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Required Visit

Posted on 16 Aug 2016 @ 6:02am by Captain Harvey Geisler & Lieutenant Avery Stuart Ph.D.

Mission: Risky Business
Location: Counselor's Office
Timeline: Just before "Outbreak"

Harvey stood outside the Counselor's door, just staring at her nameplate. His relationship with protocol could be described as both loving and hating. All his career, he preferred protocol when it benefitted him, and disdained when he had to follow it himself.

Today was a day he felt disdain.

Alas, Harvey Geisler was a Captain. It was no longer about him and his desires. He had to set an example for the five hundred souls aboard this ship, and protocol required him to submit for psychological evaluation following his being shot by Commander del Rosario. As he stood here, he wondered if he was going to have to admit he'd had a hallucination about his deceased wife, or that he'd started a relationship with the Chief Medical Officer. Either one of those reasons were valid enough to not enter.

His hand had other ideas. Before he had a chance to turn away, it reached up and tapped the door chime.

"Come in," Avery called out. As usual, her office doors parted automatically in response to her voice command, and she greeted Harvey with a gentle smile and a gesture with one hand for him to come in. She was looking forward to sitting down with him and simply exploring how he'd been coping since he'd been shot and had been ever since he'd been brought to sickbay. Rather than ambush him, however, she'd decided to send him a friendly, but official, note requesting an appointment. She figured this approach would be particularly professional in light of the circumstances but also less of an ambush. "Thank you for making time to see me. To be honest, you've been on my heart since we learned of the shooting."

Her latter comment was an expression of her sincerity, not of romantic interest, as some might assume. She expected to Harvey to know her well enough by now to know the place she was coming from. After all, this would be the first time she had expressed sincere concern for how Harvey had been coping following a traumatic event.

"Oh?" Harvey asked, stopping just inside the doorway as he had the last time before. A glance at the Counselor assuaged his fears, thinking she might have developed some sort of feelings for him. Between his own sudden relationship with Doctor Kij and his conflicted feelings for a certain red-haired Executive Officer on leave, Harvey wouldn't be able to handle a third.

His hand also instinctively went to his side. "It's not the first time I've been shot," he confessed. "Or injured. Or... dying."

She realized too late perhaps he didn't know her well enough yet, and inwardly, Avery chastised herself for her emotional honesty. The last thing she wanted was for Harvey to resist opening up to her because he thought of her as some schoolgirl with a crush. Fortunately, he seemed to recover and gather her true meaning. "I know," Avery said matter-of-factly. "You faced several life-threatening situations in a relatively short amount of time. Multiple traumas with little recovery time in between can sometimes exacerbate psychological symptoms." Dropping the clinical speak, she said, "Something tells me you haven't allowed yourself to feel any of it, truly."

Harvey found himself nodding. Spying a nearby chair, Harvey decided to help himself to it. He was here, after all, on an appointment. Sighing, Harvey decided to simply embrace the situation. "I haven't allowed myself to feel much of anything. Not since..." His voice trailed off, unsure if he actually wanted to finish that sentence.

"Since?" Avery repeated. She was tempted to offer a guess as to what he was referring to, but she decided against it, lest he latch onto one of her options without truly speaking of what he meant.

He sighed again. "Since Alison died," he replied, realizing that Avery was the first person aboard the Black Hawk he'd told about her. "She, uh... She was my wife."

"I know," Avery answered softly. "You've alluded to her passing before, but I don't think we've ever talked about her or the circumstances surrounding her death in any detail. We don't have to do so now unless you want to, Captain, but I do think it's important we talk about how you've been functioning after all of these traumas... Sleeping, eating, if you've experienced flashbacks. Until I know what you're truly dealing with, I won't be able to help you heal, but to do that, you need to trust me. Do you? If not, I won't be offended, but it will give us a place to start."

"When I first learned the truth," Harvey began, "I was outraged. First because they killed her. And then even more so when I realized they'd targeted a hospital ward. People who were sick, wounded." He looked up at Avery. "Defenseless. It turned me into a fighter, at least for a little while. It was after the war that I realized that I didn't know what to do. Every time I was in a lab, I kept waiting for Alison to just walk in."

