I met Jennifer at the hospital last Friday afternoon, armed with my “Focused Listening” bag that included all the equipment she would need for listening to the music. But, would she go for it? Would she even be pleased to see me? I went up to the second floor of the building and knocked on her door. She was in, but wasn’t expecting me because the staff hadn’t told her I was coming, as I had called ahead to request them to do.
Jennifer, as long as I have known her, has extreme “flat affect.” At her worst, she appears cold and disinterested, but I have seen her at her “better” after her stint in the hospital four years ago, and she was kind and sympathetic.
We went downstairs to get a coffee. I noticed that Jennifer was talking, not just to me, but to the other patients. This seemed like a big improvement over the what I had observed over the past year. We sat down and I asked her what brought her to the hospital. By now, she had been there about a month.
“I was doing nothing wrong, and at 7 a.m. one morning they came to my room and arrested me,” she said.
“That was tough. Why would they do that?”
I did nothing wrong, she insisted.
“I’m sure you didn’t,” I said. “Maybe they thought you weren’t taking your medication?”
“That medication they put me on, Haldol, was awful. It is a very old medication, shouldn’t be used, and it made my hands shake.”
“Yes, I remember seeing them shake,” I said. “Haldol will do that. So, are you still on it?”
“No, I went to a doctor who said I shouldn’t be on it, and I managed to get off it.”
“So, what are you on now?”
“That’s none of your business,” Jennifer replied. If looks could kill, I’d be dead. My take-away is that she ended up in hospital because she was off her meds and had no back-up plan. Not that a back-up plan would necessarily have worked. Going off meds takes a lot of trial and error, mainly error until something sticks.
“Okay, fair enough,” I say.
She launched into a tirade about her ex-husband being raped and murdered. And so has another woman whose name she mentions and I don’t recognize. Apparently, a lot of the the people in this town have disappeared and been killed.
I express my dismay at the sheer carnage that is being carried out locally.
This is not going well, I’m thinking.
“So, have you had any visitors?” I ask, fully expecting the answer I get.
I mulled that over in my head. She’s been here a month, and no one has visited her. Terribly sad, but not surprising.
“What can I do to help you, Jennifer?”
“Thanks, but I don’t need your help. There’s nothing wrong with me.”
I finally get some inspiration. “If you don’t need my help then I guess there’s no point in my giving you this,” I say, gesturing towards my bag of goodies.
“What did you bring? I guess I should at least look at it.”
“Not if you don’t need help,” I say, pulling the bag towards me and partially pulling out the headphone set.
She grabs them from me and puts them on. I plug the MP3 player into the headphones.
“What this is about is a lot like the Tomatis Method.”
“Oh yes, my daughter did the Tomatis Method to keep her languages straight.”
“Well this is a little different, but basically the same idea.” I hand her a cotton ball. “Here, put this in your left ear.”
“No thanks. I don’t need that.”
“Oh yes you do”, I say, in a slightly menacing tone while leaning in toward her. But I let it pass for now.
The upshot of my visit is that Jennifer accepted the equipment. But did she accept the challenge?