Blackbird Has Spoken: Part 4
From Blackbird Has Spoken: Part 3
Ivy had a disturbing nightmare about the death of her grandmother and a new piece that baffles her. A visit and dinner with Cloe and others prove to further their bond but also raises questions about why Cloe is even there.
The luminous orb of the full moon stood guard over the earth like a sentinel filling Ivy’s room where she lie in bed with her hands behind her head pondering the long, tumultuous day. Most of it was a blur except for the time she spent with Cloe. She was struck by her new friend’s incredible empathy and intuitiveness about the feelings of others. It had impressed her that she could read Jeb’s need for connection and that Jolana wasn’t ready yet.
‘Why is Cloe here?’ she wondered. ‘Why has she been here before?’
The Good Doctor Returns
The following morning, Dr. Fairfax walked into the unit with Dr. Huan Wong, who was returning from a four-week vacation. Muriel Hightower, the front desk clerk stood up gleefully and brought her hands together with a loud clap.
“Oh, Dr. Wong. You’re back. We’ve missed you terribly.”
Dr. Wong braced himself. Muriel’s long-running crush on him filled him with anxiety.
“Good morning, Mrs. Hightower,” he said. “Very nice to see you again. Uh, how have you been?”
“Not so hot until you walked in. My but you’re a breath of fresh air. And please, call me Muriel. We’re old friends.”
“Hightower much easier to say,” he said. “But very good to be back.”
”I hope you’re replacing that scoundrel, Dr. Stricklin."
“Muriel,” Dr. Fairfax said quietly, stepping up to the desk, “that’s not appropriate.”
Before Muriel could say another word Dr. Wong turned on his heels and went to the patient's meeting room.
Ivy's Morning Has Promise
Ivy sat up on the side of the bed. Pain pounded her forehead like a hammer on an anvil.
"Didn't you get any sleep?" the med nurse named Helen asked as she took Ivy's morning vitals. Ivy noticed her blood-red lipstick spotted her front teeth.
"Very little thanks to nightmares and panic attacks. If I wasn't crazy when I was admitted I sure am now."
"Would you like a drink of juice and a snack before breakfast? Sometimes a little refreshment can settle you down a bit."
Ivy's mouth was like cotton. "Orange juice sounds good. Is there a good doctor here today?"
"You bet. Dr. Wong, the world's best psychiatrist is back from vacation. I promise you will adore Dr. Wong."
Ivy was skeptical. "I only care that he’s are respectful and good at what he does," she said.
"He is that and more. I've arranged for you to be his first patient this morning. He may call for you during goals group."
Ivy dressed in her funky clothes from the clothes closet and went to the morning goals group, sipping her orange juice.
Cloe plopped down beside her and whispered. "You ready for a day of fun and madness?"
"I am and your sarcasm is delicious.”
"I need a partner in crime around here."
"I'll see what I can do."
Cloe grinned wickedly. "Tell them your goal is to put a whoopee cushion for Morti during Jeopardy."
"Every time I'm with you I see another facet of your personality. It's your idea, Missy, you say it."
Cloe followed through. "My goal is to whoopee cushion our Jeopardy champion this evening."
Juice spewed out of Ivy's nose and mouth. People joined in the laughter.
Morti glared at her. His nose turned the color of a rutabaga. "Very funny, little girl. You're just jealous."
"Cloe, let's not do this," said Clara, trying not to laugh.
Helen appeared and called for Ivy to go see the doctor.
"Are you sure this guy is nice?"
"I promise," Helen said. She walked Ivy to the door and ushered her in. "Dr. Wong, this is Ivy."
Ivy Meets Dr. Wong
Ivy took one look at Dr. Wong's soft, kind countenance and felt herself relax a bit.
"Hello Ivy," Dr. Wong said, standing. He seemed thrilled to see her as he would an old friend. "Come, sit down."
Ivy sat and offered a tentative smile. "Hi," she said. "You look and sound a whole lot nicer than that Dr. Stricklin guy."
"I love helping people get well. Other doctors have a private practice, only here for a few hours. I am full time. In-patient is my calling. "
"Helen told me I would adore you. Is she right?"
