Shrink Rap

The first summer after we left Manhattan’s Upper East Side for the rolling hills of central New Jersey – when I was three – Jan enrolled me in day camp. I assume she explained “day camp” to me beforehand, but I have no recollection of said discussion. What I do recall is this: one warm June morning, I was enjoying a tasty bowl of Apple Jacks on the chartreuse velour couch, watching a show about three boys and three gold-haired girls whose parents were newlyweds, when a short bus pulled up at our door.

“The bus is here, Traci!” Jan announced.

And this relates to me … HOW?

“Time to go to camp!”

Hahahahaha, good one Mommy! Camp! As if!

The bus honked and suddenly the reasons why I was wearing only a yellow ruffled bathing suit, blue Keds and white ankle socks became crystal clear.

Um … uh-oh.

There was no escape. I had no choice but to face the reality that Jan wanted to get rid of me while my infant sister – future eager beaver diaper-clad toddler – got to stay home aaaaaaaaaaaall day.

Frick on a high-waisted, bell-bottomed stick.

And so I spent the day at this place called camp. I drank the camp fruit punch. I ate the cheap, camp duplex cookies. I endured the insomnia at camp naptime. I swam/tried not to drown in the camp pool, which to this day seems about 20 miles deep and really dark. I was civil to the other smurf-sized campers. But I was sure as hell not spending the rest of my life in this shithole.

Thankfully, a few days later, I fell down the stairs in our bi-level apartment. I fell down one stair, to be exact. And I slid gently rather than  fell, to be exact.  But after this tragic accident, I couldn’t put any weight on my left ankle. I was a three-year-old gimp.

Sayonara, short bus.

I had X-rays. I had pediatricians and orthopedists inspect the injury. I had ice and an ankle wrap of some sort. I had lollipops. I took a few spins in a wheelchair.  Nothing was broken or even remotely wrong – most likely because nothing had really happened. But nonetheless, I remained unable to walk.

As thrilled as I was to be done with camp, I quickly grew tired of all the visits to doctors. Why did I have to keep going? I’d obviously never regain the use of my leg… why couldn’t we all just accept that and move on? I could still get clogs from Fayva, right?

Finally, Jan and Lew agreed there was nothing more the mainstream medical establishment could do for their daughter. They had no hope and no remaining options, so they decided to go to the mall. I limped my way out to the Volvo and we got in the car. We were almost there when the car made a sharp left into what looked a lot like another doctor’s office.

“You said NO MORE DOCTORS!” I yelled with rage.

Jan and Lew looked at each other and Lew said, very nicely, “This is a special kind of doctor. All you have to do is talk to him.”

Too dumb to feel duped or realize they obviously thought I was INSANE, I headed into the “special” doctor’s office, caressed the plaid cloth wallpaper, played with a few dolls, chatted him up a bit, and then walked out using both my legs.

The kiddie shrink told my parents I was stubborn, strong-willed and fine.

Sometimes a banana is just a banana ... or is it?

Unfortunately, with old age comes problems that no shrink can cure in one 50-minute period, and Dr. Plaid Walls was not the last “special” kind of doctor I’ve spent time with. I’m not proud of it, but I’m not ashamed of it either – panic attacks and depression are no fun, and neither is going through life angry, afraid or completely devoid of introspection. I am definitely one of those people who thinks we would all benefit from a few minutes on the couch every week.

Over the years I’ve “spent time” with an array of “special” doctors. Some needed serious help themselves. Some were totally creepy.  Some were very good but stopped taking my health insurance.  And one, I am entirely convinced, was actually a robot. I called him Shrink Tron and our conversations would go something like this.

Me: Blah blah blah. What do you think it means?

ShrinkTron [insert robot voice]: Idon’tknowwhatdoYOUthinkitmeans?

Me: I know what I think it means, asswipe. I want to know what YOU think it means. That’s why I pay you.

ShrinkTron: Idon’tknowwhatdoYOUthinkitmeans Idon’tknowwhatdoYOUthinkitmeans…MALFUNCTION MALFUNCTION MALFUNCTION SIZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZLE

Me: Uh … there’s like, black smoke coming out of your nose and like, your stainless steel leg just fell off. Is that like … normal?

ShrinkTron: YOURMOTHER YOURMOTHER YOURMOTHER YOURMOTHER …TIMEISUP TIMEISUP [insert massive explosion sound effect]

Finally, a few years ago, I found a “special” doctor I actually liked. I think she’s made a big difference, and even though I’m quite sure she finds me boring, repetitive and annoying at times, she’s always seemed to be fond of me overall. But after today, I’m not so sure.

Normally she greets me at the door to her office and I go right in. Today, even though I was a few minutes late and the session before mine had easily been done for 10 minutes, her office door was closed. I could hear her on the phone, although I couldn’t hear what she was saying. I didn’t know what to do — knock to make my arrival known? Leave? Wait outside? Sit there and inadvertently overhear something confidential? Assume some patient was in crisis and that’s why I’d been booted from my usual time slot?  The minutes ticked by.

