Out of Treatment, Episode Deuce

The wound I have just suffered, some setback or other in my love life or my profession, some sorrow or bereavement affecting my relationship with close relatives — such are often the easily spotted triggers of my despair. A betrayal, a fatal illness, some accident or handicap that abruptly wrests me away from what seemed to me the normal category of normal people or else falls on a loved one with the same radical effect, or yet … What more could I mention? … All this suddenly gives me another life. A life that is unlivable, heavy with daily sorrows, tears held back or shed, a total despair, scorching at times, then wan and empty. In short, a devitalized existence that, although occasionally fired by the effort I make to prolong it, is ready at any moment to plunge into death. An avenging death or a liberating death, it is henceforth the inner threshold of my despondency… I live a living death, my flesh is wounded, bleeding cadaverized, my rhythm slowed down or interrupted, time has been erased or bloated, absorbed into sorrow. Absent from other people’s meaning, alien, accidental with respect to naive happiness, I owe a supreme, metaphysical lucidity to my depression.

Julia Kristeva, Black Sun

I’d spent a summer a year beforehand studying for two practice orals lists; one on Semiotics and one on Psychoanalysis. I’d devoured Kristeva’s melodramatic texts in the same way some people I know sit rapt before an afternoon Spanish telenovela. I journeyed with her into the womb to watch the Pre-Oedipal psychodramas of the chora in the ‘lurid and rotting uterus’; mentally traveled to China with her to observe as she rubbed her hands all over the faces of Chinese Women; cackled with laughter at her xenophobic rants about the Immigrant Other. Whenever I read Kristeva, I remembered being a student in Paris. There was a woman in my Hannah Arendt seminar at the Collège international de philosophie, who used to get into violent spats with the Jewish participants by ridiculously arguing that Arendt was a Catholic ‘at heart.’ I ran into her once, sitting in Notre Dame during mass, with a copy of Jacques Derrida’s Dissemination open on her lap. Her attention was half on the mass, half on the book. When she saw me waving to her, she blessed me with a sign of the cross. Every gesture she made — every comment that escaped her lips — indicated a highly flammable personality deep in the depths of an over-intellectualized depression, seeking the rapture of Pure Being through a total ontic immersion in Philosophy and Theology. I’m sure she was a widow, and I wouldn’t have been at all surprised to see her yank an urn out of her oversized purse to sprinkle and stir her husband’s ashes into an afternoon coffee.

I wasn’t ready to ‘plunge into death’ in my therapist’s office. Though I wouldn’t say that I necessarily fit the ‘normal category of normal people,’ I was fairly self-satisfied to a point of arrogance. At the time, I was a rower. I was working as an editorial assistant at a ‘theory’ journal. I read three books a day in preparation for my exams. I was lecturing and course-assisting during, as well. I wanted to up my productivity with ADHD meds. At the farthest, I would be willing to obtain confirmation from a therapist that my family really was insane. That’s about it.

The therapist who wouldn’t remove Black Sun from her desk was persuaded to give me an off-campus referral. I didn’t really know much at the time other than that he wasn’t a psychoanalyst, he worked downtown and he was “very good” with gay men. I gave his number a call and made an appointment for a few weeks down the line.

Michael the Therapist’s office overlooked the lake. He was attractive, dressed smartly, and unlike the previous two therapists, he actually had a couch I could sit on. After biking to his office against the wind, I was happy to sink into it and play with the pillows. Later when Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate” was installed in Millennium Park, I could see it out of his window. These elements combined to give a (wrong) impression of supreme competence on his part.

“You keep staring at my books,” he said.
“Yeah, I’m trying to see if I recognize any of them.”
“Do you?”
“No! I’m relieved.”
“Why is that?”
“If I knew them, I’d be uncontrollably cross-referencing. I wouldn’t really be present.”
“You find yourself compulsively distracted by books?”
“Yeah, I guess so. I read too much.”
“You are a graduate student? Isn’t it your job to read?”
“I hope you don’t have some unrealistic idea in your head that graduate students actually read anything. We always ‘re-read.’ Just ask around.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that I’ve never met a grad student who would admit they were reading something for the first time. It’s always this ‘re-reading.’ No one will admit to reading something for the first time. If you insinuate that something is new to me, I am supposed to pretend to be insulted. But yes, even for a graduate student I read too much. Not enough re-reading, though.” I was babbling. I always got like that when I saw an opportunity to mock the culture of graduate school. I tried to reign it in.
“Why do you think that is?”
“I don’t know! It doesn’t matter. That’s not why I’m here,” I said, meaninglessly.

I then gave him my whole prepared line about “not being able to sit still and concentrate” (only now do I realize that statement somewhat contradicted my claim about reading too much). I’d looked up my goal symptoms at the Science library on campus (while I was supposed to be verifying footnotes for one of the journal’s absurd articles) and felt well-prepared for this. Realizing that the bike ride might make me appear calm — even placid — on the advice of a friend, I had stopped by Starbucks to order a latte with an extra shot. I made sure to play with the cup holder to perform my level of distraction.

I’m not a consummate liar, but psychological narratives amused me — enough so that I was fairly certain I could fool this guy. In a college seminar, we had watched A Thin Blue Line, Errol Morris’ documentary about a police officer’s murder in Texas. During a badly mishandled flashback, I began to laugh at the narrative construction of the film with its contrived psychoanalytic plot-line. The lecturer (the young, untenured husband of one of the more entrenched professors), began to shout at me that “this is a serious psychoanalytic narrative.” This sparked a case of the giggles in me that spread to other students. I had to excuse myself to go to the bathroom, where I wiped the tears from my face and pulled myself back together. To me, being a little snot, there was no such thing as a “serious psychoanalytic narrative.” But I knew what they were supposed to sound like, and I had come prepared.

