Posted on January 7, 2019
When I was young, I was placed in a foster home at one point. One of the many side effects to this was that I had to go visit a psychiatrist for weekly evaluations. Maybe it was monthly, but I feel like it was more often than that. Whichever the case, I hated going.
My shrink’s name was Scott.
He sported a full academic-looking beard, wore high-rise khaki trousers and diamond-patterned socks that you sometimes see golfers wear. He always wore brown loafers, sweater vests, and dress shirts with collars. Whenever I used to speak with him, he would narrow his eyes in seeming thought, with his hands clasped together and both thumbs supporting his chin. His index fingers were placed together under his nose in the shape of a gun like we kids used to do when playing cops and robbers. He reassured me that I could tell him anything.
I instantly distrusted Scott. Not because of the way in which he dressed or held himself, not because of the weird games I saw in his office (One was called “The Talking, Feeling & Doing Game”). It was because of the way in which he responded to things I decided to tell him.
“What did you do this weekend, Joseph?” He would ask with his soft, meticulous voice.
“Well, my uncle took me to play paintball. It was pretty cool.”
“Oh, excellent. Paintball, you say? And what did you most like about it?”
I told him about how my uncle had picked me up, and how we had dressed completely in camo. I told him about how the paintball place employed a guy dressed like a drill sergeant who screamed at us and made us stand at attention as if we were really in the military. I told him about how originally, I felt that I was a bit scared of how much the paintballs would hurt if I was shot with one, but after having had it happen – it wasn’t really that bad. I told him about how I had been placed in charge of guarding the flag and how I had accidentally shot one of my own teammates in the head when he entered the den of my responsibility. I told him about how I had had a lot of fun and couldn’t wait to do it again.
His takeaway from the session that day: I liked to inflict harm on others and I was likely to inflict harm on myself.
Scott, while having a friendly exterior, seemed to pick up key themes and ideas which fit into his own preconceived psychological narrative of who I was, from whatever I told him. And so, I learned to examine my own words before I spoke. I tried to filter out anything that could be misconstrued. I was only fifteen years old at the time, and didn’t have much say in what happened to me. He wanted to put me on medications. Thankfully, my family intervened and the courts required several other opinions before he could successfully do so.
I went to one psychiatrist first. He was bald and wore horn-rimmed glasses and a full grey suit and tie. He looked like he belonged in the 1950’s, smoking a cigar and reading the news at his kitchen table. Some of his questions included “What year is it?” and “Who is the president of the United States?” and “Do you hear voices?” I laughed at the final question.
“Why are you laughing?” He asked.
“I hear voices all the time,” I said, smirking and rolling my eyes.
He leaned forward, and I could tell he missed my sarcasm and thought I legitimately heard voices, the kind he meant. “What do they say to you?”
I shrugged and said “I mean, I’m not deaf. I hear people’s voices all the time when they’re talking to me or other people. Real people, though. Not imaginary. Do you ever actually get people who hear voices telling them to do things? That’s crazy.”
I could tell that he lost interest at that point. He leaned back again. After a long pause, he scribbled something down. “Frankly,” he said, “I don’t even know why you’re here.”
Still, the fight over the drugs continued. According to Scott, I was depressed. I had suicidal tendencies. I needed to be placed on medications. Several of them, in fact. The sessions continued.
I was summoned to a room at the school I was attending – sometimes we had sessions at my school if my foster family wouldn’t be able to bring me to his office. When I entered the room and the formalities were over with, Scott lifted a poster I had made in one of my classes. I recognized it immediately, though I did not know how he’d gotten a hold of it or why he’d gotten a hold of it.
“First off, Joseph,” he said, lifting it higher so we could examine it together. “This is supposed to be your life in the future?”
“Yeah,” I said, grinning. I was proud of myself for my work on it. It was an exercise in which we were supposed to imagine our lives when we were thirty years old. By placing cut-outs from magazines and also drawings on a large poster board, we were supposed to show what our futures might look like. Ever the jokester, I had proposed that I would be graduated from college, pursuing a career in art, and that I would be divorced (come to think of it, that was scary-accurate). A picture of my nagging wife accompanied other images of a car, a dog, and a man in a suit. My wife had not only run away with her lawyer (the man in the suit), but also with my dog and my car. On the very far right of the poster I pasted a cut-out of a naked man in the trees and proposed that after my divorce I would become an eco-warrior and fight pollution and evil corporations. There was a giant arrow drawn on the poster board which pointed at the naked man. I had drawn ammo belts across his chest. It read “ME!” in big letters.
“Now,” Scott began after stroking his beard. “I see you have some positive things here. You want to go to college? That’s great.”
“Well, maybe,” I said. I didn’t know. I was only fifteen.
“And I see that you have high hopes for your art. Excellent.”
I shrugged and nodded.
“But…you see, I have a problem with these other things on the side. They are overwhelmingly negative. Divorce, poverty, turmoil….these are not things to shoot for in the future.”
I laughed. “I know THAT,” I said. “It’s a joke. See? I say that I’m an eco-warrior. You can’t take that seriously. I just didn’t know what my real life would be like, so I was making stuff up to be funny.”
Well, Scott didn’t see it that way. More pleas to the court for medication. More second opinions. More fighting by my real family on my behalf.
Eventually, I didn’t have to see Scott anymore, after the legal dust settled. But I still think about him and why I don’t trust anyone who’s paid to be your ear but who can prescribe and will prescribe medications because they receive a financial kickback. I’m still not sure what happened to him, but I am glad that I wasn’t allowed to be given medications when I was only being a smartass fifteen year old kid who was scared and just trying to deal with his inner demons his own way.