Uneven Frequencies.

“Hi Kenneth. How are you today?”

Kenneth gently rocks on the plush loveseat.  His clothes are heavy with the scent of stale cigarettes and look as though they haven’t left his body in a week -an unmistakable symptom of his maddening disease. His hoodie over his head, he looks at the floor and speaks rapidly.

“Doc, I can’t shut them up. They constantly argue about who’s side I should be on. I wear the headphones like you tell me to but I hear them yelling over the music.”

Dr. Shannon Green had been seeing Kenneth, a 22 year old budding schizophrenic, for three months. Shannon could tell he was on edge today. His posturing from the new medications, the eye tics and rocking, are much more pronounced. Eye contact seems to be out of the question. He keeps nervously glancing towards his tattered book bag on the floor.

Shannon puts effort in to being still and keeping her voice neutral when she speaks to Kenneth about medications. She knows he doesn’t like the idea of taking the anti-psychotics, especially as an injection.

“Did you meet with the nurse for your injection after our visit last week?”

“No. The voices kept screaming at me to just keep going. They are so loud and keep telling me that you can’t be trusted. I’m scared. I don’t know who to believe.”

Kenneth’s rocking has become vicious, his feet leaving the ground every time he tips back. His lips are moving, forming only slightly audible words. She has never seen Kenneth this agitated. She again notices his attention being drawn to the bag on the floor.

“Kenneth, is there something in that bag that will help you calm down, something that comforts you?”

Kenneth begins pacing around the office, his head shaking back and forth as he quietly repeats, “No! She is here to help me!”

He circles the room and stops by the bag. Kenneth’s shaking stops. His head hanging down, he is still before speaking. He raises his head, making eye contact with Dr. Green for the first time since entering her office. His voice carries an uncomfortable, controlled anger.

“I don’t think I’ve been on the right frequency, Doc. I’ve been fighting the wrong side. They tried to tell me. I couldn’t hear them because you distracted me with your lies and used the music to drown them out. Why am I letting you continue to poison me?”

Shannon nonchalantly slides her hand under her desk, searching for the panic button that will summon the police to her office. As she presses the button, Kenneth quickly reaches for the bag. His ramblings become incoherent. He tears inside and pulls out a knife. Hearing the footsteps coming down the hall, he wedges a chair under the door handle.

“Kenneth, I want you to put that knife back in the bag and talk to me. The voices are…”

Kenneth doesn’t let her finish.

SHUT UP! I can’t take your lies anymore. I can’t keep doing this. I’m hearing the truth now, I know. I finally understand there is no place for me here. None of you guys are the real enemy. I’m the enemy. It’s time for me to go, Doc .”

Shannon realizes she is wrong. Kenneth was turning on himself, not her. He begins shouting about letting the poison out, just as two police officers bust through the door. Kenneth quickly slides the knife against the thin flesh, covering his throat. The officers take him to the ground.

Shaken, Shannon stands staring at the young man pinned to the ground, covered with his own blood. Drowning in helplessness, her mind unconsciously drifts to the paperwork – an incident report, violent act report to the Office of Mental Health. She starts to cry, knowing he is now a statistic and the bureaucracy of “treatment” will begin to take over.

If Kenneth survives, sterile, mandated procedures — involuntary commitment to the psych ward and a petition to medicate against his will — will own him. Protocol of the broken system, no longer choice, will now dominate his tortured future.





38 thoughts on “Uneven Frequencies.”

      1. That’s awesome. Thank you, that’s actually what I was hoping for. Having worked in the field of mental health, I was really trying to capture the emotions of both the patient and clinician. It can be so defeating for both.

      2. Oh yes…there are “issues” floating around everywhere, in every clinic. I can’t tell you how many times I and so many other people I know working in the field have been on the “other side of the fence.”

      3. Yes…somehow, someway. I’m at a bit of a ceiling only having my BA and am lacking motivation to complete my Masters. I will find my niche eventually though. I’m very much drawn to working in the field of mental health.

  1. Good story. I was impressed at how you were able to develop empathy for both characters in such a short time.

  2. Oh. Kenneth.
    You did well with the voices and the tone of the room. I was scared and drew me right in.

    1. Thanks Jen 🙂 This piece really came out of no where for me but I’m so glad I saw it through. Thanks for reading and for the feedback.

  3. You pulled me right in–great tension and I could visualize the scene so well. Tragic and sympathetic.

  4. This was wonderful! I felt like I was a fly on the wall. I felt empathy for both of them, but maybe more so the patient. (though I am working toward getting into the mental health field, so that might be some of it.) I loved the line, “drowning in helplessness.” You wrote it for the woman, but it feels relevant for both of them..

    1. I wrote it for both actually. I have seen something very similar to this scenario play out. I’ve never forgotten how I felt watching it happen. Working in the field is tough but can be fulfilling to those that are in it for the right reasons. Good luck to you!

  5. Great job, Dawn, in telling this story and building the tension. It’s all the more frightening to see in the comments that you have seen scenarios like this.

  6. I like how you made his recovery the strangest part of the story. How he walks right past her without a clue that anything ever happened between them, let alone something that changed the course of the narrator’s life. Eerie and well executed, Dawn!

  7. Um, yeah, feel free to delete my comment above as it was for the wrong story. Sorry about that, my new system for note taking seems to be a major fail. I think you captured very well the instability and the ability some schizophrenics have to turn on a dime in their thought processes. The tension was palpable as he was taken away.

    1. I am laughing so hard right now because when I read your comment, you blew MY mind. I thought you took something amazing from the story that even I missed. I had no idea what to say because I didn’t want to sound like an idiot. Lmao. Anyway, thanks for reading and commenting. Much appreciated.

  8. I was really looking forward to reading your story after you commented on mine, saying we took the same approach with different endings. I wasn’t disappointed! Great job, Dawn. You’ve drawn these characters really well — I felt sympathy for both, knowing how the “system” can fail everyone. Thanks for the compelling read.

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