Apparently, I didn’t need as much preparation as I thought. There was no need for me to delve into a back story regarding my family. “I’m only concerned with symptoms,” he explained — effectively chastising me for narrativizing. This was new. He was a behavioralist or psychiatrist of some kind. This development was … interesting, if intimidating. I was dealing with ‘real science’ and I would have to learn only to ‘describe,’ but the course of the struggle was already charted; the battle between Michael and I to decide which of us had the authority to interpret my symptoms would become one the two defining contests between us. The second contest turned out to be my persistent effort to goad him into unprofessional behavior contra his struggle to maintain a professional comportment.

“You are shaking your leg,” Michael observed.
“I am? Yes! I never notice myself doing this,” I lied. This had been one of my carefully researched symptoms. In truth, I’m hyper-conscious of my leg. I had actually learned to monitor myself and stopped doing this as a kid when my Swedish aunt, Astrid, witnessed me doing it at a restaurant and slapped my leg, announcing to the table in her heavily-accented English that, “You are acting like one of the autistic children I used to take care of when I volunteered at the hospital.”

“How long have you done this?”
“Oh, since about 8,” I said. I made certain to indicate that this was a pre-pubescent symptom, having read that ADHD is evident in children prior to puberty. Seeing an opportunity to stretch the symptom out, I added, “I always thought it was a good way to get extra exercise to burn extra calories, since my aunt used to bribe the kids to stay in shape.”

This little addition about the bribes was actually true — a vulnerable moment for me–, but it elicited what I was to learn was a cynical “uh huh” as he rapidly took notes on a yellow legal pad. “Shit,” I thought. “Don’t go too far!” I knew, instinctively, that discussing my family truthfully would take us into areas of ludicrousness far afield of plausibility.

I sensed he was attracted to me and, feeling that it was mutual, I rolled up my sleeves to give him a good look at my rower’s arms. Halfway through the appointment, he stopped asking questions and simply wrote the prescription for the speed I needed.

I feigned reluctance.

“I don’t know how I feel about medication…”
“Let’s give this a try. Your have symptoms of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. You appear to have had this problem for a long time. Clearly, you’ve developed strategies to get around it, otherwise you would not have progressed so far academically.”
“… OK…. I’ll give it a try. Is it addictive?”

We made a follow-up appointment (which I skipped). I threw on sunglasses and jumped on my bike, gleefully. The medical system was mine to manipulate. This, however, was only temporary. Michael the Therapist would quickly get my number.

Coming Soon in Out of Treatment, Episode Thrice!

darknessatnoon and Michael the Therapist figure one another out! darknessatnoon is chastised for absences and tardiness! The battle to control the conversation begins! Michael the Therapist suggests to darknessatnoon that he should have intercourse with another one of his patients! darknessatnoon calls Michael the Therapist ‘a boob’! Patient and doctor loudly argue about Sigmund Freud and Julia Kristeva! darknessatnoon begs Michael the Therapist to let him try out psychotherapy! darknessatnoon starts to date a guy coincidentally named Michael, and Michael the Therapist evinces jealousy! All this, and more, plus a guest-appearance by a shrink who resembles a fat bear of a comic book writer!

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6 Responses to “Out of Treatment, Episode Deuce”

  1. Luches Says:

    Dear Darkness, Great detailed memory of the oscillations and cuts of desire! You sure manifest rapid transference! Have you seen this Tourette’s Syndrome episode of South Park? http://www.southparkzone.com/episode-vid-1108.htmLike you, Cartman’s joke goes a little too far and he starts saying inconvenient truths (about genital leakage)that he didn’t intend. Last night’s Britney episode was pretty amazing too, btw.Lchs

  2. darknessatnoon Says:

    “You sure manifest rapid transference!”What can I say? I am a hoe. I will watch this video when I get home. This week has been endless!

  3. henry Says:

    these are so great.

  4. emily Says:

    hi there – i came across your site when looking for screen captures of elizabeth taylor in “the driver’s seat” and was just about to comment with my thoughts on the film – the “woman going crazy” genre of film…when I decided to scroll your other posts and immediately found another completely relevant post: “the parisian party scene” from DARLING! recently i played some clips at a friend’s movie night that i called NONSTOP HYSTERICAL DANCING – to showcase some of my favorite embarrassed and ecstatic film moments and the conga line from DARLING was one of my scenes. i love when the music stops on the ebullient gapped-tooth guy sloppily wearing a women’s wig. i will continue to follow your posts and will comment on “driver’s seat” shortly. thanks!

  5. darknessatnoon Says:

    Henry, Thanks. I appreciate that especially given what a fan I’m turning into of your blog. I really loved the Julia Allison/Obama “Build Me Up Buttercup” post.Emily, Please comment on that post. Not enough people talk about that awesome movie. I think I might post on Darling soon. I have it somewhere here on VHS, but ordered the dvd from Netflix in case it had any interesting extras. You should read Spark’s The Public Image (written three years after the release of Darling) to see Spark’s take on the film.

  6. emily Says:

    “Darling’s life is a great big steaming mess.”no interesting extras! but you can watch it with subtitles, which clearly explains what they’re shoplifting at Harrod’s Food Emporium (namely Smoggin’s Shrimps)

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