Maureen lay in the tub, letting the warm water envelop her like a down quilt. It had been quite the day. She had taken her son to his monthly psychology visit and it had proven to be an interesting visit. As she took another sip from her now lukewarm Chardonnay, Maureen wondered where it had all gone so terribly wrong.
The therapist asked her to come back, mid-session, to discuss "something". Vague, but alarming enough for Maureen to surrender her copy of the May 2012 "People Magazine" and follow Sandy from the drab waiting room and back to her small office.
Max sat on a chair, his small legs swinging back and forth. He was looking through a picture book, not acknowledging Maureen's presence or Sandy's return. Sandy began, "Mom, Max here was telling me something pretty interesting." As the therapist continued all Maureen heard was "voices", "compulsions", "referral to a psychiatrist" but no actual big picture was forming in her swimming head.
Being blindsided by "pretty interesting" news about your own child, revealed to your by a relative stranger was more than Maureen could handle today. She sat on her own chair, now, swinging her legs in time with Max's. Sandy was talking and scribbling out forms for bloodwork, for a psychiatry evaluation, hopefully a large script of Valium, too, for Maureen, but doubtful.
With the therapist's grin plastered on her perpetually sunny face, she handed the paperwork to Maureen and wished her to have a good day. Maureen silently wished Sandy to have a horrible day, locusts, frogs, flat tires on the way home. No one should be that goddamn chipper and the bearer of "interesting news."
Max and Maureen, hand in hand, made their way to the parking lot. She had pulled him out of school early and while there was some of the school day left, there wasn't enough to bother with. "Max", she said, "how about some ice cream?" Max was immediately agreeable and climbed into the car.
She watched him through the rear view mirror on the drive to the restaurant and a thousand thoughts came rushing over her, tsunami wave, after tsunami wave. Maureen turned off the radio, and before Max could protest, she asked, "So, um, Sandy said you were hearing things? Do you want to talk about it?" Max nodded his little blonde head in agreement, but was staring fixedly out the passenger window. "What do the voices want from you Max? Are they asking you to do things? Has this been going on for awhile? Why haven't you told Mommy about this?" She could feel the torrent of questions just spilling out of her. While Maureen kept her voice and tone level, she feel this bile, this lump of fear and rage and uncertainty and other yet to be defined emotions rising out of her. She was met with stony silence from the backseat.
"Mommy's not mad at you Max. I am really glad you told Sandy, I am. I just didn't know about all of this was happening with you and want to understand better. Can you help me to understand?" Maureen was grasping at straws. Walking that fine line between Momma Bear Concern for Max and adrenaline fueled panic. "Don't upset him more", she kept repeating in her own head, "he will talk when he is ready." Great, she thought with grim irony, NOW I have voices.
Crossing the parking lot to the ice cream parlor, Max reached for Maureen's hand. She gladly took his small hand in hers, not sure if she was steadying him or her. God, she felt selfish for her need for comfort at a time like this. Max was the one who needed comfort and reassurance. Here he was stuck with a slightly unhinged mother, having sundaes at two o'clock in the afternoon on a school day; way off the routine and expected schedule of "regular" life.
After they ordered, Max started to color his placemat. He finally spoke, softly, and mostly to the cartoon seal balanced on the ball. "I have these, voices, I dunno." Pause, hesitation. Maureen restrained herself with every available ounce of patience and silence, hoping he'd continue. "Like, since after Christmas. (the fact that it was September,NINE BLOODY MONTHS LATER, screamed inside Maureen's skull) It's mostly when I take my medication. I dunno, it makes me feel, like, funny. It tells me to touch things and if I don't listen to it the voice just gets louder. It won't go away until I do what it says."
He dropped the red crayon and looked at his mother. Maureen took a big sigh and kept her plastered smile on her face,a la Sandy. "Is the voice scary, Max? Is it telling you bad things will happen if you don't listen to it?" Max considered this as he picked up a green crayon and said, "The voice isn't bad or anything, Mom, it just is."
Maureen sat back and stirred her dish of ice cream into a brown soup. Her mind was not able to focus on the singular issue at hand: her son needed her, went to someone else for guidance, was he violent, would he hurt her, would he hurt himself, would he hurt his baby sister, was the dog safe, could he be left alone, should he go to school tomorrow, what do I tell the school, is this my fault, is this Joe's fault, why did she ever medicate him - and on and on and on, until her mind was a buzzing, firey hive of "not good thoughts".
Max finished his ice cream and they left. When they pulled into the driveway, Maureen felt relief they were at a safe harbor, their home, but also felt dread of the ensuing phone calls for referrals, bloodwork appointments, more time off from school and work, oh, and to fit a conversation in with her husband about what had transpired. Max ran inside, greeted the dog, did his math worksheet and began "Minecrafting" for the rest of the afternoon.
The blame game now crept into every corner of Maureen's psyche; what did she eat while she was pregnant? What were those fertility drugs called? Did she stand too close to the microwave with her swollen belly? Maybe it was gluten. People seemed to be blaming gluten for a lot of problems lately. Maybe her husband was to blame. Joe was a little off, maybe Max got it from him. Perhaps this was just all a big misunderstanding and Max was making this all up. Maybe Sandy was looking to pad her calendar with more frequent (and costly) visits.
None of this was "thinking". It wasn't thinking. It was free association of self-inflicted mental assault. She fixed a dinner and fed Max and and his sister. When Joe came home, she threw up the "I Need to Escape Right Now" look and took her bottle of wine and sat in the tub.
Was there anything more humiliating than finding out your child, who lives with you seven days a week, 365 days of the year, holds in such "interesting news" and when he decides to share it, he shares it with a relative stranger? Maureen took a long drag of wine and looked at the clock: 7:00 pm it glowed at her.
Calls and questions would have to wait for better answer for tomorrow. Until then, Mr. Bubble would have to do.