This post from Pure O Canuck inspired me to post this excerpt from my novel.
There were new magazines on the table beside me but the same display of brochures. I skipped the
pamphlet about CBT, feeling I knew more about it than I wanted, and chose one labeled “Narrative Therapy.” I had intended just to skim it, to amuse myself as I waited, but the heading on the inside flap caught my attention. “The person is not the problem,” it boldly claimed. “The problem is the problem.”
The brochure shared how narrative therapy assumes that stories shape a person’s identity and has an emphasis on externalizing the problem. “Name the problem—allow it to have its own identity—so that you can assess and evaluate its presence and ultimately choose your relationship to it.” I thought briefly about Ellen’s story and the scene she’d written the other night about tricking the wizard into revealing his name. Name something and steal its power.
On the back of the pamphlet was a photo of a young lady with thin white-blonde hair, and beneath her photograph, there was a quotation: “When I started thinking of my anorexia as separate from myself, the real healing began. I named my problem Ed (for ‘eating disorder’), and I continually reminded myself that Ed was a liar and started to take back control.”
It all resonated with me. In fact, it was exactly what I had been doing this last week—employing
Dr. Foster’s strategy, making observations: I am the messenger. OCD has the message. We are
not the same. “The person is not the problem; the problem is the problem.”
“Neely,” said that familiar accent, and I looked up to see Dr. Lee, nodding at me before tearing down the hall like a shot. I tucked the pamphlet in my purse and made my way, alone, down the hallway to his office. I knew the next words before he spoke them, and I mouthed them along with him: “Come in. Close door please.”
This time he decided to reduce the Prozac, dropping me from thirty milligrams to twenty.
He typed it into his computer and murmured, “Looking good … looking good …” as he did so. Dr. Lee swiveled his chair to look at me. “As we lower your dosages, you’ll have to double your behavioral therapy efforts. You will do okay though. This is good. We reduce medicine side of things. We are almost there with meds, agreed?”
“Almost there,” he said again, looking at me as if my potential were dancing atop my head like a little flame.
I noticed the brochure when I searched through my purse for my keys. I sat in the driver’s seat of
my car, looking at it, re-reading it, thinking about it. “Name the problem—allow it to have its own
identity—so that you can assess and evaluate its presence and ultimately choose your relationship to it.” I didn’t know if Dr. Foster would approve, but as I turned the key in the ignition, I imagined my OCD as a little black dot sitting on the passenger’s seat beside me.
It was the size of a large fist, perfectly round, and it had attitude. Even sitting in the passenger’s seat, I could feel the way it tried to masquerade as my smarter, oppressive friend. Its condescending
grin showed it didn’t think much of me, especially in this moment as I left the hospital, the gathering place of the weak.
As I drove, I felt the dot exuding confidence. It actually annoyed me to the point where I said aloud, “You know what? You think you’re sooo cool, but you’re a dot.” Then I realized that I was talking outloud in my car and laughed a little bit. This couldn’t possibly be what the brochure was talking about, could it? I thought. Then with only the slightest glance at the passenger’s seat out of the
corner of my eye, I visualized a change in the black dot as I dressed it in baby clothes—a tight little blue onesie and a binky in its mouth. It was enraged by this turning of the tables. “Now who looks dumb?” I muttered with a smile on my lips.