“I HOPE IT wasn’t too bad of a drive for you. Sara told me you live in the suburbs,” began Dr. Cooke, sitting in a leather chair from across Allison, whose smile had not dropped since the moment they met.
Allison studied her for a minute. A friendly looking face and a seemingly competent doctor, she thought, but really did not care much except to get a prescription and then get out.
“It wasn’t bad,” she replied.
“How long did it take you to get here?”
“About thirty minutes.”
“Ah. That’s nothing. Some of my patients live so far away that they can’t always make it here on time. It’s even harder for them in winter. Where do you live if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Arbington. Near Lake Marit.”
“I saw some nice houses in that area a few years back. My husband and I were actually planning to settle down there before our first child was born. But then his father passed away, so in the end, we decided to stay put in Minneapolis so as to take better care of his mother.”
Allison’s lips pulled back into a near-smile. She was uninterested in making small talk and so commented nothing. Dr. Cooke therefore moved on to look at her Health Assessment Form.
“Okay. Let’s see here.”
“I haven’t finished the last portion on the back.”
“That’s fine. I prefer asking my patients directly regarding that part. So far though, it looks like you don’t have a particularly alarming family medical history or any major health concerns besides ‘muscle soreness and body aches,’ which are very common for people suffering chronic insomnia.”
“It’s been two months since I’ve had a decent rest. I’ve tried everything, and taken every brand of sleeping pill that I could get my hands on to help me sleep.”
“And did any of them work?”
“Obviously not… Otherwise, why would I be here?”
Dr. Cooke paused for a moment, leaning forward to assume a more serious posture. “How are you, Mrs. Skala? Or may I call you Allison?”
“I’m fine. And yes you may.”
“Do you feel stressed or worried at the present time?”
“No. Like I said I feel fine, just mostly tired. If you could prescribe me some pills, I would much appreciate your help.”
“I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way, Allison.”
“Drugs only offer temporary results. I can certainly give you pills that work more effectively, but it won’t fix the underlying issue that causes the problem in the first place.”
“What are you suggesting?”
“To cure your insomnia once and for all, we need to first dig down deeper.”
“How do you mean?”
“Well, based on the information you provided, it doesn’t look to me that it’s caused by a known illness or other medication. So let me ask you this, are there any significant life events that happened recently?”
Dr. Cooke smiled at her rash answer. “Work with me here, Allison. I need you to really think. Did something unexpected happen in the past few months that might have affected your mood? Events such as moving to a new city, losing or changing your job, or the death of a family member?”
Death of a family member… Almost instantly, Allison’s stomach fluttered at the thought of Megan.
“My sister-in-law recently passed away.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Were you close with her?”
“Not at all. We hardly talked to her in fact, and I’ve only just met her last Thanksgiving.”
“Yes, Dan… Dan and I…”
Stupid me. Can’t believe I’m dragging Dan into this.
“… I mean my husband and I, we never did get in contact with her much.”
“It’s okay, Allison. Take a deep breath if you want. I know it isn’t totally normal for you to talk about your private life with a stranger, but I’m here to help you.”
“All I’m gonna say is, she killed herself. We attended her funeral yesterday and that was the end of that.”
“How do you feel about that whole situation?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, do you feel sad, angry, or possibly relieved now that she’s gone?”
“Someone in our family died, of course I feel sad.”
“How sad? I don’t know. Sad is sad. What kind of a question is that?”
The more Dr. Cooke attempted to get to the specifics, by and by, Allison found her incredibly irritating. She could only interpret her questioning tactics as an invasion of her privacy and nothing else.
“… To be fair, not even my husband cried, even though everybody expected him to.”
“Oh? Were they perhaps close-knit siblings?”
“I suppose they were as little kids.”
“How often did he mention her, or does he still?”
“Rarely. Maybe once a year around Christmas time, usually about their childhood together and things that he misses doing as a family back then.”
“Does it bother you?”
“Does what bother me?”
“Their bond. Did you ever have a problem with that?”
That very question might have pushed her one step too far. “I’m sorry, but I don’t find this discussion or any of your questions remotely related to my sleeping problem,” she snapped.
“You would be surprised how much they relate.”
“If something stresses me out, I would know that of all people. Who knows me better than myself?”
“You are right. You should know yourself better than anyone. Although in your case, I sense that it’s not a matter of knowing, but rather a matter of facing.”
“Facing what’s bothering you.”
“And you think it bothers me that she died?”
“What do you think?”
“Since the fact that she died last week, and I’ve been suffering insomnia long before that, I’m going to say, no.”
“Is that your rationale?”
“Then — what’s really bothering you if that’s not it?”
It was as if she had gotten into an hour-long argument with someone, an argument she could not win no matter how hard she fought. She came expecting questions more than anything, but at this point, she had had it.
“I don’t want to answer any more questions. I’m sorry for being rude but to be quite frank, I’m really tired. I would just like my prescription.”
“You don’t have to apologize,” Dr. Cooke assured her with a smile. “I will go ahead and prescribe some medication for now. Just tell Laura your pharmacy’s location before you go. She will be able to schedule your next appointment as well. I would like to have you come back some other time when you feel more ready to talk —”
“Don’t worry about it, Doctor.”
There was a brief pause.
“I do regret if I’ve said something to violate your trust.”
“It’s nothing personal really. I just… I just generally don’t have a good impression of physicians.”
“Ah… I see.”
“Good day.” She stood up. Her eyes dashed to the door and her feet followed, all without hesitation.