Dr. Wong blushed. "Mrs. Wong adore me," he said. "Not necessary for patient."
Ivy’s tension drained like a bloodletting.
"So, tell me about Ivy?" he said.
"Do you mean what brought me here or what's my favorite hobby kind of stuff?"
"Whatever you want to share to help me to know you better.”
Ivy was stunned by his sincere interest in her as a person "Well, we've had such a pleasant start I hate to ruin it with my problems. It must be a bummer to be a doctor who has to sit and listen to the horrors of people's pain and all the depressing details of their lives. I'm sure you get a lot of whiners too."
"Bummer mean bad, yes?"
"Ivy, I tell you, I've been psychiatrist for thirty-five years and I never feel bummer hearing people's problems. I am a psychiatrist because I care about people and have knowledge and experience to help. If I stop caring I don't deserve to be a doctor. "
"On behalf of all people who struggle with trauma and mental health issues, I thank you for caring. It shows and means so much."
"You're welcome. Now, as you were saying."
"Okay, well it's hard to focus on who I am in healthy everyday life. As you probably see in my records, I am here because I tried to take my life." Dr. Wong's eyes showed concern. She was sure he heard those words on a daily basis all his professional life. Surely it must be routine. What she didn't know was that his younger brother had committed suicide when he was in his late teens. It was then that he became determined to become a psychiatrist to help people like his brother. He never took it lightly.
"Yes, I see that Ivy. Tell me about it."
"Well, I was raised by my Nana, my grandmother, since I was six years old. I was an anxious child, kind of sad and moody a lot. It's always bothered me that I was that way. I always wanted to be normal."
"Many patients say they want to be normal, but I have something for you to read," he said, pulling a book out of his briefcase. He opened it and found what he was looking for. He handed the book to her with his finger on the place where he wanted. "Tell me what this say."
Ivy was surprised to see it was a dictionary. "Normal," she read. "Usual, not abnormal, regular, average, natural, typical..." She looked up at him puzzled.
He smiled nodding his head. "Normal boring, right?" He burst into a giggle, which got her laughing.
"Okay," she said. "I get your point. They say no one is normal, but everyday people don't live with the severity of moods and behaviors people with mental health issues have. Anyway, I was diagnosed with bipolar a number of years ago. And I'll be honest, I hate that word. I cringe hearing it and saying it and I rarely use it unless absolutely necessary. I hate having it. I hate how people think of it."
"Stigma for mental disorders very difficult."
"Since we're talking dictionaries, I looked up stigma once. One of the definitions was 'a mark of disgrace.' That's how people look at someone like me when they find out I have mental health issues."
"Ivy, listen very carefully. There is no disgrace, no shame for mental health diagnosis. People form stereotypes. I encourage people with mental health issues to educate others and bring understanding. Please continue."
"I've been on medication, which you have in my chart. What brought me here is that my Nana had a heart attack." She bit her lip to keep her composure. "I was with her when it happened. I tried CPR but she didn't respond. The paramedics took over and they couldn't revive her either. So basically, she died in my arms. It felt like a giant boulder was strapped to my ankles pulling me down into a mire of quicksand. I had no hope or strength to go on. I still feel that way most of the time. She was my rock. She understood me and tried to help me be strong and confident. She didn't coddle me but she nurtured and affirmed me all my life. Even when I finished college I continued living with her. I’ve worked and been independent in making my way in the world, but we were very close. She started having health issues a couple of years ago, then a month ago..." Her voice trailed off.
"Very sorry for your loss."
"Thank you. The other night I took some pills and a friend happened to come by to check on me knowing I was having a hard time. She called 9-1-1. I don't really remember much until they brought me on this ward."
"I'm glad you survive. You are in the right place. Doctors, nurses, and team of staff all here to help you get started on the road to recovery. It is very important for you to understand you are part of the team. You won't progress unless you work hard. You will find in groups and spending time with patients that you help each other also."
