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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Other · #1863905
Phoenix spends some time in the psych ward again...
Monday afternoon.  Phoenix was crying uncontrollably in his psychiatrist's office over something from combat that he had not been able to tell his doctor because he was afraid of his doctor thinking he was a bad person.  "Well, you know, Phoenix, the treatment for PTSD is to talk about it and get it out so that you can be desensitized to it.  So I think we'd better talk about it, whatever it is."  Phoenix begged his doctor not to be insulted.  "I don't feel insulted, Phoenix.  I feel worried because there's something you haven't told me and I'm not sure you can be safe.  I'm not seeing many indications that you can be safe right now.  Do you need to be in the hospital?  For safety?"  Phoenix just cried harder.  He had not been in the psych ward for a year.  "Have you been drinking today, Phoenix?"  No, not today, Sir.  "Been drinking pretty steady since I talked to you?"  It had been three days since he had talked to his doctor on the phone.  Phoenix was drunk when his psychiatrist called.  Phoenix remembered the conversation.  "You been drinking this afternoon, Phoenix?"  Probably more than I should, Sir.  "You're a little slurred.  I think you should stop doing that.  You have to hold it together until our next meeting, Phoenix.  If you can't do that, then you have to go to the hospital.  Safety first, right?"  Yes, Sir.  "If you can't be safe, you have to go to the hospital."  Phoenix's mind snapped back to the current conversation in his doctor's office.  "If you can't be safe, you have to go to the hospital."  Yes, Sir.  His doctor mentioned the group home.  Phoenix was shocked and appalled.  You really think I'm group home material?!  How could you think such a thing?!  Phoenix reacted, in a word, badly.  "Do you think you're getting an attitude, Phoenix?"  Phoenix stopped.  He had put on his hat and glasses, stood up, and was contemplating in his emotion state walking out on this most trusted man in his life.  Phoenix sat down, took off his hat and glasses, and apologized.  He followed it with the comment that he was not incompetent.  "I never said that, Phoenix."  His doctor went on about the group home and Phoenix sat there, half-listening in his irrationally-driven mind to the demons inside he was fighting off that said that he was incompetent.  His doctor checked to see if the psych ward had room for Phoenix.  They did.  "You go down to the emergency room and check in.  I'll tell them you're coming."  His doctor pointed to the door.  Phoenix shook his doctor's hand and walked out.

Phoenix found a parking space in the psych ward parking lot, emptied his pockets, and walked over to the ER.  There, he saw a familiar face or two, but saw all of the old familiar faces at the psych ward when he was wheeled over to the unit by security.  Safety search, vitals, charge nurse interview, toiletries, introduction to his room, menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, safety contract, medication review...nothing had changed.  There was a problem with the medications in the computer, so they had to call the psychiatrist on call, who was also from Phoenix's own psychiatrist's clinic, to write the med orders.  Phoenix went to bed almost immediately and asked the staff to let him know when his medications got there.  After Phoenix got his meds, he was able to really go to bed.  He tossed and turned, ashamed of his behavior all around.  He was ashamed of what he had done in combat.  He had lost control.  He was ashamed of the way he had been drunk when his doctor had called last week.  He had lost control.  He was ashamed of the way he had reacted to his doctor that day.  He had, again, lost control.  There was no avoiding it.  The stress was overwhelming and he could not maintain control.  He lost control.  Rolling around in bed, unable to sleep, Phoenix came to some decisions.  First, he would not drink anymore.  Second, he would tell his doctor about what happened in the Middle East, for better or for worse.  If his doctor thought he was a bad person for it, then that would be the truth and Phoenix would know it.  He had to tell him, though, or he could not truly believe that his doctor thought he was a good person with potential that could be forgiven.  Third, he was going to write a letter of apology to his doctor to give to whoever the clinic doctor was in the morning for him.  Phoenix needed that relationship with his doctor and he felt terrible about the way he had acted.

