“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.