Autumn really made it’s entrance with thick golden browns and tans lining the flagstones. It was a short hurried walk from work to the car but the season was clearly well into full flow, that glint of weak sunshine and crisp air was very noticeable. My appointment had come quickly. At my last when Dr Shanklin said, ‘…your next appointment, eight weeks.’ had felt like an age away. Even though the wait itself was full of self-distraction and mulling-over, when the day came it suddenly felt upon me in a gust of a whirlwind. I wondered for a moment, should I have prepared, should I have got myself into the right state of mind or at least prepared some kind of effort with my clothes? The answer, of course, was no. I just needed, as usual, to be me.
On the way I had time to quickly pop into my house and freshen up. Put a brush and even the teflon plates of my straighteners through my hair but other than that it was a day of being natural and just getting on with it. I arrived at the Mental Health Unit’s reception exactly on time – to the minute. The messing around with straighteners and that touch of brown eyeliner had delayed me and so once again I was all in a rush.
“Take a seat.” said the receptionist after I’d announced my name to her. She was someone new but even so there were no other details to confirm.
The television had the usual day time nonsense. If there is anything I find more brain drainingly annoying than certain day-time television programmes is the word nonsense. Also the phrase brain-drain is pretty annoying too. There was certainly no exception today. David Dickinson looking even more orange than I ever remember. I know people joke about it but it’s hard to even caricature him now. I don’t dislike the man, but wow.
The receptionist banging on the computer keys hard enough that her fingers could have been almost poking holes through the desk underneath. The only thing stopping her was when her concentration was firmly fixed on the television while David Dickinson popped into shot to advice some inexperienced members of the public sell on some old tat that for some reason retains enough value to produce a wad of twenty pound notes. She clearly couldn’t type and watch television at the same time which put an end to the theory of women being natural multitaskers. In all honesty the television shouldn’t be angled towards the receptionist and may be would be more appropriate to angle it more towards reception. On the other hand may be this is a blessing (yet another annoying word).
It really didn’t matter about the television; I think the wait was starting to get to me. Thirty minutes had passed by my appointment time and with my work-time, that I would have to make up when I got back, was slipping away but the importance of any and every appointment about my gender-issue was also growing more important; both conflicting inside and burning bright. I made a decision. Let’s not cancel this like I did when I waited an hour that time. Let’s sit it out. I’ll only be annoyed with myself and the extra bureaucracy of the hospital to arrange another appointment. A few more minutes passed. I couldn’t wait any longer.
“Excuse me.” I said softly, there was only one other person waiting in reception but I still didn’t want to make a huge deal out of it, “Do you know how much longer he’s going to be only I have to be back in work soon.”
“I know. I’m so sorry, I don’t know. I would hope no longer than thirty minutes.”
“It’s just he was suppose to see me at twenty five-to.” I added ensuring I at least let a little pressure out and redress my patience.
“I know. I can’t go in unfortunately but hopefully he will be out in a few minutes.”
“Okay. No problem.” I said.
When the other patient in the waiting room had arrived she announced that she was there to see Dr Neil. I wondered at that moment if she was one of the patients he was now taking on since I’d been passed to Dr Shanklin.
There was the rubbing of the strip on one of the doors of the rooms as a door opened out of sight around the corner. The voices that increased in volume from the usual indistinguishable murmuring that comes from a psychiatrists room. It’s all examination in the form of talking and that is all that can be heard from reception; other than Dickinson’s Deals, Loose Women or that other television trash, Jeremy Kyle. If you ever have a choice about your appointments, avoid midday and thereabout.
A patient appeared from around the corner saying their good-byes and then the fresh faced Dr Neil with his usual mat of dark natural curls in his hair that said in their appearance ‘thoroughly working hard.’ He looked at me, smiled and with a tilt of his head said, “Come on in.”
I sat down in the usual comfortable chair with those wooden arms by the window. Dr Neil stood by the doorway for a moment and looked at the lights on the ceiling squinting in mild pain. He clicked the light switch off, “That’s better.” his eyes relaxing.
The room fell into that sharp but late year ever-so-slightly dim day light that seems to promise to get brighter through the day but never does. It has the ability to make the day feel longer, a slower pace, but soon rushing off as soon as dusk arrives. In this light it feels conflictingly cold and cosy at the same time. That wrap-yourself-in-a-woolen-cardie weather. The frost of autumn air catching my cheeks and nose making my skin cold but my flesh and eyes burn bright like a lit match stick.
