“I’m fine,” I say at last, letting Natalie off the hook. “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”
“Really?” Natalie looks at me anxiously. “Oh God, Auds, I’m sorry. You know I don’t know anything about anything.” She bites her lip, thinking for a moment. “So…if you’re not bipolar, what are you?”
The question takes me by surprise. I have to think for a few seconds before I reply.
“I’m getting better,” I say at last. “That’s what I am.” I reach for the last piece of the chocolate bar and split it into two. “C’mon. Let’s finish this before Frank sees it.”
Dr. Sarah loves the bipolar homicidal maniac story.
Well, I say “loves.” She actually groans and clutches her hair with both hands and says “Seriously?” And I can see her writing Outreach program—schools? EDUCATE??? on her notepad.
But I just laugh. I mean, it is funny, even if it’s all wrong too. You have to see that.
I laugh a lot more when I see Dr. Sarah these days. And I talk a lot more. For a long time it seemed like she had more to say than I did. It seemed like she did most of the talking and I did most of the listening. (To be fair, I wasn’t wild about communication of any type when we first met. To be even more fair, at our first session I wouldn’t even come in the room, let alone look at her, let alone speak.) But now things have flipped the other way. I have so much to tell her! About Linus, Natalie, all my trips out, that time I went on the bus and didn’t panic one bit…
“So anyway, I reckon I’m done,” I say as I finish my last story. “I’m cooked.”
“Right.” Dr. Sarah taps her pencil thoughtfully. “Which means…”
“You know. I’m fine. Back to normal.”
“You’re certainly making very good progress. I’m delighted, Audrey. Really delighted.”
“No, not just ‘good progress,’ ” I say impatiently. “I’m back to normal. I mean, you know. Practically.”
“Mmhhm.” Dr. Sarah always leaves a polite pause before she contradicts me. “You haven’t been back to school yet,” she points out. “You’re still wearing dark glasses. You’re still on medication.”
“OK, I said ‘practically.’ ” I feel a spike of anger. “You don’t have to be so negative.”
“Audrey, I just need you to be realistic.”
“Remember the graph of your progress that I drew? The jagged line?”
“Yes, well, that graph is old news,” I say. “This is my graph.”
I stand up, march to the white board and draw a straight line, zooming up to the stars. “This is me. No more down. Only up.”
Dr. Sarah sighs. “Audrey, I’d love that to be true. But the overwhelming majority of patients recovering from an episode such as yours will encounter setbacks. And that’s fine. It’s normal.”
“Well, I’ve had all my setbacks.” I look at her stonily. “I’ve done setbacks, OK? I’m just not having any more. It’s not happening.”
“I know you’re frustrated, Audrey—”
“I’m thinking positive. What’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing. Just don’t overdo it. Don’t put pressure on yourself. The danger is that you give yourself a real setback.”
“I’m fine,” I say resolutely.
“Yes, you are.” She nods. “But you’re also fragile. Imagine a mended china plate which hasn’t quite set.”
“I’m a plate?” I say sardonically, but Dr. Sarah doesn’t rise to it.
“I had a patient a few years ago, very similar to you, Audrey, who was at the same stage of her recovery. She decided to go to Disneyland Paris, against my advice.” She rolls her eyes. “Disneyland! Of all places!”
Even the idea of Disneyland makes me wince, not that I’ll admit that to Dr. Sarah.
“What happened?” I can’t resist asking.
“It was far too much for her. She had to come home from the trip early. Then she felt she’d failed. Her mood sank to the lowest it had been, and it didn’t do her progress any good.”
“Well, I won’t go to Disneyland.” I fold my arms. “So.”
“Good. I know you’re sensible.” As Dr. Sarah surveys me, her mouth twitches. “You’ve got your spirit back, at any rate. And life is good?”