So be it…she would do it online. Caroline’s weakened condition stopped her from leaving the house but being secluded like this was really getting to her. Her night-time angst was getting worse and she even had panic attacks in the daytime now. She’d managed to put up a brave front for a while but things had gotten so bad, she’d ended up confiding in her friend Paul. He had a great repertoire of therapists, most of which he had already contacted for himself. “This one” he said “is quite outstanding. And she works with Skype if you can’t go to her”. This was exactly what Caroline needed: getting her mind fixed from the comfort of her very own home.
Being most of the day in session with patients, the only way to reach this woman was by email. Caroline had exchanged a few emails with her, explaining her current condition and main symptoms. She had found her answers very professional and straight to the point, which inspired confidence. Her last name was complicated and Caroline kept on forgetting it. She had thus nicknamed her “Dr Head” which at least made her smile each time she thought about starting this therapy.
They had set their first session on a Friday evening, at 18hOO. Caroline was prepared and well on time, sitting at her desk at 17h30 just in case she couldn’t connect to Skype. This had turned out to be a wise decision because, as each time she had to use the damn application, it made problems. After reinstalling the whole thing for the 100thtime, it was a sweaty and nervous Caroline who answered the online call when her new shrink contacted her at 18h00 sharp.
Clearing her throat, Caroline pulled her notepad closer to her. On it, she had listed all the bad thoughts that haunted her weakened mind since she had been house ridden three months ago…She hoped this woman would be able to help her because she couldn’t go on like this… She accepted the call with the tip of her mouse. At first, the screen came up darkened then, very faintly, a shape appeared, as if lit up by a downward source of light. It outlined the silhouette of a frail woman with short frizzy hair. The connection was bad so it was hard to make out her face. Caroline asked:
- “Hello…. Can you hear me? I have difficulties seeing you.”
- Her voice came out low and robotic “Hello Caroline, yes I can see and hear you fine. Let me check my parameters. “The screen went totally blank then she came back into focus: “Can you see me better now?”
- “The screen is a little less dark but your voice is still robotic!”
She heard the shrink laugh on the other side.
- “Maybe that’s my real voice Caroline, be careful you might offend me. “
The remark made Caroline feel uneasy but she kept on.
- “Should I call you back? Maybe we could get a better connection?”
- “My Internet connection is pretty unstable dear; this is probably the best we will get.” The metallic sound attached to her voice had disappeared but it remained high-pitched. She kept on “should we get started? I have another session after you.”
The clock was ticking and Caroline needed this so she dived in. High pitched voice and darkened screen would do for this time.
- “As I told you in my emails I have been stuck at home sick for a few months now and I have seen my mental health degrade week by week. My friend Paul Wilkes gave me your details saying you would be able to help me with the thoughts that have been tormenting me.”
- “Tell me about them,” she answered calmly.
- “Well they are mostly about the passing of time. How things feel like they are slipping through my fingers. How you barely have the time to live something that it is already over. I feel oppressed by the passage of time I guess.”
- “And by not having enough of it?”
- “Mostly about me getting everyday a little closer to the end of it.”
- “So it’s actually a fear of death if I understand correctly…”
- “Not really, well maybe…what haunts me the most is that, no matter how strong we hold on to things, everything moves forward so fast. Everything just slips away.”
Her voice still had that high nasal tone but the light around her had somehow increased. Caroline could now better distinguish her surrounds. She was also sitting in front of a shelf full of books but the image remained blurry and a shadow covered her face. In an odd enough way, her eyes came out somewhat shiny, staring at Caroline directly. They made her think of cats’ eyes.
- “Yes Caroline that is the way of life” she answered, almost annoyed. “No matter what, you must move forward. Always. Holding to a moment is impossible. It has barely happened that it is already gone. “
- “Do you know about this type of angst?” Caroline asked
- “Oh yes it’s very common. I suffer from it myself actually.”
This last remark gave Caroline the chills.
- “So what can be done?”
- “Oh different things. Most doctors would give you pills to stop your brain from over thinking. But the pills will also put you behind a glass wall that will protect you from everything. Even from life…”
- “I don’t want to take medication…so what else can I do?”
- “Accept that everything ends…”
- “How can I accept such a thing?”
The woman cleared her throat and came closer to the screen. Caroline’s heart missed a beat. That face was so familiar. She came closer herself. That’s when she saw it. The eyes were still bright as ever but, by coming closer, it was as though the woman had brought herself into the light that shone from Caroline’s own desk lamp. It was impossible. But still it was.
- “Please describe your nights. And your daily angst attacks.”
As Caroline set out to describe her latest outbreak, she watched the image of the shrink on the screen get more and more detailed. She could now clearly see the room she was in … It mirrored hers. The woman came into perfect focus. Caroline’s heart stopped in her chest. She was staring into her very own face.
“So what are we going to do about it? “ the woman asked Caroline.