I was hoping that my new psychiatrist could help me conquer my fear of going outdoors. I had just finished explaining my situation to him.
“It really is true,” Dr. Merlin said. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!"
“Maybe if your only problem is a weak heart!” I noted. “But I find the thought of a crocodile twisting off my privates in a pond fear inducing!”
“Just avoid crocodile-infested ponds,” Dr. Merlin suggested.
“I do!” I pointed out. “I won’t go near them! Thanks for making my point!”
“Here’s a suggestion,” Dr. Merlin said. “Why don’t you just start simply? With a short walk in the park?”
“And then I scratch my cheek on a low-hanging branch, flesh-eating bacteria invade the cut, and days later half of my face has to be surgically removed to save my life! Great idea!” I observed.
Dr. Merlin rolled his eyes. “Don’t walk close to the trees.”
“Bacteria can still blow into my mouth! Those guys are all over the place! And then I swallow them and they eat me from the inside out!” I explained.
“Actually that wouldn’t happen,” Dr. Merlin pointed out. “They fare poorly in the digestive tract. If you swallow flesh-eating bacteria the worst that you’ll experience is some vomiting or diarrhea.”
“So if I cut myself I should bite a chunk out of myself and eat it as quickly as possible?” I asked.
“Oh for heavens sake!” the Doctor responded. “That’s ridiculous. Maybe you should just wear a hazmat suit whenever you go outside!”
“That might work!” I observed. But then my hope faded.
“No peripheral vision, Doctor,” I noted. “I won’t see a mugger that approaches from the side to steal my I-phone hidden inside the suit.”
“You would keep an I-phone inside your hazmat suit?” Dr. Merlin asked.
“No, but he doesn’t know that!” I observed.
Dr. Merlin took a few deep breaths.
“How about this?” the Doctor suggested. “Just go sit on your front steps.”
“I live on a busy street, Doc” I pointed out. “Some texting steam-roller operator could veer off the road and squash me like a bug!”
Dr. Merlin tapped his pencil on his desktop a few times. I could see he was looking for a new approach.
“Let me ask you something,” Dr. Merlin said. “How do you relax inside your house?”
“I don’t,” I explained. “I’m scared there too.”
“Even in your own bed?” the Dr. asked.
“Especially there!” I noted. “Toxic mold from the adjoining bathroom might ride the air currents and float up my nose! Then it could eat my brain! By the time I’m symptomatic my CT scan would look like a blob of Swiss cheese in a bowling ball! I hardly sleep.”
“So put a bed in your basement and sleep there,” Dr. Merlin suggested.
“Radon!” I pointed out. “It’s a naturally occurring radioactive gas. It can be anyplace! If it floats up from the floor I might inhale it and get lung cancer. I’d be better off with a few holes in my brain!”
“My gosh!” Doctor Merlin asked. “How do you ever get a moment’s peace?”
“Well,” I explained, “I used to stay on the middle level of the house. And watch TV all day in my favorite chair.”
“Used to?” the Doctor asked.
“Yes. Then I realized all that sitting could give me a blood clot! I’d probably be better off taking a walk outside!”
Doctor Merlin leaned forward.
“Listen to me,” he said “There are only two places that you can be! Inside your house or outside your house. And you are constantly afraid in both. What does that suggest to you?”
The Doctor’s timer suddenly went off. He glanced at his watch.
“Time’s up!” he said. “We’ll continue from here next week. Please think about what I just said.”
As always my nurse, armored truck driver, and personal assistant met me for the ride back home. The nurse sedated me and soon I was strapped securely in my gurney with her at my side, with IV’s ready just in case they were needed.
I thought about the Doctor’s last observations. It made things seem so hopeless.
I looked up at my nurse.
“Sarah,” I said, “I’m getting another shrink!”
“Why, Sir?” she asked.
“Because this guy scares me!”