Morning finally came.  Phoenix had the letter of apology written and ready to deliver to whoever the clinic doctor was that day.  It was Diane.  Diane and Phoenix had had a rocky few years when Phoenix thought that Diane believed he was incompetent and stupid because of a miscommunication.  Phoenix finally talked to Diane about the concern four years later and it ended up that Diane actually thought that Phoenix was extremely capable and intelligent.  Phoenix had learned from that incident that communication needed to happen in every situation, good or bad, immediately to avoid unnecessary worry and upset.  Phoenix and Diane were now good at working together and he was glad to see her.  She spoke with Phoenix about how he was feeling and about the letter that he would like her to give to his psychiatrist.  He said it was his blanket I'm-sorry letter and that he hoped that his doctor knew he was really sorry for his behavior.  Diane reassured Phoenix.  "He knows that."  Diane knew how crucial and life-changing the relationship between Phoenix and his doctor had been and continued to be.  Phoenix was, of course, ready to get out of the hospital that day.  Diane said she would talk to his doctor and either she or his doctor would come back later and talk to him about it.  That was agreeable to Phoenix and he went on to meet with the chaplain.  The chaplain was an extremely kind man who went to Phoenix's church.  They got along well, and had also had their rocky period of time when Phoenix had confided in the chaplain during a psych ward stay that he had a gun and the chaplain had told his doctor despite promising not to.  Phoenix filed a formal grievance against the chaplain and did not speak to him for several years.  Phoenix, after all that time being angry, finally realized that he had put the chaplain in an impossible situation and left a note of apology with a plea for forgiveness for him at the end of a hospital stay about a year and a half ago.  The chaplain forgave Phoenix and they had a strong relationship now.  The conversation between Phoenix and the chaplain revealed that Phoenix was questioning his faith, which the chaplain said was healthy and normal.  Phoenix was relieved to hear that the chaplain also questioned a lot of things about his faith.  The chaplain soon had to go to help with the funeral of a popular oncologist who had suddenly and unexpectedly died a few days before.  Later in the day, Diane came again to speak with Phoenix.  She had talked with his doctor and his doctor wanted him to stay in the hospital for another day.  Phoenix had anticipated that.  While Diane was talking to Phoenix, another doctor from the clinic came in to talk to Phoenix as well.  He was a fine man whom Phoenix also respected.  "How are you doin', Phoenix?"  Better, Sir.  "I heard you were drinking," he said quietly, deeply concerned.  Yeah.  Um, that.  Phoenix looked down and explained that he was not going to drink anymore.  "I think you'd be better off without that.  I think you have enough problems without that one."  Yes, Sir.  Phoenix also explained that he was going to tell his doctor the rest of what he had not yet told him.  "Good."  Phoenix shook the doctor's hand and Diane told Phoenix she would write the order to release him from the hospital.  Phoenix then had a great heart-to-heart talk with the case manager, whom he also knew very well.  He was an extremely intelligent man that had been trying to please the rest of the world for his entire life and finally decided, as evidenced by his pony tail, to live for himself.  Phoenix was glad to see him do that.  Phoenix knew all of the nurses and mental health workers well, and they all loved him as much as he loved them.  The hospital was always a good experience for Phoenix, considering the shape he was in.

This time was different, though.  Phoenix looked around himself at the other patients and realized that he did not fit in particularly well among them.  That was not a judgement of others, but instead a sign of the progress that Phoenix had made.  He was getting better.  Truly getting better.  He was more on the level of the mental health staff than the patients, and he could see his problem as temporary.  That had never happened before.  He realized, too, that it had been a year since he had been in the hospital.  That in itself said something.  There was hope.  Hope.  What a concept!  For once, Phoenix had to adjust to the inside instead of adjusting to the outside.  He was doing it!  He was adjusting to the outside and was no longer such an insider when it came to the psych ward.  He no longer fully belonged.  Like a phoenix rising from the ashes...

When Phoenix got out of the hospital, he met with his case manager on the outside.  She assured Phoenix several times that she would have visited him in the hospital had she known about it.  He reassured her that it was okay and that he did not want to bother her.  She told him he was never a bother.  That night, Phoenix wrote a letter to his doctor telling him about the last combat situation that he had not yet disclosed to him.  The most complicated one by far was this last incident, and the one that tied all of the others together in a psychopathological sense.  Phoenix sweated from anxiety as he wrote the letter.  He dropped it off first thing the next morning, with the expectation that  he had lost his precious and irreplaceable relationship with the best doctor he could ever have.  He went back home and played his guitar to relax.  He discovered later that morning that his phone was not working properly and he had to call the phone company to find out how to fix it.  Fortunately, it was fixed the first time Phoenix tried it and he did not have to take it in to get it fixed or replaced.  There was a voice message from his doctor's nurse.  Phoenix called back, but had to leave a message.  Shortly thereafter, he got a call from the clinic.  It was his doctor's nurse.  "Phoenix, he read your letter and he came in first thing, very concerned, and wanted me to let you know that there is nothing you could say that would change your relationship with him.  You made an honest communication with him and he wanted me to tell you that your relationship has not changed, and it will not change, ever.  He came in first thing and was very concerned and wanted me to tell you that.  Your relationship has not changed."  Phoenix was immediately relieved beyond measure.  He had not lost his doctor over it, nor would he ever, straight from his doctor's mouth.  The nurse asked if there was anything else she could help him with and if he was okay.  Phoenix told her that he felt much better just knowing that his doctor had said that, and then asked what time his next ECT was.  "It's at 1130 on the 9th, so be there at 1000."  Okay.  Phoenix was so relieved.  Everything was going to be okay.
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