This is the continuation of my hardluck asthma story. This is what happened at the 3 month mark about the time I "expected" to be going home. The date was May 01, 1985.
I could hear the pitter-patter of rain on the window to my right as I sat down on the opposite side of the desk as my counselor. The room was humid, warm, and bright from the luminescent lighting. Ric's office was small and simple, and other than the desk I'll be darned if I remember anything else about it, other than it was a little cubicle amid a larger office.
On the other side of the cubicle where I was seated was another counselor's office, and on the other side of where Ric was seated was my psychologist's office. I saw Ric at least twice a week, and Linda once a week. Every one of us asthmatic kids had to see a counselor, and I think most of us had to see a psychologist for one reason or another.
Talking to Ric was like talking to my best friend, and I never had any reservations about it. Linda was really nice, but something about the stature of a "Psychologist" made me a bit anxious, and sort of uncomfortable. When I talked to Ric I always left knowing I was truthful and got my point across. With Linda, however, I often left more anxious and confused than when I entered, however nice she was.
"So, how's school going so far today," he said. It was 10:00, and I had left school early to make my appointment. That's how it usually was, but this was not my regular time. This was a special meeting to talk about 2-May, or at least that's what I supposed.
"It's going good," I said, not feeling like expounding. At this point I almost felt numb about the 2-May thing. It was almost as though it hadn't hit yet what was about to happen.
The word was that my new roommate would either be Chico the hippy from New York or Chicago, or Eric, the drug addict who used to be my room mate on 7-Goodman. I definitely wanted Chico to be my roommate. He was a bit "weird," but then again so was I. Then again, so were we all.
"You're going to be room mates with Eric," Ric said.
"No! Aabsolutely not!"
"Well, let's consider the situation." He paused a moment. "Chico has been moved to the end of the hall and he has a room to himself, but Eric is right next to the nurses station where you have to be when you're first admitted so the nurses can keep an eye on you." He paused again. "Yet, you also have a problem with some of the kids down there, so this should be a good thing, don't you agree?"
No! I don't agree. I want to be with Chico. "Sure," I said.
To be honest, for the first time since I first talked with him on January 5, 1985, I figured he was pulling my leg. I mean, I didn't know for sure, but that's what I figured. Yet I didn't call him on his bluff -- if that's what it was -- because he was right about the bullies. At the end of the hall, I would have been a prime target.
“Rick, I have a good idea, how about if I walk you down there tomorrow when no one else is down there during school hours so you can settle in without other people being around. Would you like that?”
“For now," he said, "You go to your room and finish packing, and I’ll arrange a call with your parents.”
"Well," he said as he scratched something on a pad on his desk, "We need to come up with some goals for you while you're on 2-May." He grabbed a stack of blue papers that were stapled together on the upper left, and held them for me to grab. I set the papers on my side of his desk.
On the front read:
National Jewish Hospital/ National Asthma Center
I sighed, and concentrated on not rolling my eyes, although my lips curled in a downward direction.
"You can open it up and glance through it," he said. "Basically you will see 2-May is quite different that 7-Goodman."
Yeah, tell me about it, I thought
"I mean, it isn't a whole lot different, but it is somewhat. I think you will find that after you get used to the people you will like it a lot better than 7-Goodman. You have more privileges down there."
I stared at the papers while listening to his voice. "Here on 7-Goodman your doctors helped you get your asthma under better control, and we all helped you to understand it. On 2-May they will help you at better managing your asthma and taking your meds."
"You say we," I said, "Does that mean I get to keep you as my counselor?"
"I wish," he said, "But no. You will be assigned a new counselor."
"Why? Why can't I just have you?"
"Look, Rick, I wish I could tell you what you want to hear, but the truth is I can't. What I can tell you is you can come to any one group meeting here on 7-Goodman after you are admitted to 2-May. And you can always feel free to see me any time you have a problem down there. You can see me any time you want."
