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|On Dublin Street(On Dublin Street #1)(15) by Samantha Young|
“You need flowers or something,” I observed. “A bit of color. Your office isn’t very welcoming.”
She grinned at me. “Noted.”
I didn’t say anything.
“Joss. Why are you here?”
I felt my stomach flip and the cold sweats start and I rushed to remind myself that anything I said to her was private. I’d never see her outside this office, and she’d never use my past, my issues, against me or to get to know me personally. I drew a deep breath. “I’ve started having panic attacks again.”
“I used to have them a lot when I was fourteen.”
“Well panic attacks are brought on by all kinds of anxiety. Why then? What was going on in your life?”
I swallowed past the brick in my throat. “My parents and little sister were killed in a car accident. I have no other family – except an uncle who didn’t give a shit – and I spent the rest of my teen years in foster care.”
Dr. Pritchard had been scribbling as I talked. She stopped and looked directly into my eyes. “I’m very sorry for your loss, Joss.”
I felt my shoulders relax at her sincerity and I nodded in acknowledgment of it.
“After they died, you started having panic attacks. Can you tell me your symptoms?”
I told her and she nodded along with them.
“Is there a trigger? At least, are you aware of one?”
“I don’t allow myself to think about them a lot. My family I mean. Memories of them, actual real, solid memories not just vague impressions… the memories trigger the attacks.”
“But they stopped?”
I curled my lip. “I got really good at not thinking about them.”
Dr. Pritchard lifted an eyebrow. “For eight years?”
I shrugged. “I can look at pictures, I can have a thought about them, but I carefully avoid actual memories of us together.”
“But your panic attacks have started up again?”
“I let my guard down. I let the memories in—took a panic attack at the gym and then at a friend’s family dinner.”
“What were you thinking about at the gym?”
I shifted uneasily. “I’m a writer. Well, trying to be. I started thinking about my mom’s story. It’s a good story. Sad. But I think people would like her. Anyway, I had a memory – a few actually – of my parents, and their relationship. They had a good relationship. Next thing I know some guy is helping me off the treadmill.”
“And the family dinner? Was that the first family dinner you’ve been to since being in foster care?”
“We never really had family dinners in foster care.” I smiled humorlessly.
“So this was your first family dinner since losing yours?”
“So that triggered a memory too?”
“Has there been any big changes in your life recently, Joss?”
I thought about Ellie and Braden and our coffee morning a week ago. “I moved. New apartment, new roommate.”
“My old roommate, my best friend, Rhian, she moved to London and her and her boyfriend just got engaged. But that’s about all.”
“Were Rhian and you close?”
I shrugged. “As close as I allow anyone to get.”
She smiled at me, a sad pressing of her lips. “Well that sentence said a lot. What about your new flatmate then? Are you allowing yourself to get close to her or him?”
“Her.” I thought about it. I suppose I had let Ellie in more than I’d intended to. And I cared about her more than I thought I would. “Ellie. We’ve become fast friends. I wasn’t expecting that. Ellie’s friends are cool, and her brother and their crowd hang around a lot. I guess my life is more social now.”
“Was it Ellie and her brother’s family dinner you had a panic attack at?”
Dr. Pritchard nodded and scribbled something else down.
“Well?” I asked.
She smiled at me. “Are you looking for a diagnosis?”
I raised my brow at her.
“Sorry to disappoint, Joss, but we’ve barely scratched the surface.”
“You think these changes have something to do with it though right? I want the panic attacks to stop.”
“Joss, you’ve been in my office fifteen minutes and I can already tell you that these panic attacks aren’t going to stop any time soon…unless you start dealing with your family’s death.”
What? Well, that was just stupid. “I have dealt with it.”
“Look, you were smart enough to know that you have a problem and that you need to talk to someone about that problem, so you’re smart enough to realize that burying memories of your family is not a healthy way to deal with their death. Changes to daily life, new people, new emotions, new expectations, can trigger past events. Especially if they haven’t been dealt with. Spending time with a family after years of not having one of your own has broken through whatever wall you’ve put up around your family’s death. I think it’s possible you might be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and that’s not something to ignore.”
