A blog may not be the best place to put these excerpts. But I'd appreciate any thoughts as blog comments for now. I'll see if I can create a space on my website for work in progress for future excerpts. Here's the first:
Samantha Louis looked out her second story office window above Haight Street in San Francisco and watched Liz Leahy drive away. It was over. They’d had their last session together. Sam knew it was coming. Liz had made fantastic progress and now seemed to be ‘normal’. By any standard, she was cured of her mental illness – a condition that had threatened her relationships and quite frankly the lives of others. Liz had been dangerous.
Sam should be proud of her success. It was rare that you could point to a seriously ill psychiatric patient who was actually cured. Most were ‘managed’ – either through therapy, behavior modification, drugs, or a combination of the three. Far too often it was drugs, but after her years of experience in residency and her work in inpatient facilities, Sam knew that for many, drugs were the only way to bring some sense of normalcy into their lives.
This wasn’t the case with Liz Leahy. Yes, some drugs were involved at the outset, but that was just to help manage behavior. As therapy had its desired effect, the drugs were withdrawn and now Liz had a solid relationship, a good job, and was actually happy. In Sam’s opinion, there was zero chance that Liz would relapse or that she’d present with other issues. Liz was actually cured.
As much as she kept repeating it to herself, Sam couldn’t help but feel a sense of loss. This was the case of a lifetime. Her mentor, Dr. Ken Karmere hadn’t seen anything like it in his entire thirty-plus year career. What were the chances Sam would ever see a case like this again?
So here she was, thirty-seven years old, almost two years into her private practice, and not making enough money to quit her part-time job at the inpatient facility of San Francisco Community Hospital. At least that paid well.
Med School, fellowships, a long residency, and Liz Leahy’s case had consumed her life. Like many of her counterparts, she had few really close friends. They were all far too focused on getting through their training so that they could make a difference in the world as psychiatrists.
But aside from Liz Leahy, who was now gone, her patients consisted of a few couples that she counseled, and several teens with eating disorders. Nothing exciting and not enough to pay the bills, certainly not enough to repay her student loans.
As for her personal life, Sam didn’t even have a pet. She couldn’t image subjecting an animal to the absences demanded by her psychiatric training. And while she’d had a few relationships with men in Med School, none lasted. Maybe it was her intensity. Maybe, like with a pet, it was her unavailability. She was too often doing night shifts or on Call. Or maybe it was the fact that once her psychiatric training began, she couldn’t stop analyzing her dates. It was like the Med-Student Syndrome. Virtually all med students imagine they have every possible illness as they begin studying medicine. She went through it herself in Med School but she got over it. And then, after she entered her psych residency, it seemed like her dates presented with every possible psychiatric disorder.
Sam stepped into the small shared bathroom outside her office and examined herself in the mirror. She was still attractive. There were a few strands of gray starting to show if you looked closely, but her blond hair concealed them well. Small lines were beginning to show on her face.
Worry lines? No, nothing too bad. And since she’d finished her residency two years ago, her more flexible schedule had permitted her to take yoga classes three days a week and Pilates two days a week, with a couple of jogging sessions added in. She’d dropped most of the weight she’d put on during Med School and Residency.
Looking at herself objectively, Sam decided that it was time to work on the personal side of her life. It had been put off far too long. She needed to find some group activities. She could make friends. Maybe she could even meet someone.
Sam returned to her desk to review her notes before her next patients arrived. She couldn’t help seeing the irony that she was providing couples therapy but had never had a long term relationship herself. That would have to change.