Sunday, March 10, 2013

Part III: Dementia

Synopsis: Dr. Redd and his assistant, Fred Forge, encounter a patient battling schizophrenia.

This is the office of Dr. John Redd, M.T. How may I help you?”
I'm Daniel, and I need help; we've been to several doctors, but none of their medications work. A friend told me to see Dr. Redd.”
Alright, Dearie: let's setup an appointment for you for this morning.”
* * *
Fred walked down a white hallway to a thin white door with a keycard swipe and took a seat next to John in the small control room with four viewscreens.
Dr. Redd, there's a visitor for you, and boy does he seem nervous!”
Fred, you can call me 'John,' you know,” he replied with a chuckle.
If it's all the same to you, I think I'll call you 'Sir,'” Fred answered with a smile. “But seriously, have you ever seen someone more nervous?”
I don't think he's nervous,” John replied. “Study him intently for the next minute: I'll place the time on Screen Four,” he said, setting the computerized stopwatch for 0:60. As the time ran down, Fred wrote his observations on a flowpad, every now and then looking away, as if to think about what he saw:
Fidgety. Muttering. Constantly distracted. Distrusting. Short attention span. Well-kept.
Well, he's obviously mentally unstable,” Fred replied, as the timer read 0:13, “I think you should take him through the white hallway to the Johnson Room, like you did with Matt Black.”
Because his condition is similar?”
Fred nodded.
I disagree,” John replied. “You see, in Matt's case, his mind was unstable due to fear of something he did not understand. This man appears to be agitated by his inability to solve a problem – namely, that problem,” John added, pointing to the screen, as the man spoke sullenly to himself, first looking this way, then that.
Precisely. I'll go out to greet him to get a feel for his trust and willingness to cooperate, while you setup the Richardson Room. Oh,” John added as he prepared to leave, “and put up the Dresden picture, along with the Chariot Heroes picture.”
Yes sir,” Fred replied, “but what does that have to do with schizophrenia?”
Nothing,” John replied, “but it will lead perfectly into the means of recovery. What do we know about him?”
His name is Daniel Green, and he's a sophomore at Marsden College. He claims to have been on various medications on and off for at least five years--”
Then what we're seeing could be a conglomeration of the trauma he sustained from his medications, in addition to his other problem. That's good to know. Alright: I'll greet him, you stand ready in the room, and when we're done, I expect my coffee to be ready.”
You know you're not supposed to have two cups – wife's orders,” Fred smirked.
Now how did you know I had a cup already?” John said with a laugh.
The stain behind your tie,” Fred replied with a smile. “I had some downtime during those 47 seconds.”
* * *
Good morning, Dan,” John said as he entered the receptionist area.
Dr. Redd,” Daniel replied, standing to shake the doctor's hand, “A friend recommended you to me. He said you could help me cope with some of my...eccentricities.”
Well, Mr. Green,” John replied with a low chuckle and a knowing smile, “I can't do that: teaching you to cope with something that's bothering you is not my style. I would prefer to help you overcome your obstacles, so that your mind can be renewed.”
Yes! That's exactly what I want!” Dan replied eagerly.
Excellent! Then follow me,” John said, heading to a black door off of the receptionist area, and taking out a set of keys with nine brass keys and one red key. He sorted through the keys for a little while, selected a brass key, and with a twist-click-creak, he stepped through the door.
The hallway was dark, but one could make out the form of two doors to their right, and one door at the end of the short hallway. John walked up to the final door and opened it, ushering his guest into a small room with soft orange wallpaper, and two pictures on the wall. On the far wall, immediately apparent to the visitor, was a picture of a burning warehouse with planes flying overhead. To his right, Daniel could see a picture of a young man and a young woman in their teens riding in a chariot with their hands clasped and raised. In the middle of the room was a thin pine table with reclining chairs on either side, and on the table sat a black box. John motioned for Dan to take the closest chair, facing both the Dresden Picture and the Chariot Heroes Picture.
Are you going to begin asking me questions now, Dr. Redd?”
No, not exactly,” John replied. “You see, I'm not a psychologist or psychiatrist, Dan. I'm not going to ask you questions and give you a diagnosis, or hand you a canister of pills. I don't want to dissect you: I want to dialogue with you.”
Dan's face contorted in confusion. What did he mean?
