Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Secretary Who Couldn't Stop Talking


[posted by dinah, enough suicide, enough anti-depressants, enough sex offenders]

My confabulated friend is a dermatologist who somehow works all day in spiked heels. Her confabulated mother has a long history of depression and has needed psychiatric care for many years; the situation has been complicated by the fact that the mother now has a progressive dementia, and my dermatologist friend has to take mom to her psychiatric appointments. Because the mother is no longer a reliable observer of her own behaviors, my friend on her heels goes in for at least part of every session.

She imagines that the psychiatrist treats her a little differently because she is a physician: he discusses the mother's behaviors, diagnostic issues, medication regimens in doctor-speak and he chats with her just a bit. He is, however, both friendly and formal, and he honors with my friend all the same boundaries that he would honor with any family member of any patient. He makes a point of asking how my friend is at every session, of giving her a chance to talk about how difficult it is on so many levels to deal with her mother's decline. So the high-heeled dermatologist likes the psychiatrist and feels he is taking good care of both of them, even if she's not the identified patient.

This morning, the psychiatrist was running late. Mom had to go to the restroom, and my friend was left in the waiting room with psychiatrist's secretary: a woman who makes everything just a little more complicated then it needs to be and who has a fondness for talking. No, she didn't pull out her moles, but she did begin to talk about Dr. Shrink's life, how he was running late because he was meeting with his divorce lawyer, that he'd had a brief affair but it was all in the past and his wife was divorcing him anyway, and the custody battle for the 2 cats (placed her for Clink) was a nightmare. "But Dr. Shrink doesn't want anyone to know this so don't tell him I told you," the secretary finished. Mom returned from the bathroom, Dr. Shrink finally arrived, the appointment went without event, but my friend was uncomfortable the whole time.

She kicked off her shoes, at long last, and began to tell me about her discomfort. She realized that she'd quietly harbored the idea that Dr. Shrink led a perfect life: All Gone. She saw him as someone trustworthy and honorable, and she didn't need to know he'd had an affair. But most of all, she was angry with the secretary for imploring her not to tell. Of course there was no legal issue of confidentiality here, my friend owed the secretary nothing, but she wondered if the secretary couldn't respect her boss's privacy, would she respect her mother's? And shouldn't she tell Dr. Shrink that his secretary was blabbing about his personal life--of course she should--but did she want to feel responsible for someone being fired? And how would she continue to deal with the blabbing secretary if he didn't fire her? Would mom's medicare forms suddenly not be filed correctly? Would it be even harder to get scheduled in to see Dr. Shrink? Could the dermatologist simply knock her on the head with one of those spike heels and be done with it?

I've been plagued with a non-confabulated version of this story for the past few days. Clink? Roy? any insights?

With thanks to Victor from my Fiction Techniques class for the use of his high-heeled dermatologist. No skin off anyone's back.