My name was called. My mom and I stood, and were met by a round little lady with a soft face and a bright smile. She introduced herself as the intake clinician, did so cheerily. With a stack of papers in her hand, she escorted us out of the waiting room and into a large room nearby. She shut the door behind us. There was a conference table in the room, so that at first I thought we were going to be joined by a team of people, but the intake clinician explained, “Sorry, this was the only room available.”
My mother and I sat at the table like we were the first people at an important board meeting. Beginning with the top page, the intake clinician moved us through the stack with brief explanations of each form. My mom signed page after page. I signed as well, my signature wilting flat as I gave my half-hearted consent.
The real questions began deeper in. Most were directed to my mom, as if I wasn’t an expert on my own life. My mom expressed her own concerns and described the ways in which I had changed, and with a hushed voice, she described my encounters with the woman in the window and what led up to my recent hospitalization, my mental breakdown.
Questions and answers continued back and forth.
The clinician asked, “Are there hallucinations?”
“Yes. I think so.”
“Are they ongoing?”
“Anything else of concern?”
“Sarah bit her own finger.”
“She bit herself? Explain.”
“Sarah bit her own finger and told me the woman had done it.”
“Did she do it to get attention, or did she actually believe the woman did it?”
“She believed the woman did it.”
That’s when she asked me, “Sarah, did the woman in the window bite your finger?”
She wasn’t going to believe me, but I answered anyway, “Yes. I wouldn’t bite my own finger.”
The lady nodded to herself and checked another box.
When we were almost done, my mom asked, “Can you tell me if there’s a diagnosis?”
“It’s hard to say. There is evidence of possible schizophrenia, but because your daughter has only been experiencing these symptoms for two months, I can’t jump to any conclusions.”
“But it might be schizophrenia?” My mother asked.
“Again, I’m not about to make such a conclusive diagnosis just yet.”
“But it could be. Eventually.”
“If the symptoms continue, yes.”
“Okay,” my mother said, satisfied.
Schizophrenia. Because how else could everything be explained? With the things I saw. My paranoia. My depression. My declining hygiene. My lack of appetite. My loss of friends. My messy room. My outbursts and the ways in which I had begun failing at life. Not to mention, the woman in the window. The woman in the window. The woman in the window.
When we finished, the clinician walked us back out to the waiting area where we sat and waited again, this time to meet with the psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel Tariq.