The desk held the usual phone and computer terminal that lay there in their own utilitarian way offering the cold service of information. “I’m back.” he said, “So.” he paused for a moment of breath, “There isn’t much to say is there?”
I was in a bit of a state of shock for that moment. Nothing to say? An eight week wait for an appointment that takes two or so hours out of my day for something very important to me. The thing is, this is how the Mental Health Unit works. In fact it’s probably endemic of the way the NHS works and even some private practices. We all want to be well. We all want solutions to our medical problems.
“Well I was hoping there would be some sort of decision.” I said a little indignant. “I think someone from upstairs was going to make some kind of decision for me, I think Dr. – ”, it took me a few minutes to gather my memories for the name of the doctor who had the power to decide what-next, “ – Dr Churchill?”
“I haven’t had anything yet.” he said. He thought for a moment and sat at the desk at the far end of the small room and typed on the terminal keyboard. “Let me just..” After a minute or so, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll check my in-tray. I’ll be a minute.” and off he went to his office. Not an in-tray tucked away in Outlook or Hotmail but a traditional in-tray of the plastic kind I suspect holding that commodity that doesn’t give up, paper.
I looked around for at least a new flyer on the pin board that might be interesting but there was nothing especially different. I was through the core of my psychological treatment and so nothing along the lines of, ‘Have you thought about counselling?’ was going to catch my eye.
He came back. “Nothing I’m afraid but it is with Dr Churchill. Just have to wait.” This was ok. It didn’t matter now. There was nothing more I could do to hurry the process. As I’ve always said I’m not in a massive hurry to make such a huge change to my life, it’s something to do at a comfortable pace, but in the same way as any “genetic” woman would feel with her ability to have children for me the ‘tick-tock-tick-tock, Bridget’ phrase meant something to me; just in a slightly different way.
“So, how are you?” he said as a starter.
“I’m fine.”, I said, “Plodding along.” which was a bit of a lie because I was, ‘okay’, but there were other things that weren’t ok. But I suppose the reason I said it was because the difference now was that I was handling it. Things were stressful, not just with the gender thing but other parts of my life but I had the psychological tools to handle these things unless of course they get too much at which point I would have to say something to him and he would change tact and then listen to me and my troubles and a ten minute session would probably turn into the prescribed full forty-five minutes.
“There was one thing.”, I said. This was important. “Dr Shanklin called me. He followed up my blood test results because there was one thing that hadn’t come through but I believe he spoke to my GP as well and flagged up one of my blood test results that were a little over, liver or kidney I think?” I really wasn’t sure which it was which was a bit mad given how important it could be.
“Let’s have a look.” he said returning to the office swivel chair and pulling himself to the desk.
He tapped away at the keyboard failing his password umpteen times and then slowed right down to one key per three seconds.
“Annoying password?” I said as he hit the last key with some kind of success on his face.
“I forgot the three on the end.” he said casually.
“You know you’ll have to change that now.”
He chuckled and scrolled through lots of paragraphs of text, notes and results. “Liver Enzymes. it’s just over.” He screwed his face up characteristically of his funny-way, “It’s really nothing to worry about. My advice. See your GP. Get another test done and have it checked again. What medication are you taking?”
I listed the two non-gender related tablets that I take which could be the reason why my liver result had just gone over the boundaries set by the experts.
“Have another test in a few months, it could be a false positive but just to be on the safe-side. I really don’t think you have anything to worry about.” he said in his usual way of putting a shallow light on most subjects that always make me put into perspective where I am in the scheme of things. His manor changed slightly for a moment which added a slight importance, “If you do go onto hormones you’ll have to be monitored. You’ll be monitored anyway – ” he added “but if it turns out you have a sensitive liver then we may have to look at your medication and options.”
And so what seemingly appeared to be a session of little use was incredibly helpful and has in it’s own subtle way moved me forwards; even if in an informative way. I dragged my way back to work through the quiet mid-afternoon traffic feeling a little positive about things. I still have a lot to think about anyway. I left my eye liner where it was, on the ridge of my lid. Probably so subtle I’d hardly notice it in the mirror but at least I knew it was there. That subtle reminder at how far I’ve come over time. How the guilt from the past is now pride in myself. There was no new appointment made when I left. How long I would have to wait this time I don’t know. Aside from any medical decisions there is only one person who can make some progress, me.
Until next time.