Part III: An act of chivalry
When the three of us were in session – Evie, her mom, and me – I would read aloud the most recent additions to her conversation. By now, she always wanted to hear what I had to say, and that was good. She spoke of her many troubles, and Vlad comforted her with sound advice and concern.
I should tell you I already had a few private conversations with Evie’s mom about this. Pamela told me Evie always had a vivid imagination. She had “friends” she would talk to when she was a toddler, as many kids do. Like most kids, she grew out of it by the time she started school. Pamela never thought it was a problem. She thought it was normal for some kids. It is, of course, for all kids, with spheres far and away the most adept at using their imaginings to tell stories about their life experiences.
Vlad “arrived” right around the time their marriage was “falling apart,” Pamela told me. As she entered her teens, Evie was becoming increasingly alone, questioning everything her mother did or should have done. She was becoming desperate as her father receded from her world. She was angry, hurt, and isolated.
Once, while I read her story for the three of us, the fair maiden (the girl in the story didn’t have a name other than “maiden”) said to Vlad, “Thank you for your chivalry my friend.” I smiled. What could this sad and frightened little 14-year-old Goth girl from Southern California know about chivalry, I said to myself. So, I asked her. Before she could answer, Pamela interrupted, beaming, and proudly said, “She knows what it means too!”
“Really?” I said. “What does chivalry mean, Evie?”
“Dr. Cima!” She was a little angry. “I know what chivalry means! It means that when a fair maiden is about to step into a puddle of water, the gentleman is supposed to take off his coat and lay it on the ground so she won’t get her feet wet,” she said grinning, with as much pride as her mother. It was a good moment for all three of us. From that time forward, we changed her story of desperation into her search for inspiration.
About That Voice-In-Her-Head
One day, sometime in the second month or so that I knew her, Evie asked me, causally, “Dr. Cima, do you think I’m crazy?” It was, I think, a question to test my answer more than anything else. She had her fill of answers by then.
Her doctor told her, and her mother, she had “schizoaffective disorder” and something called “major depressive disorder,” and that she needed a chemical to make her better. Her therapist told her she was “substituting Vlad for her father,” though she had a “psychiatric disease” too. Her social worker told her she sent her to this facility for her “mental illness.” A few counselors, frustrated because she wasn’t improving, told her she was “psychotic.” The other kids at the facility? They told her she was a “wing-nut,” and other similar terms, as you can imagine. All of this convinced Evie this really was a place “for crazy kids.” I answered her question.
“No Evie,” I said, “I don’t think you’re crazy.”
“Ok, Dr. Cima,” she replied, almost as a challenge, “then where does Vlad come from?”
I shrugged and said “I think it’s just you talking to you. What do you think Evie?”
“Yeah,” she said with a sly grin, “it’s just me talking to me.”
That seemed to help. After all, that’s what it is. We should remember, parents and professionals alike, there really isn’t another person talking, and the voice isn’t coming from the clouds. It’s her own imagination at work, nothing more. She’s having a discussion with herself, it seems spontaneous, it seems to be real and, for the most part, she’s was okay with it. We decided she was having “a wide-awake dream, that’s all.” That seemed to make sense to her. We never talked about “why” she was having her wide-awake-dreams, so it made it easier for her to talk to me about them.
After awhile our conversations were about the words she wrote, and the metaphorical meanings they had in her life. It was a great way for her to explain her inner turmoil, and a great way to encourage her candor. She was, in the next few months, increasingly candid.
About That Cutting
About one month into our relationship, at a particularly vulnerable and honest moment, I asked Evie if I could see her scars. She was very ashamed of her scars, in front of me, and she always wore long sleeve shirts to hide them. Evie took off her jacket and extended her arms. There were several dozen criss-crossed scratches from her wrist to three fourths of the way up both of her arms, most of them permanent scars. When I gently held her arm to look, she started to cry.
I’m sorry, Dr. Cima,” she said, her eyes fixed on the floor.
“Sorry,” I replied, “why are you sorry Evie?
“Because it’s a stupid thing to do!” she said, with a bit of anger in her voice.
She said, at different times, she did it because she couldn’t stop herself, and because Vlad said it was a sacrifice she had to make, and because she felt so empty inside, and because her dad wasn’t around, and because it brought her a lot of attention and, sometimes, because she was bored. Mostly, she said, “I do it when I don’t feel anything.”
Not a small item for Spheres, the loss of feelings. Feelings provide Spheres their life energy. Spheres without feelings are like Cubes without a puzzle to solve, or Squares without a job to do, or Stars without a game to play. In desperate times, in a strange place for “crazy kids,” feeling something is better than feeling nothing. We talked about her feeling nothing, and decided that feeling nothing was a feeling too. Even if it felt terrible and empty, it was a feeling. At least, we decided, she was feeling something. Evie slowed and then stopped cutting herself six weeks after we met.
About That Chemical Cocktail
I convinced Pamela her daughter didn’t have a “disorder” or a “disease.” Frankly, and not surprising to me, it didn’t take that much to convince her. She never saw any improvement in her daughter’s behavior, despite the number of “cocktails” they tried. She consented because a doctor said her daughter needed “medicine.”
This is a common experience for the many hundreds of parents I’ve worked with in my career. Parents will say they saw improvement in the first few weeks, then things began to get back to where they were. Chemicals were increased, or decreased, or changed, or added – it didn’t matter much. Over time, nothing changed, often their child was worse, and now their child was living in “a place for crazy kids.”
Pamela expressed her right as a parent and asked that her daughter be taken off her “medication.” The doctor cautioned her against doing so, however, Pamela insisted. With my support, we began a “titration schedule,” and simply reduced and eliminated both her chemicals in a matter of a few weeks. Good riddance, and a huge boost to the self-confidence of Evie – and her mom.
NEXT TIME: How Did it End?