Stuart nodded. "No matter how intense, anger eventually gives way to the emotions that underlie it: hurt, fear, and frustration. What you experienced is a normal part of the grieving process." It didn't escape Avery Harvey had failed to answer whether he trusted her, but she took his admissions to be an implicit yes. The more she got to know him, the more she realized he was not one to offer praise or even to show vulnerability easily.

"The day came when I just couldn't do it anymore," Harvey said, still looking at Avery. "Starfleet had been practically begging me to take an XO spot, so I did. Traded the blue collar for red so that I wouldn't have to remember what I'd lost."

Stuart nodded knowingly. "Wherever you go, there you are. Many people think drastic changes like that will make all the difference, but it sounds like you discovered the truth… You just take your demons with you."

"It certainly feels that way," he confirmed. "With the red uniform, I feel like I have to be strong, and the best way for me to do that is to not get attached." Harvey grunted. "And a hell of a job I do at that," he added sarcastically, thinking of his feelings for the ship he commanded and the time he'd lashed out against Carter when she'd sabotaged the ship.

"Strength isn't about suppressing emotions. Strength is about feeling the emotions and acting in the best way you can anyway," Avery replied. "Crews don't go to the mat for captains that keep themselves detached." Stuart paused, then asked, "What do you think will happen if you allow yourself to feel? Who do you think you will be if you allow yourself to process the hurt, fear, and frustration?"

Harvey remained sitting still for a moment as he processed her question. "I..." he said, thinking he had an answer, only to find his mind escaped him. "I don't know." It had been ten years or so since he was last excited about duty, and that included the day the orders came for his first command. Harvey was doubtful that he was truly excited about captaincy as it was just another step away from his abandoned life, a life he could remember very little of.

Although his answer matched what Avery suspected, it was still a bit troubling. After all, becoming a captain took time and effort, and it certainly involved a lot of scrutiny. Stuart knew better than to think she was the only counselor who'd ever assessed Geisler, especially in recent years, so the question was, was she to believe they were just inept or was he that good at faking it? "So, if I'm understanding you, if you really think about it, you've been walking around feeling numb all of the time?"

"I'm not entirely numb," Harvey replied. "I'll admit I wasn't excited about captaincy, but this ship is my home. Over the last few months, I've come to know every detail, every scratch and paint stroke. It's people I have a hard time making a connection with."

Such an issue would be consistent with long unreserved trauma and grief, but his answer still surprised her. "All people or a specific person in particular? I must say, I watched you interact with the crew, and you must hide your discomfort well. From what I've seen, you and Doctor Kij seem to be good friends."

Harvey's eyes widened suddenly at her remark. "I... uh... Ja... Doctor Kij and I..." he cleared his throat. "We've a lot in common," he said. "At least far as medicine is concerned. It's nice being able to talk shop with someone."

It was clear she had touched upon something, and even though Harvey wasn't acknowledging anything out loud, a part of Avery just knew without needing to be told. "Whatever your relationship is, it goes no further than myself. It is true there is a power differential between the two of you, and I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't expressed some concern about that. I also know you are grown-ups, and if there is a problem, I hope you will come to me."

"It's not completely unlike something I've done before," Harvey replied, referring to his marriage. "Of course, now I'm a captain, and over five hundred people and not a department of thirty." He hoped that their ranks and positions wouldn't pose a complication in the future. Harvey looked up at the Counselor. "If something happens, you'll be the first to know."

Avery smiled. "I'd appreciate that," she replied, not quite sure if he was being serious. "Concerns about the power differential aside, do you think your relationship with the doctor has something to do with your emotional state that we've just been discussing?"

Harvey's head bobbed just slightly. "I'm sure it's more than just something, Doctor," he replied. While he didn't know how exactly he felt about her, the only comparison he could make was the beginnings of his relationship with Alison. "I think only time will tell how much more."

Stuart nodded. "It's perfectly natural to feel guilty about feeling happy with someone else when you've experienced a loss. It's also not uncommon to use relationships, especially of a romantic or sexual nature, as a means to escape feelings associated with trauma, including numbness. I'm not saying that's what you're doing, but it's something worth checking out."