"I can see where that is true. I met this girl, Cloe, and within five minutes of meeting her, I knew I'd met someone I needed and wanted as a friend. It's like we're sisters. She had a grandmother, too, whom she was very close to and influenced by. She makes me laugh. She also has this way of reading where others are at, and I've never known a human being with more empathy. I just hope I can be a help to her."
"What a gift. Cloe is very special."
"You don't talk like a doctor all the time. I mean that as a true compliment."
"Doctors are human beings first. Some doctors forget. You tell me if I'm not, okay?"
"You can count on me." Ivy went on to tell him about the nightmares and the new sound of a gunshot, the rapid cycling moods, the feeling of disconnectedness sometimes, and her mental forays back in time when she was a child sitting on her grandmother’s lap. He made some minor adjustments in her medications and added a mild sleep aid.
“Thank you so much for your kindness,” she said as she stood up to leave.
"We are a team, Ivy," he said. "We work together, remember."
Ivy felt so light and hopeful she had an urge to skip as she made her way to back to her room. She breathed a quick prayer. "Now we're getting somewhere, Lord. Thank you for Dr. Wong."
What's Morti's Problem?
Ivy had just enough time to wolf down some breakfast before going off to her first group. She found her tray and sat next to Cloe who was just finishing up. "Cloe, you are not going to believe this doctor, Dr. Wong. He's adorable and amazing and so kind. He really cares.”
Cloe's mouth dropped open. "Dr. Wong? He’s back from vacation? I can't wait to see him. You just made my day."
"Well, he made my day so I thought I'd pass it on." Ivy looked up at the whiteboard and saw her first group was ‘Understanding mental disorders.’ "Oh boy, mental disorders. I can't wait. You know, sometimes I feel like I could be a poster child for mental illness."
"Sorry to disappoint you, Ivy, but my poster is up in every mental health clinic in the tri-state area. They're paying me the big bucks. But if I get tired of it, I'll give you a good recommendation. You definitely qualify. Pinky swear?" She held up her pinky and the two friends sealed their friendship.
Morti watched them from the next table. He shoved his chair back loudly and stopped at their table on his way out. "You think this is all fun and games here?" he hissed. "If I could give you my misery to provide you with more entertainment I would. You have no right to inflict your giddy girl foolishness on the rest of us." He stormed off. Cloe and Ivy watched him walk away in his huff.
"I don't know what to make of him," Ivy said.
"His wing is broken as surely as ours are. Hopefully, he will be able to find peace one day soon and even have a few moments of laughter. Remember how you felt yesterday? So full of despair? We’ve shared some laughs. It doesn't fix everything for either of us, but those moments of laughter can get us through a tough day. We're not to feel guilty. There are times when I don't laugh for months on end. Not even a smile. When it gets that bad for too long, well..." She did not finish her sentence. Instead, she checked the whiteboard. "Looks like Morti and I are also in the same group as you. We better behave."
Eben, the group facilitator made Ivy's stomach go cold. There was something uncannily familiar about him but she couldn’t place him.
“Eben? What the heck kind of name is that?” said Morti.
“Well what kind of name is Mortimer?” said Jeb.
“Atta boy, Jeb,” someone said.
“It’s Morti and what’s wrong with my name?”
“It means leprous toad,” said Jeb. “I googled it.” A chorus of guffaws hammered the victim.
Morti stood and postured toward Jeb with curses.
Jeb jumped behind his chair, regretting his insult.
“Okay you guys,” said Eben. “Chill out. We’re not here to discuss names and their meanings, but for the record, Eben is short for Ebenezer. If you don’t like my name, that’s cool. Let’s get on with the class.”
The two men sat down but Morti wasn’t finished.
“Ebenezer? What, did your mom not love you or something?”
“As I was saying…” Eben continued.
Ivy didn’t comprehend anything Eben was saying. She was fixated on his mannerisms, his voice, his Jersey accent. He ran his hand through his curly hair and she felt herself quiver. Why did she feel afraid? She became aware that Morti was being disagreeable again.
Eben’s eyes turned black with fury. “What’s your problem, Morti?” His voice was like a hot poker ready to impale.
It was a Deja vu moment for Ivy.
A shot rang out and she hit the floor.
Questions & Answers
© 2016 Lori Colbo