Lemon Zest and the Places of Darkness of the Past

I pulled onto the drive and dashed into the house. I just had to freshen up. The weather has been cooler the last few days with the hint of autumn washing around my cheeks whenever the breeze picked up. I still didn’t want to go straight to the appointment. The decision could be anything and I wanted to, at the very least, feel lemon-zest clean after a morning in work and a hurried drive up to the hospital.

It wasn’t more than five minutes before I was back in the car and on my way to make sure I was on time. In the rush I probably undone all the freshening up I’d had chance to do. The appointment had come around fast. Before I knew it the three weeks were two, two were one, and now it was today. I smiled at Carey in reception, she acknowledged my arrival with the usual informality. I took a seat amongst only two other patients in the waiting room but soon it was just me and the television. Thankfully no Jeremy Kyle, just the local news showing where the real insanity was this week keeping me from thinking about the session for twenty minutes or so.

A man appeared from around the corner. Neat jet black hair, deep dark skin and a beautiful Asian accent. “Hello, would you like to come through?”

It’s wasn’t Dr. Neil, this man was new. Dr. Shanklin, standing in for Dr. Neil. I’d prepared for the possibility that I would be refused a referral, or that I had a referral and a new step would be taken and I’d even prepared for the possibility that the panel still hadn’t convened to make a decision. What I’d not considered was meeting a new psychiatrist. I stepped into the room returning his “Hello” pleasantries and took a seat.

“I believe you had some blood tests”, he said, “but I don’t have access to these so I will have to ask a member of staff and get back to you.”

Hesitantly I interrupted before the conversation went off-topic, “Dr Neil gave me my blood test results last time. In fact…” I continued, “I had a question about them.”

I pulled the uncreased and cared-for printouts from my shoulder bag and glanced down at the bottom of the page. “There is one at the end, Di… hydro… testosterone which says, ‘In Progress’, I wondered if these were in yet.” I wondered for a second whether I really wanted to know the quantity of something that had the word testosterone in it.

I handed him the printouts. “Dr Neil gave you these?” he asked.

“Yes, there is a result at the top that is just over what it should be but he said it was ok.”

“That is fine.” he confirmed, ensuring he was settling any concern I may have, “It is only just over and these things, you know, they’re not always exact. We have to leave some room for a margin of error.”, he said happily and unconcerned.

He glanced through the results, “Okay… Yes… Right.” he looked at the second and third sheet. Those extra printouts where Dr Neil had struggled to get the printer to get all the results on the page and reverting to copy and pasting into Word. “I see and these ones are the same result… Okay, I will get a member of staff who has access to these and find out if this has been done and get back to you.”

I grabbed the conversation again while I could to make sure I at least got my important questions out of the way. If I left without them I’d be kicking myself in the calf – stiletto first, or on the phone to Dr Neil’s secretary.

“The last time I was here Dr Neil was looking at referring me which had to go through a panel, I think it had to go through Dr Churchill.”, Dr. Churchill was the head man, the overseer. José’s analytical psychology work with me and his recommendations were peer reviewed by Dr Neil, but Dr Churchill reviewed Dr Neil’s decisions too. Nothing was left to chance and even after Dr Churchill’s opinion it would go to a panel to decide on whether they would fund this referral. One thing I remember Dr Neil telling me, “I don’t know what will happen. The two transgendered people we’ve referred were already living full time.” A marker of people just checking those boxes.

“Well I don’t know if there has been any progress with that.” he said continuing with his lack of access to my details, “but I’ll certainly find out what is happening. I will ask Dr Neil if there has been any progress.”

He was still sat by the little desk that, as always, was shoved right in the far corner of the room. I was in my usual seat. The arm chair just to the right of the champaign vertical blinds at the window. It felt a mile away from him. I was ready to grab my bag sure that the session was going to end but it didn’t.

“So, how have you been feeling?” he asked. I wasn’t ready for that. I thought the session would be mostly informational and formal. My sessions with José were long gone and I thought it was more paperwork and discussions from now on.

“I’m okay.” I said, not really convincing myself let alone the stand-in psychiatrist. It wasn’t a lie in it’s fullest ripest sense but neither was I completely beyond happy. “I’ve had a few moments when I’ve started feeling emotional and welling up inside.” I continued, “I haven’t cried but there just doesn’t seem to be any reason behind it.”

I wasn’t really sure whether it was worth him asking me how I was at the moment he spoke but as I explained the last few weeks I realised I kind of needed to talk to someone; if anything just to reflect to myself how I’ve been, keep myself in check and make sure I’m not slipping into any places of darkness of the past that I so want to avoid.

The rest of the session slid past with ease. An hour was gone in minutes. From his perspective he’d reassured my care by ensuring I had the psychological-moisturiser in my occupational make-up bag to look after myself between appointments and decisions. This was mostly asking me what I actually did when I felt myself welling up for these no apparent reasons and how I dealt with it. By the end he said something that I don’t think anyone at the mental health unit has ever mentioned, may be I was never part of those notes in the past, “I see no reason for any need of any psychiatric medication and I think you’re in a good position to continue to look after yourself, but” he added, “I will give you my number and if you’re ever in a place that you feel you need help then please call me.” I’d been given access to various channels of help in the past but never a direct line to a psychiatrist.

It was another day, another session and another marker in my diary along this path of self discovery. Unlike some this isn’t a formality for me. It’s not a set of hurdles I’m jumping or check boxes to rush into a decision that will change my life for the rest of it. Every step is as important as the last and given my insane need of detail and careful consideration of every step in my analysis then no session is insignificant.

I filled out a ‘how did I do’ survey for Dr Shanklin and swapped it with Carey in reception for an appointment card for some date in October and rushed back to my car. I slid the key into the ignition and paused for a moment staring at the hedgerow in front of the car. I had to take a long slow deep breath. It was a pause in my life for just long enough that I felt ready to rush back to work and try and put the whole gender thing on hold for the rest of the day while clients took their demands from me.

Until next time


2 thoughts on “Lemon Zest and the Places of Darkness of the Past

    • Yes, they’re pretty good thanks. Sometimes there are the odd glitches but better than most places. Struck it lucky with some talented medical professionals, especially “Jose”.

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