Yesterday, Chris called me from a pay phone after his appointment with the employment counsellor.
“Great, so how’d it go?” I asked, mentally preparing myself for Chris to divulge some glitch on the road to employment.
“Uh, well, I sort of told her I was thinking about death a lot.”
“DEATH! Why would you tell an employment counselor THAT? She’s an employment counselor, not a psychiatrist!”
“Well, anyway, Mom, she called the L’Espoir program (outpatient day program Chris attended) to see if she could get me an appointment right away.”
“THE L’ESPOIR PROGRAM?” I exploded. “Why would you want to involve THE L’ESPOIR PROGRAM? You were perfectly fine this morning, and last night, and as far back as I can remember! ” (By now, I’m heading towards the land of high expressed emotion.)
“Chris, I’m taking the afternoon off. You meet me at home right away!”
Chris and I met up at home. I made him some herbal tea and we talked. There appeared to be nothing wrong with him except that he needs something to fill his days —a job or classes that bring him into contact with people. He has absolutely nobody to talk to during the day and this has been going on far too long. Staying inside the whole day means he can get easily spooked when he goes outside.
“Well, Chris, I guess you’ve set back the job hunt by several weeks. You obviously really spooked the employment counselor.”
“Yeah, and I haven’t told you the whole story. I have an appointment today at 4 p.m. at La Belle et La Bête.” (where Chris has spent a total of six months live-in)
“Okay, Chris, tell me what’s troubling you.”
The story emerged, nothing that both of us hadn’t already discussed. Chris is 28, at a crossroads.
“Mom, I am suddenly realizing how much time I’ve lost. I’m panicking. But I’ve got no plans. I’m an empty vessel. ”
“Right. Chris, this is normal for young men of your age who have gone through what you’ve gone through. They get to a point of being well when they suddenly wake up to possibilities and they panic. You’re perfectly sane, you know.”
Chris brightened. “Am I? Gee, I need to hear that.”
“Well, it’s the truth. And the good news is that you are moving another notch up the diagnosis food chain. You started out diagnosed as schizophrenic, the last time you were hospitalized for three months you were favoring bipolar, and now I would say you are simply neurotic. Congratulations!”
“I guess I am kind of neurotic right now.” We both laugh.
“Chris, I know you are not suicidal. You are perfectly welcome to keep your appointment today with the shrink at the residential hospital; I’ll drive you there, but let’s get our story straight. I’m not leaving you there. When he asks you about the supposed suicide ideation, what are you going to say?”
“Well, I’m spending too much time with old people.”
“That would be your mother and your father, and all the people my age you hang around with in musical theatre. Death is just around the corner for all of us!”
“I don’t see anybody during the day my own age. I’m lonely. I also feel I’ve gone as far as I can go with Dr. Stern. She’s quite Freudian, and I think that there is another side to me that is not coming out.”
“You have spent a lot of time with Dr. Stern. Maybe you need a change.”
So, I drove Chris to La Belle et La Bête and left him there and went off to an antiques store.
When I picked him up after his appointment, everything was cool. The psychiatrist, who was not much older than Chris, spent about an hour with him and Chris promised to phone him the next day to let him know how he was. He told Chris he could contact him anytime if he needed to talk further. No drugs, no hospitalization, just empathy.
Death: You’re an interesting young man. We’ll meet again.
Young Boris: Don’t bother.
Death: It’s no bother.