Friendly Ghosts

“That thing is pretty old, isn’t it, Dr Hall?” Eve gestured towards his tatty leather-bound folder with the lightest little smirk on her face that he did not notice. “If that thing could talk, eh?” After a moment she wondered if she had actually cracked that joke out loud because he made no response. And that’s probably why she was sitting in the psychiatrist’s office in the first place, she decided. Because she was fucking crazy.

Eve had been sitting opposite Dr Hall for ten silent minutes while he scribbled furiously in his once-upon-a-time-fancy folder. The man and his folder were so connected, had such shared history together, that they were as good as married.

“Eve, I’d like to talk a little bit about your time in university if you don’t mind… We didn’t really get to discuss it as much as I would have liked in your last session, but you have mentioned some of the anxious episodes you experienced at that time, and I feel that we ought to explore them a little more here today. Would that be okay? You studied… Sociology.”

“Psychology…”, Eve corrected him sheepishly. She was mortified having to admit that subject choice to her psychiatrist but she wasn’t entirely sure why. She was perpetually sorry about everything, especially around Dr Hall. She regretted him having to go to the bother of scribbling on his tidy notes just to edit her pathetic little story.

“Oh I beg your pardon, Psychology, yes, very good. So, you had some concentration difficulties back then, and you mentioned that you used quite a bit of marijuana, isn’t that correct…?” He placed his index finger to his lips waiting for…something.

“Yes, that’s right. I found it helped me sleep so I used it daily, but after a while I felt like I couldn’t sleep without it and then I would start to feel anxious and then of course I couldn’t sleep so it was like a vicious cycle really. I don’t smoke it anymore. I haven’t for years.” Because I’m fucking great, give me a gold star, Dr Hall, Please! She thought sadly.

“Yes, I understand that, but I am painting the history, you see. Your history…of addiction and substance dependence. Do you follow me,?”

He hadn’t stopped writing since she had mentioned the word Anxious. It must be like a buzz word to this guy, she mused, like the steadfast rules in a drinking game, write like a maniac when someone says the word Anxious. Maybe he was still stuck in some kind of hypnotic trance from his university days… Eve tried to bring her attention back to the session but she just didn’t feel much warmth in the room today.

“Oh yes, I see. Well, yes I did experience many anxiety attacks while I was studying. I don’t know why, really, well, there was the weed, but I just felt scared all the time…. I was scared I would fail. I had a lot of terrible nightmares back then”

“Well, you know Eve, a fear of failure is a very common….”

Eve had stopped listening to Dr Hall completely. She was away dreaming again. She spoke when prompted and gave him whatever it was he wanted to hear so he could tick his boxes and send her back home to herself.

Eve wished she was talking to Mary instead of Dr Hall, but Mary was dead. Such a wonderful woman, Mary. She was her friend’s mother, a trained psychologist who never acted like one, and just had a gift of drawing pain from people as if she was merely pulling errant hairs from their coat. She made Eve laugh and cry at herself many times, and even though she must have known she was talking to a totally disturbed soul, she never looked worried about her, she had better sense. When doctors or nurses or anyone in healthcare look worried, people get scared and shut down. Mary must have known that.

Eve still talked to Mary all the time on her walks and in the car and she always felt more hopeful talking to her friendly ghost than any other mental health professional. She was glad to have her in her life, even if she had been dead for ten years.

“Well, yes, I did drink a lot in college, but we all did! Oh… I’m doing it again, aren’t I? I know, I know! I have to stop trying to justify my actions and I have to take responsibility for myself and my choices. Sorry.” Eve knew he had asked about alcohol use and assumed it was to continue to paint her as a failure in an effort to understand her better and earn his crust. He gave a lengthy reply, reiterating what she had just said undoubtedly, but as usual she was only scanning the exchange and responded when given her triggers and cues. She nodded obediently.

Eve learned to converse with people while simultaneously dreaming of the past, hanging around her happiest memories for long periods of time without anyone being any the wiser. She was rarely present with anyone having learned how to carry out exchanges in auto-pilot. She rarely remembered conversations but the buzz words could still upset her during sleepless nights, interrupting her safe, habitual dreams.

“Yes, I had a few brief romantic relationships at that time but nothing serious,” Eve heard herself lie to Dr Hall. The truth of the matter was she spent her college years dreaming of her first boyfriend from home, dreaming of their baby that didn’t make it to birth, and dreaming that somehow, she could get back to that time before she fucked herself up. Dreaming and having sex with too many strangers.

“Yes, I was dating a little here and there. I once had a short romance with a trainee doctor, you know.” Here I go again seeking his approval, Mary. Why the fuck do I play these stupid games?

Daddy Issues! – Eve and Mary concluded at the exact same time. It was very funny to everyone in the room, except Dr Hall… evidently.

“Right, Great. I think we will leave it there for today, Eve and I will see you on Thursday. Thank you. Take care, now” He pretended to pat her shoulder but never touched her as he breezed past in the direction of his surgery door opening it wide. She thanked him for absolutely nothing and scrunched herself up before gliding into the dark and rainy Dublin streets.

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