“Tell me, Damian… why are you here?”
“What?” I remember the bluntness of the question terrifying me, making me sick to my stomach, my hands began to shake, and my brow began to sweat. I had to force myself to swallow the overwhelming mixture of spit and phlegm that was squatting in my mouth, and feel it tumble clumsily down my dry throat. “What sort of question is that?”
The good doctor relieved his nose of the pressure of his glasses, and wiped the immaculate lenses on his bright, white shirt before settling them back, with care, on his face. “I believe it is a fair enough question, you’ve been coming to me for several months now, and I’m yet to understand exactly why you are here, it says here-“ he lifted up some of the papers piled on his desk and briefly glanced at a file somewhere near the bottom of the pile, “yes- it says you checked yourself into therapy, but you did not give a reason, and you haven’t told me anything thus far that would lead me to believe you need to be here.” He straightened out his already creaseless tie and coughed lightly. “I have told you before now, that if you do no provide us with a valid reason, we shall be forced to discharge you, the only reason you are still here now is because you have insisted, but now it is my turn to insist; I would like you to tell me why you are here, so that I can help you, it benefits you to tell me, far more than it does me.”
I remember how heavy my breathing became, I had to close my eyes for a moment, I could feel the anger building inside me, but I didn’t want him to see that… I wanted to confront him, but I couldn’t- I couldn’t bring myself to.
“Maybe there isn’t any definitive reason… but surely, if I feel the need to be here, surely that’s enough… right?”
“It is clear to me that you have some issues, Damian, but until you communicate with me, there is no way I can help you, and so long as you don’t, there is really no need for you to be here.”
I began to panic then. I didn’t want to be discharged, I didn’t want to face everything alone again, I wanted to be there. My mind began to frantically pace the corridors of my anxiety, each of them blending into one another, until there remained just one single idea.
“Okay… I have a problem, a problem with trust, and I find it hard to communicate with people I don’t trust.”
“You can trust me, Damian.”
“You say that… but can I? I have no reason- no reason to, trust- at least to me- trust is earned, not given because it says so on a certificate. I need to be able to trust you.” I remember rambling on like this for a while; I also remember thinking how unusual the word ‘trust’ sounded after some time, until he interrupted me.
“Damian, what can I do, that will make you trust me?” There it was again, how strange, that word: ‘trust’.
“You need to tell me something about yourself.”
“Okay, anything in particular?” He asked, nonchalantly.
“Something you wouldn’t particularly want to share with me, something- something you would have to trust me with.”
“Anything you have in mind?”
“A memory- a bad one- something embarrassing, maybe? Or something painful…”
“I don’t know-“
“It’ll work, trust me-“ I remember that being the first time I had smiled in that office, it was small, but light, largely made of wood; wooden floor, wooden desk, wooden bookshelf. It felt homely. I could tell that the doctor was somewhat apprehensive about sharing with me, but maybe it was the sight of me smiling that caused him to change his mind, it was after all, the first time.
“Fine-“ he paused for some time, and seemed to search for the perfect memory to recite, “a few years ago,” he began, “I was driving back home” he continued, “it was late, and I had just had one of the shittiest days of my entire career, but it was about to get a hell of a lot worse.” He sighed and interlocked his fingers, “I stopped at a set of lights, when all of a sudden this guy- a patient of mine starts banging on my car window, obviously he had recognised the car or something- I don’t know- anyway, he is shouting and screaming and crying at me, telling me I was the worst person he had ever known, telling me that I was a useless psychiatrist and that I hadn’t helped him one bit-“ He sighed again, louder this time, and longer too; he looked to the floor, “now this guy, he had some serious issues, he was bipolar among other things, I won’t go into detail- anyway- like I said, I’d had a shit day, and I just wanted to get home, but this guy, he was basically just rubbing salt into the wound, he sent me over the edge- I didn’t stop to talk to him, I didn’t even wind down my window, I just stuck my middle finger up and drove off.”
I must have looked somewhat shocked, or maybe he thought I should simply be shocked as a natural reaction to his tale, as he began to try and explain further.
“Next week, he didn’t turn up for his session, I wasn’t exactly surprised by that, I wouldn’t have turned up if I was him, but it wasn’t until later that day that I was told that he had killed himself that night,” he took off his glasses one more time, just to be sure every miniscule particle of dust was vacant, and rubbed them against the white fabric of his sleeve, “I’ve had to live with that for some time now, I essentially murdered a man, but if his death can help someone else- if it can help you communicate with me, then he will not have died for nothing.”
