An excerpt from The Third Sunrise...my first visit to a psychiatrist
Natalie Jeanne Champagne regularly contributes to mental health and addictions publications and is an advocate for mental health and recovery.She is publishing a memoir in March.You can find out more about Natalie at www.thethirdsunrise.com. She currently lives In British Columbia, Canada. The Third Sunrise is her first book.
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My parent’s encourage me into our family van with sacred promises of ice cream and candy. I sit in the back seat, my knees pulled close to my chest, staring out the window at a world which seems to move either much too quickly or much too slowly for me to be involved in it. Young though I am, inherently I am aware that I am not the same as those within my peer group. My parents are both encouraging and timid as they sit beside me in the small waiting room. They pass me children’s books which I stare at disdainfully, my jean shorts riding up my thin and white legs. I am intent on not speaking. I am eleven years old and I have everything to say but I cannot find words for any of it. Dr. Scen is tall and his features are dark, dark and Irish, he wears a suit with faint iron marks. He looks like a dressed up version of the teachers at my middle school.
“Hello, Natalie, I’m Doctor Scen…how about we speak privately first?”
He has a strange and mocking British accent which nearly moves me to tears. I look upwards towards my parents and my mother is smiling, a sad sort of smile, gesturing with her hands and her eyes that I should follow the Nice British Doctor into his nice and secure office – into his nice and secure promises of health and of happiness. The Good Doctor, the first of many, will Fix Me.
The room is small and organized. I glance toward a bucket of toys and yearn to pick something up and throw it against the wall. Instead I stare between my legs and try to memorize the curve of my white shoelaces. “So, Natalie, what brings you here today?” I look up suddenly, unsure of his question. I wonder how much he already knows about me and how much of it is really true: I wonder if he knows what a bad sister I am, what a thankless daughter.
“I don’t know really…my parents just said to get in the van, that I had to…I guess I get angry pretty easily, maybe that’s why?”
I stutter, hoping my answers might impress him. Maybe, just maybe, I can impress upon him the goodness that I believe lay somewhere within me, somewhere so black I cannot seem to find it much anymore. He is taking notes while I speak, while I make the grain of the carpet bleed into patterns with my eyes.
Dr. Scen writes of this first meeting:
“My diagnostic impression was of a child/parent conflict with no clear indication of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or bipolar mood disorder . . . Natalie presented looking mildly depressed”
Though I worked to answer his tireless questions with all the clarity I could muster, Dr.
Scen describes me as being:
“…angry and tearful… She was irritable and critical during the interview…Her affect was intense and labile with no current suicidal ideation…She was considered intact with limited insight.”
It seems that Dr. Scen is more interested in my relationship with my parents than anything else. He asks me how I feel about them and ignores the deep red welts I have left along my forearms. He asks me questions about my new half sister and notes that, “[she has been] aggravated by the appearance of her half-sibling several years ago as well as the unresolved family of origin issues…she appears to become entrenched in inappropriate behaviors driven by her intense affect.” Our family’s struggles, he believes, are caused by internal family issues and not anything biological. Not anything which may be weaved within our family’s genetic fabric. I am not sick, no, my family is sick.
Connect with me on my website @ www.thethirdsunrise.com