Hello friends! In the lull between books, I decided to post another creative writing piece. This was a short story I wrote for class about a girl who hates her therapist. I think it’s kind of funny. Let me know what you think!
I was always raised to never settle for second best, never be someone’s second choice. It seemed so easy at the time. Just try and you shall succeed, right? Somehow, though, I just never felt like I get the options to be first, no matter how hard I tried. I tried track; I pumped my legs as hard as I could and I was still second place. I trained so hard for volleyball just to sit the bench for the girl two years younger, just two inches taller, and with prettier hair. During college, I took a job as a waitress because someone was always a better candidate for internships than I was. I was always in the friend zone with the guys I liked. I was always excluded in my group of friends.
I was never first choice. And I never got mine.
There’s only so much failure one person can take before it pushes you over the edge. I knew it was horrible. I knew there were people out there who were worse off than I was and they were still trucking along, but I felt hopeless. So I tried taking a bunch of pills and ending my life.
Except it didn’t work.
I went into my mom’s medicine cabinet because I knew she had some pills for her sleeping condition that I thought would do the trick, but I ended up grabbing the wrong prescription. I tried overdosing on iron. Iron pills.
I couldn’t even commit suicide right.
I got really drowsy from the overdose of iron, so I just laid down right there on the bathroom floor. Seemed like as good a place as any to die; on my mother’s fuzzy pink rug between the bathtub with the frilly white shower curtain and the toilet with a matching fuzzy pink toilet seat cover. I thought this was really the end and I shut my eyes for the peaceful end that I assumed was coming. Then my body started convulsing. I got nauseous, I got a headache, the chills…
My mom came flying in after I accidentally kicked the chord to the hair dryer she left plugged in and pulled it off the counter. She ran up the stairs when she heard the crash to find me flailing around the floor like a fish flopping around a pier.
“Riley! Are you okay?” She knelt down by my side and pressed her hand to my forehead, as if the biggest problem at that very second was whether or not I had a fever. I did, but I’m on the floor convulsing and your priority is to check my temperature? “Stewart!” she shouted.
My dad came rushing in, stopping clumsily in the doorway as if someone had tapped Saran Wrap over the door that he ran into. “What? What’s wrong?”
“Call 9-1-1! Something’s wrong with Riley.”
“What happened?” he asked, patting his pockets in search of his cell phone.
“I don’t know!” my mom shouts again. It was the worst out of body experience. I wanted to just stop, sit up, and point to the empty bottle by my side and say “really?” But you can’t just stop mid-convulsion.
The ambulance finally came screaming in the front of our house. Paramedics came storming in with a gurney to lift me on to. When I was settled into the ambulance, they started taking my vitals, asking my parents questions about when I took the pills and how many. At least they noticed the empty bottle resting by the bathtub. My mom told them all she knew, that it was around seven p.m. when she heard the crash and came running in and that’s when she found me.
They admitted me to the hospital and hooked me up to an IV. I had to get my stomach pumped and then was given deferoxamine to flush the rest of the excess from my system. Within two days I had made a full recovery. I was released from the ER but required to start seeing a therapist, which was probably the worst part about the whole thing.
When I was still an undecided major in my undergrad program, I thought about going to college to be a therapist. I was good at psychology; I really loved it. And I was good at listening to people’s problems and giving advice, so I figured why not get paid to do that?
Well after meeting Doctor Patel, I was extremely satisfied with my business major instead. He was a man in his 50’s with thick gray hair and an Indian accent. The first day I met him I thought he was kind of nice. Finally, someone who wanted to hear about my problems and give me advice. It was about time someone took an interest.
But then I remembered he was only caring because he got paid to.
Every single meeting he asked me to talk about my accidental overdose. I was glad everyone called it that instead of my attempted suicide, because attempted reminded me that it was also my failed suicide. It sounded less pathetic to call it an accidental overdose. Because, really, it was an accident. Well, it was an accident that it was iron.
“Riley,” he always started, his strong accent making him purr his R’s like a cat. “Tell me why you’re here.”
“Well, like I said last time, I took too many pills,” I said in a bored tone every single time. I focused on pulling stray hairs and pieces of lint off the sleeves my sweater, refusing to look at him and make him think I was interested in therapy or that it was actually doing something.
“And why did you take too many pills?” he would say, peering over his clipboard, nodding while he spoke.
“Well, Dr. Patel, I felt like I wasn’t getting enough iron in my daily diet, so I thought I would try to catch up.” I sat back in the big brown leather chair, crossing my arms over my chest and tilting my chin up in defiance. It felt kind of nice to be an asshole for once. I spent so much time trying to be the sweet girl guys would want to date, the funny girl my friends would choose over the others when they had one extra concert ticket, the all-around perfect girl who wanted that job in the HR department.
I spent so much time being perfect it was actually kind of therapeutic to stop pretending during those weekly one hour sessions. Dr. Patel didn’t seem to think that was the proper therapy, though.
