Monday, July 17, 2006

Mouth Full of Twinkies

I have not contributed to our blog thus far because it appears that I am in the midst of some sort of mental breakdown. We’re cautioned not to bite off more than we can chew. Well, apparently I’ve crammed an entire twelve pack of Twinkies into my mouth at one time. Divorce, new job, graduate school, teenagers, and a multitude of dysfunctional family members—somewhere along the way I decided I was Wonder Woman and could handle it all while holding evil at bay with my handy dandy magic lasso. If ever there was someone begging for psychiatric intervention, it’s got to be me.

In my defense, I did attempt to get help. I asked around for recommendations for a good therapist; I knew I needed to talk to a professional. The woman I made an appointment with had come highly recommended; the entire practice she was associated with was top-notch. I felt smugly virtuous that I was facing my problems head on and actively seeking help. I have to admit that this notion didn’t totally alleviate my nervousness when the day of my appointment actually arrived and I found myself in the therapist’s waiting room.

You have to understand that no one in my very southern family had ever received counseling or therapy unless they had first been strapped into a straitjacket and hauled off to one of those euphemistically southern sanitariums. Voluntarily confronting my demons was not something I was genetically predisposed to do.

Sitting in the therapist’s waiting room, I found myself fidgeting and pacing and glancing longingly at the exit. Fortunately, I didn’t have long to wait. The receptionist called my name. Standing next to the front desk was a very elegant older woman with a stern, but not totally-unwelcoming, expression. What caught my attention, however, was that she was holding a small terrier that was wearing some sort of tiny coat. Now I’m a sucker for animals, and I immediately thought, “Wow, what a cool place—they bring their pets to work with them!”

Before I could comment or speculate further, the woman said, “Follow me,” and started off down a long hallway. As we walked down the hallway and up a staircase and down another long hallway, the woman made no attempt at conversation. I began to feel uncomfortable and nervous again as I trailed along behind her, watching the little dog’s tail wag from side to side. Finally she ushered me into a large office. Comfortable chairs and couches, soft lighting, floor-to-ceiling bookcases—it could have been someone’s den or study. She pointed to a couch and said, “Have a seat.” She sat in a chair opposite me and placed the dog on the floor. For the first time I noticed that the dog’s coat had something written on it, but I couldn’t quite make out what it was. While I was still straining to read the dog’s side, the doctor launched into speech.

“Now, this is my hearing dog; he alerts me when the phone rings or someone knocks on the door. He is not a pet—he is a working dog. Do not attempt to touch him or pet him.”

At this point, I felt an overwhelming urge to pull my feet up off the floor and cower in the corner of the couch. The dog was staring right at me, as if daring me to extend my hand toward him. It was only as the doctor continued to speak, that I really started to take in what she was saying. The woman was deaf. She couldn’t hear, but she was apparently an expert lip reader. Panic and dismay streaked across my brain. How was I supposed to talk to someone about some of the most intimate and difficult problems I had ever had, when she couldn’t hear a word I said. I felt myself giving into the ridiculous urge to speak with exaggerated mouth motions when I tried to answer her questions. And I couldn’t make eye-contact with her because I was afraid to take my eyes off the dog. He certainly wasn’t taking his eyes off me. I just knew he was waiting to pounce if I had even the briefest sentimental thought to treat him like a cute little pet.

I truly have no idea what I said to that woman. It must not have been too horrible or deranged because I was allowed to leave the building on my own—no sedatives, no straitjackets, no men in little white coats. I felt anything but normal, however. I felt like I was walking out of an episode of the Twilight Zone. What were the chances that on my very first attempt I would manage to find what was probably the only deaf therapist in the state? I do know that she was an excellent doctor; unfortunately, she just wasn’t the right doctor for me.

Needless to say, I have been more than a little reticent to seek out professional help again. At this point, I don’t really know what to do about this mouth full of Twinkies.

Got milk?


Joy said...

This is too funny but only in the retelling of it, not during the experience! Bizarre enough to be on Seinfeld. Now I'm imagining this with each character but mostly Elaine. Wow! Unbelievable!

Anonymous said...

Tina, Tina,
Joy gave me the general outline but only you could do this story full justice. When you write the GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL you must put this in. It has to go in a novel and not a memoir because noone would believe it actually happened!


Jill said...

I did not detect any problems during that great performance this weekend. It was great.