In Treatment -- April, week 3

Paul is at his table reading the paper when the phone rings. It is April asking if she can come in early. 

April comes in and has her big project for school with her. Paul asks to look at it. It is a model of two spiky towers which she says is meant to be a World Trade Center memorial. Paul compliments it.

April says she is really tired -- because of her anxiety and the lymphoma. She lies down on the couch. She says she couldn't sleep the night before. Her heart was racing, like there was something poison running through her veins and she wished she could open and make it run out. Paul tells her when she said that he thought of cancer. She says chemo, he says no, because she can choose not to have chemo.

She says it reminds her of a time when she had a song she could not get out of her head and she thought she was going insane. he asks he what she thinks that would feel like and she said falling. He asks what she kept thinking about. She tells him she kept thinking she wanted to go home but she couldn't because her home is so long ago and so far away. She tells him she is so tired she wants to lie down for a minute. She asks him to wake her at 8 -- it is 7:59. He agrees. He watches her and then a moment later softly calls her name. He gets up and touches her shoulder to try to waken her. She asks what time it is. Good she says -- it is over because the project was due yesterday but she had until 8 to turn it in. She gets up and smashes it. She says it was hideous and critiques it. Paul tells her it is very hard to see her destroy her own work. April says she did fall asleep and she dreamed she was on the model, that it was life-sized and she fell. She says it was like joy. Paul says it is different from falling into nothing. In her dream she is able to fall and release everything that she holds so tightly under control while she is awake. She is angry because now she will have to think about it. She compares what he said to how her brother is. Paul says he notices she is often trying to feel what her brother feels and that maybe she does this instead of feeling her own feelings.

April says she did once fall out of a building. When she was 10 and they were in Miami and her brother was not with them. She remembers hearing a band playing Cuban music below She went to the window to be able to watch her parents and the music at the same time and she fell out of the window and landed on an awning. Paul asks if she was frightened. She says she remembers as soon as her feet hit the sidewalk she started to cry. Then she looked in the mirror and she made herself stop crying. So when she walked back into the room, her parents were still dancing and didn't know what had happened. Paul asks why she couldn't tell her mother what happened. April says her mother was so happy and her eyes were closed which she can never do because she has to keep her eyes on Daniel. She says that is where home was, in Miami in that room with her parents and without Daniel. She asks if he ever read On the Beach. She was reading it when she was down there and she hoped that would happen then -- that everything else would be destroyed and they could stay on the beach. Her mother never forgave herself for that trip. Paul tries to explain to her that she is empathic and that she can be empathic and still feel conflicting feelings. Daniel could feel anger but she had to be perfect so she couldn't depend on her mother. She angrily defends her mother. Paul says he is not attacking her mother but she cannot hear his care and concern for her. April is certain if her mother knew she was sick, she would drop everything to take care of her. Paul says she wants to protect herself from knowing how her mother feels. She needs to start chemo and who is there she can count on to be there with her. She says she cannot tell her mother that she has cancer. Paul says she can call her mother from his office. April asks to use his phone. He gives her the phone and leaves her to make her call. April is crying. He asks how it went. She says her mother was in the car and wants her to call back. He suggests she can stay and call her in 10 minutes. Se says she needs to take a nap. Paul asks that she call him after she has spoken to her. April leaves and Paul returns to the office and looks at the broken model which he puts back into the box.

As with Sophie, Paul is perhaps at his best with April. She touches him with her vulnerability and reminds him of his own daughter, at least in his ability to feel the kind of parental concern that she is actually longing for. 

April displays what is termed counter-dependency. Because she believes her mother cannot bear her dependence, because of the neediness of her brother Daniel, April has huge unmet dependency needs of her own. Her response to this has been to become fiercely independent and to be the care-giver not the receiver. The fierceness of her efforts to control and resist needing anyone or leaning on anyone is a measure of the dependency needs she is defending against. It is a positive sign that she has continued to come to see Paul, that she was willing to let herself fall asleep in his presence, that she is allowing herself the very small measure of dependence she feels with him as this is exactly what she needs to do. Paul is willing to see her and feel her, which has not been the case with her parents. And though she responds defensively to any suggestion  of criticism of her mother, that he does see her and her need is registering with her.

© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.