“Riley,” he purred at me again, shifting in his seat. He pushed his thick glasses up to his forehead and rubbed at his eyes. “You are in this therapy session to discuss what you are feeling, the feelings that led you to attempt a suicide.” There it was, the dreaded “s” word. “Part of the healing process is to talk about the situations that led you to that rash decision.”
I laugh under my breath and took a look around the room.
“Riley,” he says again. “You need to take this seriously or it will not help you heal.”
“Heal from my iron overdose? My stomach got pumped. I feel much better now. Can I go?”
“What caused you to want to take so many pills?”
“I didn’t like the life I was living, so I thought it would be easiest if I tried to end it.”
“And why did you think that would be easiest?”
“Because I thought maybe I would get reincarnated into someone who actually had luck once in a while.”
He takes a deep breath and I can tell I’m testing his patience. I pull a piece of gum out of my pocket and shove the stick into my mouth while he contemplates his next move.
“What would make it easier for you?”
“Friends who like me,” I blurt out. “And a job that’s relevant to my college degree. And meeting a boy who doesn’t want to use me for a night and get rid of me like a used tissue.” I sit quietly in my thoughts for a moment, but Dr. Patel is still silent, so after I pop my gum, I continue. “Never being someone’s last choice. I always feel like I’m never good enough to be first and I’m tired of trying so hard to never get to where I want to be.”
“Mmhmm.” He strokes his chin, still nodding, still annoying the shit out of me.
“That’s it?” I sit up in my chair. “That’s all I get? You ask me follow up question after follow up question to get me to spill my guts to you and I finally do and all I get is ‘mmhmm’?”
“How does that make you feel?”
“How does that make me feel? Really?” He grips the edge of his glasses and pushes them back up his nose while I sit there with my mouth agape and wide eyes. “It makes me feel pretty shitty, actually.”
“And why is that?”
And people wonder why I hate therapy.
The frustration bubbles up inside of me. I shift in the over-sized chair again, pulling my legs up and sitting cross-legged in the large seat.
“Because I just poured out my heart and soul to you and all I got was ‘mmhmm’! It makes me feel very self-conscious. Like maybe my confessions aren’t even worthy of an answer from my therapist.”
“Do things like this always make you feel this way?”
“Is this the only thing you do as a therapist? Just ask why I feel this way?” He stares straight at me without an answer; he doesn’t even touch his glasses or so much as twitch his head. Just when you think you’re getting somewhere. I reposition myself again, squaring my shoulders at him and narrowing my eyes. “I thought your job was to analyze my thoughts, tell me why I’m feeling this way, help me get over it.”
“It is simply my job to help you arrive at your own conclusions. I cannot tell you why you feel the way you do. That is up to you.”
Damn, maybe I should’ve gone to school for psychology.
“My parents are paying you $100 an hour to sit and listen while I ramble on about my feelings.” I meant to ask it as a question but it comes out more as a shocked statement with a little bit of sarcasm. Perhaps a hint of anger. Or maybe a dash. Okay, there was kind of a lot of anger.
“Let’s get back to the task at hand.” He shuffles through some papers on his clipboard—probably my medical files—and avoids making eye contact as he considers how to get me back on track. I’m not especially feeling like talking about my feelings anymore, so I take advantage of my quicker thinking and continue to lead him astray.
“No, wait, I would much rather talk about this. I thought about pursuing degree in psychology, you know.” He looks up from his papers and peers at me skeptically over the tops of his glasses. He doesn’t raise an eyebrow or anything; just looks at me, waiting for me to continue on. “Yeah, I thought I was pretty good at giving advice to people, so I thought why not do it for a living?” No reaction. Shit, he’s a tough egg to crack. “Do you like your job?”
“Yes,” he says flatly. I wait but nothing else comes out. Time to take a lesson from the Dr. Patel School of Annoying Therapists handbook.
“What do you like about it?” I lean my elbow on the chair and rest my chin on the heel of my hand, feigning innocent curiosity.
“What about them?”
“Talking to them.”
“Talking to them is what you do for a living. You’re going to have to be a little bit more specific.”
“I can’t do that.”
Oh my God. How does this man have a wife? How does he have returning patients? How does he have friends and I don’t? This is not a fair life.
“And why is that?”
“Patient-doctor confidentiality,” he says matter-of-factly, but he adds in this little shrug.
It’s barely even a shrug. It could really be a twitch for how small it was. But to me it looked like a shrug, which seemed a little bit condescending, which ticked me off a little bit.
“Look, Dr. Patel. I’m trying here, I really am, but if I’m going to open up to you, you’re going to have to open up to me. Let’s make it fair. I don’t want to be the only one talking about my feelings here.”
“That’s the whole point of your appointment, though, Riley. To talk about your feelings.”
I readjust again, bringing my knees up to my chin, then dropping my legs back to the floor, then tucking one underneath me. My God, you’d think they would drop a little extra cash on chairs that don’t make patients want to try to kill themselves all over again.
