“How are you feeling today?” Out of the corner of my eye I could see Dr. Skinner trying to read me, but I didn’t dare look her in the face.
“Fine.” A giant oak tree stood tall against the November sky, bare of all it’s leaves. It’s twisted branches stuck out like arms reaching towards the heavens. It kinda looks like it’s praying.
“Jen?” I looked away from the window. Dr. Skinner’s pale face was displaying an odd combination of emotions; concern with a hint of disappointment and just a splash of annoyance. I could tell she was running out of patience.
“Can you tell me what happened exactly?” No, a voice cried out in my head but my mouth said, “sure,” I closed my eyes for a second, trying to remember…
“Jen?” It had been several minutes. Several minutes in silence, or at least I think they were silent, I’m not sure. I couldn’t hear anything but the roar of the waves. I opened my eyes.
“Sorry, I don’t know what exactly you want me to tell you. You already know what happened.”
“Yes, but I want to hear it from you.”
“If you don’t talk to me I can’t help you. Wasting time won’t help anyone.” I rolled my eyes. I thought therapists were supposed to be understanding, not pushy.
“Alright fine. Last Sunday night I kind of tried to drown myself.” I could feel my face turning red. Why did you have to make me say it?
“Kind of? What do you mean kind of?” The way she said it made her sound like my mother. You’re so fucking condescending.
“It wasn’t suicide. I was just drunk and I wanted to go swimming. When I felt the tides pulling me under I didn’t struggle. I was kind of…” what’s the word I’m looking for…
“Kind of what?” Her voice was dripping with insolence. Jesus.. Are you allowed to be this snooty?
“Kind of okay with it.” I could feel hot tears swelling up in my eyes, and I wasn’t entirely sure why. I swallowed them.
“Why were you okay with it?” Ah, see now that was a loaded question. To be honest there is no one specific reason as to why, more like lots of little reasons. Reasons I would never admit to anyone, especially not the condescending know-it-all sitting before me.
I shrugged. “I was drunk.”
Dr. Skinner wrote something down in her yellow notepad.
“What happened after the waves pulled you under?” I closed my eyes, and for a moment I could feel the water rushing against my skin, so cold it burned. I could’ve resisted, I could’ve fought for air but I didn’t want to. Somehow I felt safe, cradled in the unforgiving arms of the ocean. I shook my head clear of these thoughts, I have to stop being so melodramatic, my life isn’t some shitty Hollywood tearjerker.
“My boyfriend pulled me out.”
“What’s his name?”
“Tom,” my heart skipped a beat when I said his name. If my life IS a movie, he’s my leading man. Some version of a smile started to spread across my face. I quickly turned it back into a blank icy stare. I work really hard to make sure she doesn’t have a reason to question me too much, and aside from last Sunday’s dramatic display of emotion or as she calls it, “cry for help”, I’ve done a pretty good job.
“How far under were you when he pulled you out?”
“I’m not sure,” and I really wasn’t. She wrote something down on her yellow notepad. I almost asked her what she was writing down, but I knew she wouldn’t tell me. They never do.
“What were you doing before you decided to drown yourself?” I glared at her.
“I didn’t decide to drown myself. It kind of just happened, I don’t know, I was drunk.”
“Do you remember what happened right before? What you were thinking?”
I did remember, sort of; it was kind of fuzzy.
“I was at my friends’ house, they were having a party. I was dancing with my girlfriends, having a good time, when suddenly I decided to walk to the beach. I don’t really remember why, I guess because it was right across the street. It just looked so pretty.” That was true, I really did only go because it looked so peaceful under the full moon. The red wine convinced me that my teal high-low tulip skirt and white off the shoulder crop top made me look like a mermaid, and two shots of tequila later I decided that I was most definitely a mermaid, even if just for the night. But I can’t tell the good doctor that, she’d never understand. Too normal for irrational fantasies. I guess that makes my life a reinvented version of The Little Mermaid; instead of trying to grow legs I’m on a quest to return to my kingdom in the sea. Ha! Maybe I am crazy.
Dr. Skinner wrote something in her yellow notepad. Why is she taking notes on me?
“What made you decide to go in? Where you upset about something? Did something happen that you’re not telling me?”
“Mmm, not that I can remember,” that was a lie. Earlier that night my mom called. As usual, we ended in a fight. Nothing out of the ordinary. Certainly nothing to get suicidal about. Dr. Skinner studied me closely.
“So you spontaneously decided to go for a midnight swim? Jen, I have some real trouble believing that.” Of course you do.
“How often are you drinking?”
“Two or three times a week, basically just on the weekends.”
“How many drinks per night?”
“That depends, if I’m drinking wine it’s like two to three glasses,” more like four or five “and if I’m drinking liquor, usually vodka, it’s like four or five shots”, seven or eight.
“How often are you blacking out?”
“I usually don’t. Aside from last Sunday I almost never drink that much,” half lie, I rarely black out but I brown out quite a bit. I remember a lot but I definitely don’t remember everything.
“I think you drink more than you’re leading on to and I’m worried it’s starting to get dangerous. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and impairs judgement, you know that. I don’t think you’re emotionally stable enough for that right now. You need to stop drinking completely- at least until after winter break.”
“I’m not emotionally unstable!” But I was, even if it was just a slight instability brought on by hurricane of unfortunate events. It was one slip up, one dumb drunken mistake. I usually handle my emotions so well, I’m always the happiest girl at the party, almost never that girl, never the one sobbing on the bathroom floor spilling her problems to someone who doesn’t actually care. You just don’t understand, you don’t know me, you don’t know me at all. Tears stormed down my cheeks, I tried to hide my face from her but it was too late. I was sobbing uncontrollably.
“Alright Jen,” she leaned forward and put on her ‘caring’ face, “I know things are rough at home and I know it can get a bit overwhelming at times but bottling it up inside doesn’t help. You have to try to talk about it, talk about how you’re feeling and what’s been going on.”
“No”, slipped out of my mouth. Shit, I shouldn’t have said that.
“Why not?” I held my tongue. “Jen?”
“I’m not going to sit here and cry about my mommy issues like some pathetic victim.” I am the heroine. I don’t need anyone to rescue me, not you, not my friends, not even Tom. I can rescue him, like a new-age Disney princess story.
“You don’t have to hold it all in. It doesn’t make you weak to talk about the way you feel.”
She sighed and looked at her watch.
“Unfortunately we’re almost out of time. I’m concerned about you Jen, and I’d like to see you again tomorrow. I think you’re not taking this as seriously as you should and if you don’t start opening up it’s only going to get worse. Your pain is manifesting itself in dangerous ways and you’re trying to deflect it with alcohol. I know these things are painful to talk about but you need to, so you can move on.” In a way she was kind of right. “What would’ve happened if your boyfriend hadn’t pulled you out?”
I smiled, maybe I would’ve turned into a mermaid.