I'll explain with an example, Dan. If I wanted to train you to become, say, an accountant: would it be best for me to start by giving you a quiz on your ability to add, subtract, and label particular expenses, or would it be wiser to discuss the different aspects of the company, your background knowledge and past experience, and why each part of the company exists as it does, so that you will be more familiar with the different expenses and subdivisions you will work with on a daily basis? One approach looks into the details of your performance, while the other paints a picture of you for me to examine, study, and help you to modify. The first approach teaches you to cope: you are given a standard set of questions by a professional, who then makes a diagnosis and labels the problem for you – in this case, schizophrenia. My approach gives me a strong sense of who you are and what you should be, so that I can help you move forward. Does that make sense?”
Dan nodded. “So, what do I have to do, then, if you're not going to ask me questions?”
It's quite simple, actually: on your part, I need you to fall asleep.”
And with that, John rose from his seat, placed his hands on the black box, and slowly lifted the lid. The lights in the room dimmed as he opened it, and the harsh, dissonant sound of a heavy metal tune streamed from the box.
* * *
Nice work with the lights there, Fred,” John whispered.
How is it that he didn't even notice me in the room?”
You weren't in plain view, and his eyes were drawn toward the pictures. Humanity has a tendency to miss things when they're distracted toward colorful, provoking images. Politicians use this frequently in their work too, if you hadn't noticed,” John said with a low chuckle as he took his seat in the empty chair.
Sir, aren't you going to stand by the box to talk to him?”
Take the lead on this one: start by addressing him, talk with him for a little, and then I'll enter and introduce you. You've seen me do this several times, so now it's your turn to try.”
But what if I mess up?”
We'll wake him up, tell him it was a dream, and start again,” John replied quietly with a smile. “Place yourself in his position, be ready with the siren and bomb sounds, and when you're set to proceed, talk to him. Engage, move at his pace, and whatever you do, don't be afraid to dream.”
* * *
When Dan opened his eyes, the midnight sky above him was lit up by a haze of reddened smoke, rising from the buildings that encircled him. It was only then that he began to hear the flames raging in the buildings around him, and the jolting boom-boom of fresh explosions all around him. Above the haze he could hear aircraft and the steady, searing screech of falling payloads toward the town. He got up quickly, staggering around the city square in fear, trying desperately to find some form of cover.
Let's head toward the factory,” said a young, assuring voice behind him.
Who are you?” Dan said, noticing the man behind him. “What's happening here?”
Your mind is under siege, Dan,” replied a calm, steady voice behind him.
Dr. Redd!” Dan replied, “Where are we? Are we dreaming?”
You're in Dresden, Germany, Dan,” John replied. “The city is under bombardment, and will soon be leveled in the wake of an invading army. Come,” he added, pointing to the factory behind them, “the factory's reinforced steel will provide us with greater cover.”
Is this how you plan to fix my mind?” Dan said in bewilderment and fear.
I intend to discover the source of the problem, Dan, and Fred is here to help me. Mr. Green, I'd like to introduce you to Fred Forge, my assistant.
Pleased to meet you,” Dan said, shaking his hand.
We'd really like to meet your friend, Dan, if he's here,” John replied. “I think he'd enjoy the shelter of the factory, too.”
Oh, you mean Leonard? He's a bit shy--”
But we're in your mind, Dan: he's here somewhere.”
Right: well, I don't see him around anywhere--”
Don't worry: I'm sure he'll find us.”
* * *
I never had many friends growing up,” Dan said, after they reached the shelter of the factory, “I was always the last kid picked for sports, was never invited to people's birthday parties, and was generally regarded as 'odd' by basically everyone.”
So that's how you met Leonard?”
Yep,” Dan replied cheerfully, “He was always there, willing to talk to me, encouraging me to do this or that, though sometimes he yelled at me and ordered me around.”
Do you ever tell him not to order you around?”
I can't talk to Leonard like that: it would hurt his feelings, and I don't want that—”
But he's taking advantage of you,” Fred replied. “He's enslaving you--”
No, you don't understand,” Leonard said firmly. “He really cares about me, and wants to be my friend....”
* * *
Fred,” John whispered, taking Fred by the shoulder. Both were standing by the box now. “I think we should let that line of thought go for now.”
But he needs to hear it,” Fred replied. “He's being enslaved to this idea, and it's not healthy for him--”
Yes, he is: but we want him to let go of Leonard naturally, not under compulsion. If only Leonard would show up, we'd have something to work wi--”
Shhh!” Fred said with an urgent finger to his lips. The sleeping Dan had silently whispered a word, and then turned his head quickly from left to right, looking around himself in the dream. Then his face smiled and looked straight ahead again, whispering the word:
* * *
Leonard was sitting on an old desk, with one leg up on the desk, the other dangling off of it idly, with his body hunched over his elevated leg, embracing it in a bear hug. He looked a lot like Dan, though his grin was more mischievous, and like the faint beard on his chin and cheekbones, it never left his face.