"I'll keep that in mind," Harvey replied. He hoped that he wasn't doing what she described, using a relationship as a way to escape. "But, somehow, I don't think that's the case. "I think the good doctor and I are getting along well. It's not serious, but I guess it could be in the future."

"We all need social and emotional support to get us through the hard times," Avery acknowledged. "That said, it isn't a substitute for facing trauma head on. I know you said you felt numb a lot of the time, and I'm wondering if you've also noticed if you've been more irritable and prone to nightmares lately?"

"Prone to nightmares," Harvey said, shaking his head. "Dreams, yes, but nightmares, no. As far as irritability, I'm sure I'm no different from the last time I saw you."

Avery nodded. "I've noticed you've been short tempered and more irritable. How well would you say you're able to recognize your frustration building before you vent it? Everyone has their own unique 'tells' so to speak." Avery knew the sooner Harvey could recognize when his irritation was building, the easier it would be to help him find ways to manage it before he exploded and felt out of control.

Harvey grunted. "When your ship gets boarded by unknown mercenaries and nearly overturned by the Consortium, it's hard to not have a short temper," he replied. "I don't like my home being invaded."

Not wanting to go around that particular circle again, Avery answered, "Of course not. None of us have particularly enjoyed recent events, but that doesn't give any one of us a license to abdicate responsibility for managing our own emotions so we don't take them out on others unfairly. I'm not telling you not to feel, Captain. In fact, as I've said, I think you work far too hard to suppress your feelings. The problem is, when you do that, they come out in the least productive and healthy ways, which doesn't help anyone, least of all you. Ignoring that consequence doesn't make you a stronger Captain, it just leaves you stuck."

He nodded, letting every word sink in. "Stuck is an apt description for my situation, Counselor," he confessed with a sigh. "Is it possible to get so caught up in situations or even the uniform that you lose sight of yourself and what you were?"

His question revealed the greatest bit of insight that she could ever recall hearing from him. His irritability also made more sense because of it, even beyond the trauma he'd experienced. "Anything is possible. Is that how you feel? That being a Captain has left you feeling as though you've lost your sense of self?"

"Being a Captain had little to do with it, I think," Harvey said. "Losing Alison was hard, but I was never good at making friends. I guess I just found it easy to stick to duty and orders in order to not think about what was happening in my life. The trouble is, I don't know how to stop. It's second nature by now."

"Not thinking about your life is not the same as not having feelings about it," Avery pointed out. "You've continued to feel and react to those feelings on and off duty the entire time. You and I are going to have to work together so that you become better at identifying your feelings. Until you can take that initial step, he won't be able to manage them in healthy ways so you're not lashing out at people and you're not taking a backseat to your own personal life. What do you want out of your life? I'm not talking about your career, but your personal life."

The answer came quickly and naturally, almost as if something else willed his mouth to speak before his brain could consider the question. "To be happy."

It wasn't necessarily an uncommon nonspecific answer, and that she would've anyone else, she pressed, "What specifically does that mean? What would a happy life look like to you?"

"To have a life outside the uniform," Harvey answered. "And someone to share it with."

Avery nodded. "What would that life look like? What qualities are you looking for in someone to share it with?" Stuart was concerned that like certain aspects of Harvey's professional life, he was content to be more reactive than proactive. Such an approach left him vulnerable to people with their own agendas or even just their own troubled emotions. She truly thought his relationship with the CMO was an indication of his decisiveness, even if there were potential pitfalls, but now she was concerned he was giving up control and his own sense of self too easily.

"Life is being able to put away this uniform without worry that something will happen to the ship when I'm not watching," he said, almost wondering why Avery was questioning what he was looking for in a person. "As far as someone to share it with, I want... no, I need someone who will challenge me. To help me be a better person than what I am now."

Stuart considered what he'd shared for a moment before saying, "You come by your anxiety honestly, but it doesn't serve you well to hold onto such high expectations. I think we should continue seeing each other for a while. You okay with that?" It wasn't really a requests, but there was no arguing things would go more smoothly with his cooperation.

Harvey nodded. He knew he had a long way to go, and he was ever going to be able to move on from his past and find joy in his life, Harvey had to start somewhere.

 

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