"Reception".
Article Type: Column
Author: McAdams, James
Pub Date: 09/22/2011
Publication: Name: Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association Publisher: American Psychotherapy Association Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 American Psychotherapy Association ISSN: 1535-4075
Issue: Date: Fall-Winter, 2011 Source Volume: 14 Source Issue: 3
Persons: Named Person: C, Sandy
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 277270201
Full Text: Even Sandy C., whose case history indicated an inability or at any rate unwillingness for introspection, realized that her low mood during her first two weeks at Wyncroft Community Recovery Center was fuzzy. "Fuzzy was the word Dr. Sterling always used, she told Devon, the resident advisor on 8 PM medication duty that evening, to indicate illogical emotions. The two of them sat at Sandy C's dining room table packing her medications for the weekend, when she was scheduled to stay with her mother.

Sandy kept flipping her phone open and closed, as Devon would later record in the Progress Notes, and said, "I mean I guess it's good that my morn and my family call me, I should be happy about that ... but you see all those commercials with people who're all happy and have white teeth and nice clothes on their phones with like a million friends always calling them." She paused and scraped her teeth which were not black at least but very yellow and corroded from the stuff she and David did in his Uncle's trailer by the pond. "With these phones," she asked, "is it possible that some calls just don't come through, like bad reception or something?"

"I don't really know," Devon said. "Is there someone else you're waiting to call? The reception around here is sometimes fuzzy, even on my phone." Sandy looked away and shook her head as if to say no, providing her initials in the medication log next to those of Devon, who re-iterated that the transition period was always the hardest for everyone and urged Sandy to call or come to the office if she wanted to talk more that night.

It was a period of firsts for Sandy, whose twenty-fourth birthday had been celebrated in the mental ward of the state hospital earlier in the year. For the first time in her frenzied life, which had been spent in-and-out of homes for troubled youth, inpatient treatment centers, and hospitals, she lived alone, unsupervised, in an apartment without locked drawers or security motion lights monitoring her movements. She was allowed to determine when she went to sleep or woke up, or whether to attend the recreational trips or daily activities developed for the clients in recovery. What excited her most was that she finally owned a cellular phone, which had previously belonged to her case manager's twelve-year old son. For her, the phone had symbolized the possibility of connection with those in the Outside World she had missed for so long.

After Devon left to dispense reeds to the client next door, Sandy trudged upstairs and laid down on her side in bed in the dark. When the phone was flipped-open her contacts appeared after she touched the down-pointing arrow under the green button. Devon had taught her how to save calls to contacts, so in addition to the Support Network contact-set her case manager had programmed, she had also added her two step-brothers, her mother, and her cousin Jill. They had all called after she moved in to congratulate her for finally getting better and compliment her on her new apartment, along with generous ideas about how to decorate it with used household items they'd placed in storage.

The hardest thing about these conversations was having to sound gleeful and happy to match her caller's affect. Every time the phone rang with the annoying chirpy default setting she couldn't change, she imagined that one of her old friends was calling, but it was always her mother checking in, saying she was thinking of her. Her cousin Jill had given Sandy's number to David and some of her other friends from high school, all of whom she was supposed to avoid. She couldn't justify why this was making her hate her mother, whom she knew was just trying to do her best, but the fact was that it did: every person from her family who called her out of a sense of duty or unconditional love highlighted how many people would not call her out of conditional, or what she felt was real, love. They had all moved on with their Outside Lives while she'd been Inside. She laid the phone down on the mattress and stared at it, feeling as if someone was about to call; it seemed to pulse with imminent activity. The contract her mother had purchased for her allowed 500 minutes talking per month for $34.95, which her mother paid so Sandy's SSDI could be saved and put toward her GED studies.

She opened the phone again. The screen's wallpaper was something like a galaxy or the Milky Way; she had never learned the difference. Her mother would arrive by 10 PM to pick her up. She kept wondering if it was possible that one of her friends was trying to call her but it wasn't going through because she had the phone flipped open and that messed up the reception, even though Devon had tried to explain that that wasn't a problem. The phone sat on the mattress, full of possibility, hunched like some inscrutable insect. She thought then for a quick second that maybe her low mood was related to something having to do with the phone, which finally rang when her mother called from the street, saying she was here to pick her up and take her to what Sandy secretly no longer considered home.

JAMES MCADAMS recently received his MA in Literature from Villanova University and will commence doctoral studies at Lehigh University this fall. Prior to obtaining his 8A in creative writing from the University of Pittsburgh, he worked for over five years in the mental health industry, occupying such positions as house supervisor, resident advisor, and case manager. He is working on a novel about those experiences.
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