He was referring to our weekly group meeting on 7-Goodman. I discussed this here (actually I haven't written that part yet, so you'll have to wait).
"So, you'll be my counselor?"
"No, I'll be your friend, but no longer your counselor."
I signed. This was one of the few awkward moments in Ric's office. There was a long silence as we both looked into each other's eyes. He looked at me, at the papers on the desk, and then back at me. Unlike the psychologists, I never once ever felt he was playing mind games with me, although I could tell he was scratching his mind for the right words to soothe me, which he usually did fine.
"Look, Rick," he finally said, "You can come see me whenever you want, but for now we need to come up with some goals for you. They can be anything you want to work on. So, can you think of anything?"
"No, not really," I said, then added, "I guess I'd like to get my asthma under better control."
"Okay, that can be a goal. That can be goal number one."
That's fine," I said, flipping through the pages. "But I don't like what it says here at the top of the first page."
"Well, right here it says, '2-May is a 24 bed medical/ psychiatric floor divided into 2 units of 12 patients each. It is a patient care area for children who need extended treatment for psychological and family problems which may be related to chronic asthma.'" I looked up at Ric. "What does that have to do with me?"
"What do you mean?" He knew, he was just asking me if I knew. He wanted me to answer my own question.
"I mean that I do not have a psychological problem. I also don't have a family problem. So what does this have to do with me? Why do I have to go there, I'm not a psycho."
He sighed. As I review my medical records now I know he knew I did have psychological consequences of chronic asthma, but he couldn't tell the 15-year-old kid before him that.
He changed the subject, "How about we come up with some goals. Open your booklet up to page four. I did. On top of page four was printed:
CONTRACT AGREEMENT: I _____________, understand that I am on 2-May to work on the following problem areas and that making progress in the following areas will help to determine my discharge date.
He said, leaning back in his chair, "I don't think you need to work on five things. I think you are a pretty level headed kid." He paused there a moment, then said, "So, what do you think you should work on?"
I stared blankly at him, then shrugged my shoulders.
"How about if we make the first goal... here, grab this pen here... write your name on the top, then write on the first line: 'Beer control of my asthma.'"
Sure, I can deal with that. I did as instructed and sat straight in my chair. He jotted something on his notepad, his pleasant deportment never waning. He clicked the pen, and looked back at me.
Ric had nothing to do with me going down there. He promised I would never have to go down there, so I was sure he had nothing to do with it. "I don't have a psychological problem," I reminded him.
"You don't, Rick. I think you are a very intelligent person and good friend. I think if we can get you to better manage your asthma, that is the key. And you do know that you have had some trouble with the other kids, and we have worked hard at fixing this problem. This area can get better. Would you agree that this is true?"
Yeah. Those kids have problems, and they take it out on me. And you have worked hard to help me. These thoughts ring through my head. I know you mean well, but nothing you tell me to do works. If they did, Dean, Sean, Grant and Zane would quit shoving me around when I was around them. What works is avoiding those kids, and that means staying away from 2-May.
I took a deep breath, puckered my lips, and said, "Sure."
"So you will agree that this is something that you -- we -- can work on while you are on 2-May. All we need to do is write something simple; create a simple goal for you. How about something about having you work on controlling your feelings of anxiety. You can work on controlling all your emotions you have inside you so these don't get in the way of you taking care of your asthma. That sounds simple. Right?"
We're treading a thin line here. You're getting close to that psychological thing. "I do not have a psychological problem," I wanted to say, but I held my tongue. "Sure," I said.
"Then you can write that down on line number two and we'll be all done with our goals."
"Really! That's it!"
"Yeah," he smiled. "I think that's enough, don't you?"
"Well, yeah, I think that's enough." I clicked my pen and set the tip on the paper. "So, what do I write again?"
"Just write: I will work on controlling feelings of anxiety."
With a trembling hand, I jotted, "work on learning to control feelings of anxiety.'"
To be continued Friday.