Leonard,” John said, in his usual low, calm, yet commanding voice, “My name is--”
Dr. John Redd,” Leonard interrupted. “Yes, I know who you are.”
I'd like to know more about you,” John replied.
You can ask me anything you wish,” Leonard replied slyly, jumping off of the desk, “...if you can catch me!”
And with that, Leonard took off running down one of the hallways. Dan tore off after him, shouting, “Leonard, he's just trying to help us!”
No! He's trying to shut me out of your mind, Dan!” Leonard shouted. “He's just like all of the other ones we've seen!”
Leonard,” John shouted, as he ran after the two of them, his voice still commanding and deep, but no longer calm, “I know what the other doctors did to you: they tried to convince Dan that you are a problem – something to be avoided--”
And you want to do the same thing,” Leonard shouted.
No, I don't: I want Dan to approach you on your own terms, and to see you as you are, not as what someone else says you are.”
John paused: Leonard had disappeared as he turned the corner, and was nowhere to be found. Dan was puffing hard and on the verge of breaking down in front of him.
Where do we turn now?” Fred asked quietly.
* * *
If Dan goes through too much more trauma, he's going to wake up screaming, and attempt to bolt out of the room,” John whispered. “We need to find a way to get him to reject Leonard on his own terms, before his natural inclination to defend him kicks in.”
What do you suggest?” Fred whispered back.
We need to change our location: let's put him in a place where he will think less of himself, and more about the truth.”
* * *
Dan could hear the sound of the bombs dropping on the city, and suddenly felt the factory shake and quiver under a direct hit.
The city is coming down, Dr. Redd!” Dan cried in fear. “We must escape!”
There is only one place that the bombers would not hit in this town,” John replied. “They won't bomb the cathedral, just up the road from here.”
Take me there,” Dan replied weakly, shivering and quaking in fear and hysterics.
As they entered the cathedral, they were greeted by a gangly young man, sitting on the back of the front pew, smiling and holding his leg.
Leonard,” John started softly.
Nope! I don't want to talk to you!” He said playfully, and took off toward the door that led to the bell tower.
Leonard!” Dan pleaded as he took off after him, tears almost welling up in his eyes.
Dan, let him go,” Fred said softly, taking him by the shoulder.
Stop it! Just stop it!” Dan said, breaking down in front of the altar. “Dr. Redd,” Dan said, sobbing, “why are you doing this? Stop making him run away. Can't you just leave us alone?”
Dan,” John replied, returning to his calm voice, “I need your help. I want you to describe Leonard to me: just give me a list of adjectives that best describe him, so that I can distinguish him from you. I need to know why he's attracted to you, and why you're attracted to him.”
Well,” Dan began, still sobbing and breathing hard, “He--” Dan began, but then trailed off to silence. Dan attempted a few more times to come up with an adjective, then threw his hands up in frustration. “I can't think of any.”
Because he has no character, Dan,” John replied. “He has no objective form. What he embodies for you is your desire for a companion and friend, and – at times – an image of those who take advantage of your softspoken, unassertive nature.”
Dan was really crying now. “So what do I do? I'm not strong enough to tell him to leave, but I can't keep going on like this forever.”
Leave it here,” Fred interrupted. “Leave it right here, at the altar, and a stronger Man will take it from there.”
Fred looked up at the cross at the front of the cathedral, and the Man that was hanging on it, with nails in His hands and feet. His head was bowed to His chest, weighed down by searing pain, a broken heart, and hopeless abandonment – not unlike the broken man that was now weeping at the foot of the altar. Dan was filled with the unbelief and skepticism of a broken man who is bewildered by promising news.
But what if He doesn't want to take it?”
He already has.”
And what if I can't let him go?”
That's a battle you will constantly fight,” Fred said hopefully, “but one that you can win.”
This doesn't change the fact that I feel alone,” Dan said between sniffles.
He's ready to change that, too,” John proposed. “And you'll find that He's a much more reliable friend than Leonard.”
Is it really that easy?”
There's only one way to find out.”
* * *
How are you this morning?” John asked the young man in the hospital bed.
I'm doing much better,” Dan replied. “What did you do to me?”
I didn't do anything: I helped you face your fears. That's all.”
John,” Fred said as they returned to the waiting room, “did that job count as hazard pay?”
Definitely hazard pay,” John replied with a low chuckle, “and do me a favor: get rid of that Dresden picture.”