“I’m kind of sick of talking about my feelings, though.”
I get the blank stare again. I don’t know if his goal with that annoying look is to prompt me to just start talking or to convey his annoyance, but I give him my best imitation of his blank stare right back. Staring contest? Deal. I’ll do anything else but talk about iron pills and emotions. I would much rather be watching a caterpillar scrunch its way down a branch at this point.
“I’m waiting, Dr. Patel,” I tease in a sing song voice.
He continues to sit silently. He doesn’t shuffle through papers or fidget with his clipboard or anything. My God, he is infuriating.
“Do you have fun patients at all or are you used to the people who actually do what they’re supposed to and talk about their feelings and bawl for the entire hour?”
“I like my patients.”
“Yeah, you already said that. Can you answer my question or is that against your job description?”
“You have very much sass, Riley. Did you ever consider that to be your dilemma?”
“My dilemma?” I repeat in shock. Did he finally give me an opinion? Did he finally tell me what’s wrong with me? Wait, did he just tell me I have no friends because of my sass? I open my mouth to make another sarcastic comment, but he cuts me off. I kind of like assertive Dr. Patel.
“You said your dilemma is feeling excluded, unloved, unchosen.”
“So you were listening? I was wondering if you actually take notes on that clipboard or if you’re just collecting an hour’s worth of doodles.” I point towards his clipboard and shift again, blowing another bubble almost the size of my face before it pops with a loud gust of air.
“That could be your problem. You present too much attitude for people to tolerate, so eventually they push you away. If you can’t reign in your attitude and your pessimism, people will not want to associate with you more than necessary.”
“Are you saying I have a bad attitude?”
“From what you’ve demonstrated to me here, yes.”
Appalling. My jaw drops for a second, but I snap my mouth shut and sit back up in my seat. That shit hurt my feelings, but I still kind of like mean Dr. Patel. At least he tells it like it is. Enough of this beating around this bush bullshit.
“Have you perhaps considered that reliving my embarrassing and completely stupid mistake every Wednesday is one of the last things I would volunteer onto my agenda?”
“I have considered that, yes, but it’s hard to help you when you won’t let me help you.”
“You’re finally showing me some emotion, Dr. Patel. I kind of dig it.”
He shifts uncomfortably in his seat, glancing down at his clipboard and then around the room. A rosy hue spreads underneath the frame of his glasses. Did I just make my therapist blush? My 50-something married Indian therapist. I don’t know that I consider it flattering, but it does make me want to laugh.
The ugly old cuckoo clock on his wall starts chirping and the blue bird pops out at every chime for the hour, alerting me my session is complete. Without hesitation, I hop up out of my seat and sling my purse on my shoulder.
“Well, Dr. Patel, it’s been real and it’s been fun, but it hasn’t been real fun.”
“You thought it was fun?” he asks incredulously. Even he doesn’t believe he is capable of making a therapy session fun. But really, who would be?
“No, actually. That was a figure of speech. I really didn’t think it was that fun. Maybe next time we can make it feel more…I don’t know, casual.”
“Casual,” he repeats, a look of serious concentration on his face. It was almost as if he was pondering ways to make a 22-year-old girl actually enjoy therapy sessions with this out of touch, old school man.
“Yeah, make it feel like a slumber party or something. I’ll bring in cookies, you can braid my hair, I’ll play some light Taylor Swift in the background. If that won’t get the juices flowing, I don’t know what else to tell you.”
I stride toward the tall maple double doors in his office. As I reach for the brass handle on the door, Dr. Patel calls after me, bringing me to a halt. I turn around slowly with a look of amused impatience. I’m maybe five seconds away from another sarcastic comment and an eye roll, but that reaction depends on what he has to say.
“Don’t forget what I told you about your attitude.” I let the eye roll fly; I even throw in a scoff for added effect, just because I know how much he’ll hate it. “Your goal until next week is to notice the way you speak to people and how they react. We can talk about that next time.”
“Thanks for the advice, doc. I’ll be sure to take notes while I’m interacting in society.”
“Have a good week, Riley.” Maybe his accent is hiding the sincerity, but to me it felt like something he said robotically after every poor unfortunate soul left his office a little bit more depressed or a little bit angrier at the world.
“You too, Dr. Patel.” I sigh, turning back around to reach for the door again to make my escape before he tries to give me more “advice.”
“I’ll see you next week.”
“I’ll bring the baked goods.”
I thought I heard a soft chuckle behind me but I didn’t bother to turn around. Dr. Patel doesn’t seem like one who shows his emotions. Maybe it’s just being in this kind of a profession for so long; after hearing people bitch all day, why would you want to give yourself a chance to feel like them?
He was finally coming around a little bit. It only took about seven sessions, but he might finally be warming up to my idea of how therapy should be. I still hated going, but maybe the next couple of months wouldn’t be as miserable as I had anticipated.
Especially if I brought cookies next week.