“What was his name?” I felt the compulsion to ask, and did so, without thinking, which was extremely uncharacteristic of me.
“I don’t think that is relevant.”
“That’s fine, Damian, now, is there something you wish to tell me?”
The sweat on my brow had ceased to exist, and my hands were hardly trembling at all, but I still felt sick, I still had that horrible urge to regurgitate all of the shit I had forced myself to eat. He had done what I had asked of him, and it had made me trust him more, it didn’t erase the fear however, it didn’t stop the fact that once I began to utter the words that were the narrative of my life, that they would solidify and become a part of reality, a reality which I would then be forced to face head on, with no-one to help me, or guide me, or tell me how I should tackle it.
“There are quite a few things I wish to tell you, but they are not things that I really want to speak out loud…”
“Well, let’s try starting with one of the less severe things you want to talk about, and we’ll work our way up from there, and hopefully, you’ll be able to trust me as we go on.”
“I suppose we could do that… okay, well, I think basically, I keep trying… I’m afraid of living.”
“What do you mean by that exactly Damian? Do you mean you are afraid of being alive, or do you mean that you are afraid to live?”
On some level I understood the distinction he was trying to make, but on the surface, that distinction seemed pretty arbitrary and ultimately meaningless, and more simply put; it confused me.
“I don’t know… both I suppose?”
“Okay, so what would you say the main characteristic of your fear is?”
I could break my fear down into many things, the fear of the outside world being one of them, the fear that life was ultimately meaningless and void of anything that could possibly hold any form of meaning was another. Honestly, what was the point? That was what I told him.
“Would you say you fear the outside world, or that you just simply do not like it there?”
It felt too soon to be answering such deep, elaborate questions, but for the sake of our agreement, I tried my best.
“There is nothing in the outside world that I would consider to be good, there are no good people in the world for one, and the world is full of horrors and atrocities that I don’t have the courage to face- but it’s more than that- why I am here, I mean- I am terrified of everything out there, but at the same time-“ I remember laughing in frustration and anger, “this is going to sound ridiculous,” I sighed, “despite hating and fearing the world, I desperately want to be a part of it.”
The doctor studied me for a while, his eyes boring into mine. He picked up the cup of coffee that was sat on his desk and brought it to his lips. I noticed the monotone, rhythmic ticking of the clock at that moment, and began to monitor it as closely as I could.
“Humanity- or at least the majority of humanity- craves human interaction; it is not unusual for you to feel that you want to be a part of the world, if you isolate yourself for long enough, you begin to develop that craving. If anything, I believe this is a good sign, if you told me you had absolutely no desire to be in contact with the community, I would be led to believe that you were a severe sociopath, as it goes, you are looking more and more human.”
That was a surprise for me.
“I’m not a sociopath?”
“It’s too early to tell for sure, do you believe you are?”
I considered for a moment…
“I don’t see how I am not, I am completely apathetic to everything, I don’t care about anyone or anything anymore.”
“You truly believe that?”
The ticking of the clock was still the same, it ticked at regular intervals, and never sped up or slowed down, but the hands of the clock had moved, and it was almost time for me to leave, a fact that had become apparent to the good doctor.
“Damian, I would like to thank you for opening up to me today, we’ve made some excellent progress, do you think you’ll be able to continue this way in our next session?”
“Good, until next time then…” He held out his hand- he hadn’t done that before- I supposed I should grab it, and shake it, the motion had always confused me however, I was never entirely sure what purpose it served… still, I did it. I turned to leave, but there was one question that was burning at the back of my mind, and it was something I had to get out now, or I would never mention again, I knew that I wouldn’t…
“Please, call me-“
“No, no, no don’t… please… I was wondering… do you think there is something wrong with me?”
For the final time that afternoon, he removed his glasses, but this time he did not wipe them, he simply placed them next to his coffee mug.
“Damian, you could search the world, meet every person in existence and still not find a single human who doesn’t have something ‘wrong’ with them, you are not an anomaly, you are not a freak, there is nothing ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ about you, you are simply… you, and dwelling on what you consider to be your flaws is a pointless exercise, one I would consider trying to cut out, at the very least reduce, because you will drive yourself mad if you consider it for too long.”
I considered what he had said, and knew that my answer would have been the same, no matter what words came out of his mouth.
“I think I want there to be something wrong with me…” And then I left.