I had a confrontation with my father last Thursday night that left me upset, shaken and having a tearful breakdown in the main office among all my colleagues because at that hour of the evening there are no private offices available for me in which to conduct my personal business.
He had called earlier the day and one of the administrative staff gave me the message so I called him back.
Him: “I’m feeling kind of weak. Can you do some shopping for me later?”
Me: “Dad this is my late night at work. I don’t get out until between seven or eight.”
Him: (whining) “But the deli will be closed by then.”
Me: “The supermarket will still be open.”
Him: “I hurt my foot.”
Me: “Do you want me to send over the doctor?” (We have a doctor who makes house calls.)
Him: “She’s not an orthopedist. What could she possibly do?”
Me: “Well maybe she could at least look at it.”
Me: “Do you have any painkillers, any ibuprofen?”
Me: “I’ll bring you some. I’ll call you when I’m ready to leave work.”
I finished seeing my last patient at 6:00 PM and since we have to hand in our session notes at the end of the day, I had a great deal of paperwork to finish up before I could leave. I also had treatment plans, insurance forms and other forms that had to be completed. The reason that I don’t have an office is that the therapists have to leave their offices so that the evening staff have private offices in which to meet their patients. We have a designated staff room with desks where several therapists can sit and finish up paperwork.
Another therapist was sitting at the desk with the phone and I didn’t want to displace her. I decided to go into the front office and make my call from their. I expected it to be fairly straightforward.
Me: Dad, I’m leaving now. Why don’t you give me the list and I’ll pick it up on my way and then bring it upstairs.
Him: Why don’t we just forget it?
Me: Dad you said you needed groceries and tomorrow I have plans so I can’t do it then.”
Him: “That’s okay, I’ll manage on Chinese and takeout.”
Me: “Until Monday? Are you sure? I don’t mind.”
Him: “Go ahead. Don’t worry about little old me. I’ll just sit here and stare at the four walls. By the way, I’m running out of pills.”
Me: “How many do you have left?”
Him: “About two?”
Me: (With a hint of anger.) “Why do you always wait until the last minute?”
Him: “Because I’m fucked up in my head. Don’t you deal with fucked up people all day?”
Me: “I’ll see what I can do. You know the pharmacy is not the best.”
I put the phone down abruptly and stared into space. I could feel the tears welling up. I went into an adjoining room where there were still people working, sat down at an empty desk and called my brother. Sobbing, I explained to him what had transpired.
“He makes me feel so guilty and so badly about myself. I can’t help it.” I cried into the receiver.
“Don’t let him,” he said. “That is what he does best.”
Choking, gulping, I attempted to control the sobbing. “Thanks,” I said. “I’ll try.”
I went home and took a half milligram of Klonopin because I was so distraught. I know I’m an addict but I don’t count days clean and if I need one I take one. It is a rare occurrence but sometimes I just can’t cope on my own. I had a session the next morning and I needed it to get through the night. For someone who used to take eight milligrams at a time, all I can handle now is one-half. They’re not prescribed; I procure them from another source. Dr. Adena is aware that I have them and I only have three or four pills on hand at a time.
I tried to eat breakfast during my eight am session the next morning, but I ended up throwing half of it away. She repeated what my brother said. “This is what he does.” She introduced the thought that this has an element of sadomasochism to it. He revels in the fact that in refusing help and continuing to suffer, he plays the sadist. He manipulates the situation; setting it up to make me suffer thus I assume the role of the masochist.
Following this difficult session, I went to work and met with the director of the agency. I was shaking uncontrollably and I know that she noticed but she didn’t say anything. I went back to my office and took another half-milligram of Klonopin, the last of my supply.
That night after work I didn’t call my father; instead I headed up to the Bronx, to the small village-like haven of City Island where my friend Danielle lives with her friend Mark who is recovering from open-heart surgery. I brought a bottle of my favorite red wine from down under. As she opened the wine and set out the cheese and crackers I told her a little of what was going on. She was sympathetic. “You can only do so much for him. Don’t blame yourself.”
I ended up eating a huge plate of lasagna. I can’t remember the last time I ate lasagna. It is not on my list of “safe foods.” I also drank two glasses of wine even as a warning bell went off which I ignored. One glass is my limit and I had a thirty-minute drive home. Mark went upstairs to rest and Danielle and I were talking and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I wasn’t drunk, just very relaxed and very, very tired. Danielle insisted I lie down on her couch and take a nap before I attempted to drive home. Some time later, her cat, Archie, jumped, landing squarely on my chest as if to say, “What are you doing, making yourself too comfortable in my home? It’s time to leave.”
I took my time getting up, we sat some more and talked and I drank some water. We walked her gentle Shetland Sheepdog Rosie in the cold winter night and the fresh air helped. I apologized. I was embarrassed for passing out. “Don’t be silly,” she said. “We are beyond that.” Driving home, suicidal thoughts broke the barrier which had held them back for so long. I knew I wouldn’t act on them. But they scared me.
The weekend wasn’t good. I was succumbing to a bad depression. I broke my contract and weighed myself, to discover I had gained several pounds which I had suspected. I was angry at myself for eating the lasagna and drinking the wine and for letting myself go. And I was angry at my nutritionist for not giving me a warning that I was getting close to the number which I considered unacceptable. So I started restricting. And purging (by methods other than vomiting.)
Sunday I didn’t leave my house, I didn’t shower, I barely ate. I just wanted to see Dr. Adena, but my session with her wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon.
Monday I was back at work which was a distraction until the evening when I called my father. His pharmacy had delivered his medication to my office so I had no choice but to go over to his apartment and drop it off. I called him:
Me: “I have your medication so I’m going to come drop it off. Do you need me to pick up anything for you?”
Him: “Let me think. A couple of things, I think. Where are you going?”
Me: “The supermarket on Lewiston Blvd.”
Him: “Can you pick me up some soda, ice cream and some herring?”
(My thoughts: The essential items of survival)
I get there. I cannot describe the stench, the absolute filth in which this man is choosing to live. The garbage strewn all over makes it impossible to walk, the vermin scurrying all over, and the once white tile floors that are now black. His has a full unkempt grey beard, he is barefoot – who would walk on those floors with bare feet?
I keep my coat, my scarf, and my gloves on. I walk into the kitchen to unpack the groceries and turn on the light which sends the creatures running. As I am unpacking he says, “Let me get a look at you,” as if I am a piece of meat to be inspected.” I ignore him and he pays me and I leave.
I had my session yesterday. I tell Dr. Adena about my weekend and how I reacted. She says this cannot go on.
She suggests that perhaps it is time we put him into a nursing home. “He’s schizoid,” I say. “He’ll never agree to that. He doesn’t want to be around people.”
She suggests we call Adult Protective Services again.
“I don’t know if they’ll take him back. He refused everything they tried to do for him. He came out naked to his caseworker and he refused to put clothes on. That’s why they closed his case. I don’t know if he’ll accept help from them again”
Silence. I cry out of frustration. And anger. And self-loathing.
“I still have the phone number of the psychiatrist he first talked to when the APS case was opened. I’ll call her and ask her to make another house call and ask her to evaluate his competence. He liked talking to her,” I offer.
She agrees this is a good plan.
More silence. I ask her if she has any time open tomorrow. She shakes her head no.
“What are you thinking she asks?”
“I’m thinking that I’m so upset that I’d like to take things in this office and throw them against the wall and break them.”
“I can understand that,” she said calmly.
I glance at the clock. It’s almost time to go.
I blurt out one final declaration.
“I wish he were dead.”