because I couldn't sleep last night, or on most nights, and so I stayed up until dawn. The day broke just as I was falling asleep.

     

    The appointment was for five o'clock. I'd have more than enough time to arrive refreshed, and instead, I panicked. I didn't know what to expect. The concierge in the lobby buzzed me in. "Thank you," I said, and signed my name in the visitors log. As I rode up in the elevator, pop music chimed through.

     

    Exiting on the fourth floor, I found the ladies room, and let myself in. It was almost as big as my living room: with oak paneling, and a raised copper-color glass sink above a marble counter. A raindrop-shaped bottle contained clear liquid soap. The wall-to-wall mirror had good, recessed lighting above it. I looked at my face: jet hair slicked back and short, brown eyes lined with espresso liner only on the top lash line, champagne eye shadow, smoky rose blush and pinkish-brown lips. I liked what I saw.

     

    His office was down the hall, and I pressed the button to be buzzed in. "Hello, pleased to meet you," Dr. Altman came into the waiting area minutes later. He had hazel eyes that saw right through me, and he offered his hand, which I shook firmly. His silk shirt matched his eyes, and he wore executive slacks and lace-up shoes.

     

    Dr. Altman led me into his office, and sat down behind a mahogany desk, on which were only my file, and his appointment book. He motioned for me to take a seat in the leather recliner.

     

    Immediately at ease, I knew the routine, but just to see if he'd slip, I recounted my story backwards, starting from the time I was in graduate school. "I worked full-time, took two classes a semester, and wrote, reported for and edited Keyword, the library science newsletter. I devoted twenty hours to each issue, and published it to deadline four times a year. I was also the chair of the law librarian lecture series."

     

    A smile escaped Dr. Altman's lips. I backtracked through my psychiatric history, returning to the present day at the end. The intake took fifty minutes, and he showed no signs of being impatient to end the session. Those soulful hazel eyes smiled, and I was encouraged to risk being honest. He hadn't said one word to me, and spent all the time listening.

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    Suddenly I burst into tears: "I was up until five o'clock in the morning again. I have trouble sleeping, I'm afraid it's not good."

     

    "Here's what I'll do, I'll raise the Stelazine to ten milligrams," Dr. Altman suggested. "You seem to be doing okay otherwise, so I'll see you in three weeks and we'll take it from there."

     

    "I was afraid, so afraid to tell you," I babbled. "You'd think I wasn't doing well, and want to change things."

     

    "Look, I'm a doctor, and sometimes even I have trouble sleeping. It happens to all of us." He said I could talk to him about whatever was on my mind.

     

    I sat there, drinking in those shining eyes. I told him that sometimes I felt like I couldn't go on, I had this cross to bear and it wasn't fair.

     

    "You see me?" he said. "I have a thing. That guy in the other office, he has a thing. You just have something a little harder."

     

    Those words comforted me. He continued: "Your insecurities will always be there, because you're human."

     

    It was as if a ray of light shone through. It was going to be okay; I had an ally.

     

    "How about I see you on Friday, August sixteenth at seven o'clock?" he asked.

     

    "Fine." I took his business card, and the new prescriptions.

     

    As I rose to leave, he said something that he would come to say at the end of every visit: "Good to see you, Christina."

     

    I went home and filled the Stelazine and Artane at the pharmacy. That night, I fell asleep like a baby at eleven o'clock. With the change in dose, my Seasonal Affective Disorder would be stopped cold.

Published On: March 12, 2008