My most recent monthly session with my psychiatrist was a most unusual one, because Dr. R. U. Forereel opened up to me rather than the other way around.
“Have a seat, Neil,” Dr. Forereel said quietly when I entered her office, a small room whose every aspect is as stylish and welcoming as can be. I obeyed, placing my bony ass on the comfortable patient’s chair. It faced its clone, occupied by the good doctor, from a distance of five feet.
“Neil,” she continued, an unmistakable tone of dejection in her voice, “I’m in the midst of an existential crisis, one so powerful I can’t escape its clutches. I want to be totally upfront with you right now. Here’s the bottom line: My condition is interfering with my ability to do my job. Which is why I suspect that you won’t make much progress at today’s session. Not that you’ve progressed very far at all during the many years you’ve been seeing me.”
“That’s not true, Dr. Forereel,” I replied. “You’ve enabled me to understand more accurately and fully who I am. Your insights have helped me come to grips with the fact that, basically, I’m just the most average of Joes, making my way haphazardly and erratically through this earthly realm. Why, without you I’d still be reaching for the stars, getting disappointed right and left when things didn’t work out. As a result, doctor, you’ve turned me into a fairly happy individual. I am in your debt!”
“That’s so kind of you to say, Neil. I wish I could share your opinion of my talents, but I’m afraid that my existential crisis won’t allow me to feel joy.”
“There, you’ve said it again. What the hell is an existential crisis, doctor?”
“Well, my problems are deep-rooted, Neil. You see, I’m ill-fitted to be a psychiatrist. Far too often I’m unsympathetic and, undoubtedly, prickly. If I were of the male gender, it wouldn’t be incorrect to describe me not only as prickly but as a prick too. In any case, my soul is roiling and troubled. Neil, I question the whys and wherefores of my existence.” She paused. “I hope I’ve answered your question adequately,” she then said.
“Yes, doctor, you have. Oy frigging vey! You’re in bad shape. But I’ll try to help, even though help isn’t exactly my middle name. The last time I provided assistance to anyone was 60 years ago, when, despite her vehement protests, I carried a little old lady across a small puddle in the middle of the road. I ended up in juvenile court for that attempt at doing a good deed. Lesson learned!”
“Well, in that case I won’t say that I’m in good hands, Neil. But I am interested in what actions you might be proposing.”
“Doctor, I have a website called Yeah, Another Blogger. That’s where I’ve published the various articles I’ve written over the last seven years. You know about this, I believe.”
“Of course I do! You bring up this boring topic every damn time I see you.”
“My bad, doctor. But here’s what I’m getting at: My advice to you is to take up writing, just as I did. You should aim to go farther than me, however. In other words, you should write a book, a memoir of the journey that led you to become the wonderful psychiatrist that you are. If you do, I guarantee you’ll recognize and take comfort from the fact that you’ve guided countless people to better mental and emotional health.”
Dr. Forereel sat silently for many a second, mulling over my comments. Finally, and most energetically, she spoke.
“Neil, this is a genius idea! Yes, yes, yes! I will tell my story, and the world will listen and learn. And, just as important, I will learn too. Thank you so much. I’ll begin writing when I arrive home tonight. I’m sure I’ll need an editor, though. Is there anyone you might recommend?”
“Edgar Reewright is your man, doctor,” I replied without hesitation. “He has edited my pieces right from the start. Maybe we should call him and feel him out.”
Doctor Forereel nodded enthusiastically, so I dialed Edgar’s number and put the phone on speaker.
“What the hell do you want, Neil?” Edgar shouted. “I’m in the middle of looking over the story you sent to me yesterday. Per usual, it blows.”
“Listen up, Edgar,” I said, ignoring his insult. “I’m with my psychiatrist, Dr. R. U. Forereel. She plans to write a memoir and wants to know if you’d edit the book for her.”
“Isn’t she the doctor whose office decor was voted best in the nation by the American Psychiatric Association this year?” Edgar asked.
At that, Dr. Forereel jumped right in. “Hello, Edgar! Dr. Forereel here. I’m impressed that you’re aware of the prestigious award I won from the APA. I’d be honored if you’d edit my book. I have so much to say and to reveal. Millions of people will take heart from my inspirational tale. Oh my, I’m feeling confident and purposeful once again. Please be my editor, Edgar!”
Edgar, undoubtedly envisioning a handsome commission, wasted no time in agreeing to the proposal. He chitchatted with Dr. Forereel for a while and then ended the call, promising to contact her soon to work out all the details. A few minutes later, my session having reached its conclusion, I rose from the patient’s chair.
“You are a lifesaver, a gift from above,” said Dr. Forereel as she ushered me to the door. “Thank you, Neil, thank you! To show my gratitude, your next five years of therapy, starting today, will be cost-free.”
“Doctor, I hope that I won’t need anything close to five more years of therapy. I’m doing so well, after all.”
“That’s what you think,” my doctor said. “But, alas, you’re wrong. Very, very wrong. I promise that I’ll continue doing my utmost to try and help you see things more clearly.”