I grunted. “You think I have PTSD. The thing that veterans have?”
“Not just soldiers. Anybody who suffers through any kind of loss, or emotional, or physical trauma can suffer from PTSD.”
“And you think I have that?”
“Possibly, yes. I’ll know more, the more we talk. And hopefully the more we talk, the easier it’ll become for you to think about and remember your family.”
“That doesn’t sound like a good idea.”
“It won’t be easy. But it’ll help.”
I loved the smell of books.
“Don’t you think that’s a bit brutal for Hannah?” Ellie’s soft, concerned voice asked above my head.
I smiled at Hannah, who stood an inch above me. Like her mom and sister, the kid was tall. Twisting my head around to look up at Ellie hovering behind me, my look was incredulous. “She’s fourteen. It’s a YA book.”
The book slipped from my fingers as Hannah took it before Ellie could stop her. I was spending my Sunday morning with them in the bookstore where Hannah was having a great time spending her gift card from Braden.
Ellie seemed perturbed. “Yes, about a dystopian world where teens kill one another.”
“Have you even read it?”
“Then trust me.” I grinned back at Hannah. “It rocks.”
“I’m buying it, Ellie,” Hannah told her adamantly, adding the book to her ever-growing pile.
With a sigh of defeat, Ellie nodded reluctantly and wandered back into the romance section. I was coming to learn she was a huge sucker for a happy ending. We’d watched no less than three romantic dramas this week. However, before I overdosed on another Nicholas Sparks adaptation, I was determined that tonight we’d be watching Matt Damon crack some heads as Jason Bourne.
My cell rang and I scrambled around in my purse for it only to discover it was Rhian.
I’d emailed her last night.
“Will you be okay while I take this?” I asked Hannah.
She waved me off, her nose practically pressed against the bookshelf as she scanned the titles. With laughter on my lips I wandered away from her to answer the call in private.
“Hi,” Rhian replied, almost tentatively.
I braced myself.
Shit. Maybe I shouldn’t have shared my news. Was she going to start treating me like a headcase from now on? As in carefully? Because that would be too weird. I’d miss being cursed at for one thing.
“How are you and James?” I asked before she could say anything.
“We’re a lot better. We’re getting there. Actually, he asked me to see someone. A therapist.”
I froze in the sci-fi aisle. “You’re kidding?”
“Nope. I didn’t tell him about your email, I swear. He just blurted it out. Some coincidence.” She took a deep breath. “You really went to see one?”
I glanced around to make sure I was alone. “I needed someone to talk to, and a professional with no personal interest in my life is the only person I trust to… well… to talk to about what I need to talk about…” I frowned. Ten points for language skills on that one.
I winced at her tone. There was a definite bite to it. “Rhian, I don’t mean to be hurtful.”
“I’m not hurt. I just think you should talk to someone who actually cares about you. Why do you think I told James all my shit? You know, you were right before. I trusted him. And I’m glad I did.”
“I’m not ready for that. I don’t have a James. I don’t want a James. And anyway, your James still wants you to talk to a therapist.”
She made a grumbling noise. “I think he thinks if I green light the whole therapy thing, then I’m serious about making this work with him.”
I thought about how devastated James had been the night he came to see me. “Then you should do it.”
“How was it? Was it weird?”
It was awful. “It was fine. Strange at first, but I’m going back.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Yeah, that’s why I’m paying one hundred pounds an hour to a professional, so I can talk to you. I held my sarcasm in check. “No, Rhian, I don’t.”
“Fine, you don’t have to snap at me, you grumpy cow.”
I rolled my eyes. “You know I miss your face-to-face insults. It’s just not the same over the phone.”
She snorted. “I miss someone who gets me. I called a woman on my research team a bitch—you know in a friendly way—and she told me to go to hell. And I think she really meant it.”