St. Joe’s: One Flight Up (Part I)


I wake in hell.  The unconscious spends its nights trying to reconcile life events that do not cohere, and trying to find solutions to problems. I have always thought of my life just as “my life,” but as my writings spread and I get feedback, what people are telling me is that I’ve had a very hard life.  Like, who knew?  And every night my unconscious tries to sort it out and make things right.

It’s been a bad night.  My current roommate fell down the stairs and hit her head on concrete.  She needs a lot of bedside assistance during the night and wakes up confused.  Last night’s nurse dealt with this by raising her voice, apparently under the belief that turning up the volume enables a confused person to understand.  And every time nursie-poo bellows, I wake up.  The curtain is drawn between the beds and I wonder if the curtains were open and the nurse saw me here, would she moderate her voice.

Anyway.  I wake up in the early morning dark, and am distraught, exhausted, and unrestored.  Not to mention hurt, angry, and terrified.   I have spent the night repeatedly being awakened in a dreamland that is so nasty that it would be the envy of Stephen King.  Bloody body parts hanging from trees.  The last time I had a good dream was a year and a half ago when Dick and I shared loved.

I met Dick at a conference.  He was tall, silver-haired, super intelligent, funny and charming; he was a clinical social worker, a thousand-hour airplane pilot, and a jazz bass player.  He called me his colleague and asked me to co-present a workshop with him.  I argued that it felt like he was treating me as a patient.  No, Dick said, you are my friend.  Then he started telling me that he loved me.  I loved him, too.  Then he told me that he was being sued. 

Dick said that the man had originally been his patient, then had become his friend, whom he occasionally still saw in therapy.  Now his friend was suing him for giving bad advice.  Dick felt hurt and betrayed.  That’s when Dick stopped telling me he loved me.  About six months later, Dick dropped me.  I had no idea why.  But at about the same, the ex-patient/friend who was suing him found me on the Internet. 

Don’s story was that he was being treated by Dick, as was a certain woman.  The two met in a therapy group that Dick started, and then they got married.  And then Dick sexually abused Don’s wife.  That’s why Dick was being sued.  Don and his wife got a lawyer and discovered that another woman already had gotten a sex-abuse settlement from Dick.  He used to own an airplane but no longer does.  I figure selling off the plane paid for the settlement and legal fees.

Don tells me that the lawyers now know of three or four other women who were patients of Dick’s and whom he sexually abused.  Dick and I live six hundred miles apart.  We spent three or four hours together on the phone every week—always from his office at the hospital.  So I called the director of the part of the hospital where Dick worked and alerted him to the need to investigate Dick’s activities.  A minor aside to help get the hospital’s attention:  they basically were paying him for a half-day a week that he took off to spend with his girlfriend.  (To be continued)

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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