Finally, I started writing her a note explaining that one of us must have gotten our dates mixed up, that I was leaving and that I’d be back next week unless I heard otherwise.  Whilst I was mid-note, she opened the door and appeared shocked to see me there.  She apologized profusely and told me that for some reason, she just didn’t have me in her book for today.

Most likely, that’s true and it was just an accidental scheduling error. But on the other hand, as she and her fellow special doctors are so often known to ask, is there really such a thing as an “accident?” Did she get confused about the dates, or did she subconsciously want to avoid me?

Idon’tknowwhatdoYOUthinkitmeans?

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Shrink Rap

Dream On

It’s hard to believe given that I now have the attention span of a three-year-old, if that, but I used to read legitimate books.  Before L.O.A.D.D. (Late Onset Attention Deficit Disorder) felled me, I actually made it through several of Freud’s definitive works. And I have since been fascinated by dreams.

I believe that the way a person conveys his or her dreams to others reveals a great deal about his or her personality. Some people don’t remember them at all (repressed and possibly homicidal), some people find their own dreams totes embarrassing or too disturbing to admit (self-loathing and possibly homicidal), and some people obviously embellish them for dramatic purposes (narcissistic and possibly homicidal).

One can also extract much comedic material from dreams, once the initial horror/creepiness/confusion has passed. When my friend Loren was pregnant with her daughter, she dreamed the baby was born fully healthy but small enough to fit in her pocket, and thus, could be transported all over the city with grace and aplomb. A “stash-n-go” baby, if you will.

My friend B told me that in 6th grade, she dreamed she had a fight with another girl. The fight was so real that B couldn’t bring herself speak to her opponent for a week (they’re Facebook friends now, thank God).

In college, my sister called me to report a dream so unsettling she could hardly admit to having it.  But the burden was too big for her to shoulder alone, so she confided in me and one of her roommates.

Jamie: “I had a dream that I hooked up with a dog.”

Me: “So you dreamed about an ugly guy, what’s the big deal?”

Jamie: “No. I mean … [insert whisper] an ACTUAL DOG.”

Me, after a looooong pause: “Uh … yeah. That’s odd.  I’m not gonna lie.”

Now, I had the decency to wait a solid 15+ years to blab the contents of that dream here, but her roommate lasted a mere 15 seconds. My sister went downstairs to the living room a few hours later and found a group of Delta Kappa Epsilon brothers watching some 70s game show re-run with her friends.

“I love this show!” she said, as young Dave/Jeff/Josh/Mike/Andy/Jason turned to face her royal deviance head-on.

“Hey Jamie … the password is … CANINE.”

Eek. Guess the Snausage was out of the bag …

I myself am no stranger to freakish dreams, and often remember my nocturnal visions. But until I was in my late 20s, I never once had a famed recurring dream.

At first they were all about my contact lenses, for some reason. I would be struggling to insert ginormous, pizza-sized lenses. Each failed effort meant another smack on the forehead with the oversized contact. Sometimes, Kiki (my roommate, close friend and contact wear-age consultant) would have to roll them across the apartment into the bathroom for me.  Sometimes, I’d think they were safely in place and that I could see well enough to drive. Then, while speeding along the Garden State Parkway, I’d realize I was actually legally blind.

Soon, the contacts were out of the picture, but the driving-while-blind theme took center pillow.  At least once a week I’m still treated to a private screening of a movie about driving while I can’t see, being completely lost in a place that should be completely familiar (Scotch Plains, Philadelphia, the Upper West Side), or driving and being unable to control the car.

Then came the government-issued dream about the test that will decide my high school or college fate, in a class I didn’t realize I was taking and thus, did not attend all semester. Or the one in which I am about to get on a plane for a very long trip (usually to Tokyo or Shanghai), totally unprepared. I have no suitcase, no carry-on, and no emergency Hershey bar. I also have a middle seat in Coach. Freud and most Google search results agree that these are garden variety anxiety dreams, and that I feel unprepared, judged, regretful and totally lacking in confidence. Shocker!

But for the past year or two, I’ve been plagued by another one whose roots I really don’t understand.  The background scenarios vary, but have two things in common. I am usually ill-at-ease wherever I am, and I always end up desperately needing to visit the toilette. Unfortunately for Dream Me, there is a major problem with every facility I find.  These major problems include, but are not limited to:

  • Broken door, door with no lock, or no door at all
  • Above, plus presence of mean girls from high school in immediate vicinity
  • Revoltingly filthy stall and/or bathroom
  • Revoltingly overflowed toilet and/or sink
  • Revoltingly flooded stall and/or bathroom 
  • Toilet that is too high for someone of my smurf-sized stature to reach
  • Toilet that is covered with delightful “souvenirs” left by the previous user
  • Toilet that is blocked by seemingly rabid wild dogs (my personal favorite)

No one is really sure what this particular brand of dream means.  If anyone would like to offer a psychoanalytic opinion, I welcome the input. My own theory is this: I am weird.

Dream On