Dr. Pitt the psychologist saw clients in an office in her home, somewhere in Grosse Pointe. I couldn’t find it now if I tried. In fact, I’m not sure I ever learned the way there at the time—extremely unusual and perhaps significant, as in the general course of things I can find my way anywhere after having been there once. Her waiting room must have been some kind of solarium in the summer; I remember a large open space with wicker furniture, many windows. Except for a few pieces, most of the furniture was covered with white sheets, as in a house the owners have left to go on an extended vacation. And always the cold. In my memory, I could see my breath in that room every time I sat there waiting, although I know I saw her until the middle of July.
I have very little memory of her as a presence. I think she had dark hair in a pageboy cut, a squarish face, unattractive glasses. I don’t remember what her consulting room looked like, either. Warm tones, I think. Books, certainly. Some sort of carpet on the floor. I remember sitting across from her. I remember her face set in a serious, attentive expression—an expression put on to conceal what was really going on behind her eyes.
At first I was thrilled to be seeing her: thrilled to have one person in my world with whom I could share my innermost thoughts, fears and desires without being told they were unimportant. I worked hard to make her understand what troubled me. I gave her poems and recorded songs for her that touched on my emotional state.
I began to suspect she was not getting it when her response to all this was to tell me I needed a boyfriend. I didn’t necessarily disagree with her on this point, but I didn’t think a boyfriend was going to solve my problems. Besides, where was such a person to come from? Not from my school, that’s for sure. And I had no other social contacts.
Her insistence on this one item made me wonder how much she had actually taken in of my feelings of alienation, the fact that I was ostracized at school, the tensions in my family and all the other things I had shared with her.
One time, during the course of a conversation, she said, “You sound as if you think there’s something wrong with you.” “I do,” I replied. “Don’t you?”
“No,” was her answer. “I think you’re a normal teenager with normal teenage problems.”
Which goes to show, I guess, how well I present myself to the world and particularly authority figures and how willingly they let themselves be deceived by my good vocabulary, precise articulation and high I.Q. Or maybe I had just neglected to mention that I made a regular practice of cutting myself with razor blades. I suppose that’s possible. I seem to have an ingrained habit—almost a reflex—of concealing important information like that. It could have been from fear and shame. Fear that I would be punished for showing my pain in a way that adults around me couldn’t ignore. And shame that I couldn’t stop and just be a good girl, the way my parents wanted.
So maybe I didn’t mention it and Dr. Pitt wasn’t to blame.
As the new year progressed I felt worse and worse. I grew clumsy, started dropping things, didn’t know where I was at times. It was as if eyes were on me all the time and the weight of their expectation was unbearable to me. I told Dr. Pitt I was experiencing a lot of tension. Being rather Freudian in her outlook, she asked if I meant sexual tension and I lost it. I don’t remember exactly what was said in that session, but by the end of it she had made arrangements for me to meet with her husband, a psychiatrist on the staff of the local hospital. The idea was for me to be admitted there when school let out.
I saw Dr. Pitt, the psychiatrist, on a Saturday morning in April. What I remember most about it is the horror of the experience. From the first, he went out of his way to put me on the defensive. Whenever I tried to explain anything to him, he interrupted me with scathing comments. He made it plain that I was wasting his time. Although my plan was to finish the school semester before being admitted to the hospital, he accused me of wanting to go there to get out of doing my homework. At that point, the tears I had been trying hard to hold back burst out of me in a flood.
“You’re killing me!” I cried.
“Oh?” He literally sneered at me. “Mean old Dr. Pitt is killing poor Katie? Now what makes you think I’m doing that?”
At that point I gave up. I sat through the rest of the session in silence knowing there was no help to be had here. Pretty soon my time was up and I left. My father took me to the school, where a play rehearsal was in progress—I was the stage manager. Instead of going to the auditorium, I climbed the steps by the cafeteria and sat by the window looking out into the courtyard. The crabapple trees were in bloom, but I felt cold all over, as if my bones had turned to ice. I started banging my head against the glass over and over again, but it was strong glass and didn’t break. I pulled out my journal and wrote in it in very tiny letters:
“I am closer to suicide than I have ever been before in my life.”
I have never been closer since, either.