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Am I Crazy? (Back post)

Posted on 24 Jan 2017 @ 10:38am by Lieutenant Avery Stuart Ph.D. & Lieutenant Commander Jayla Kij

Mission: Endgame
Location: Doctor Avery Stuart's Office, USS Black Hawk

It was a full month before Jayla was due for a psych eval, but she had scheduled one anyway. She almost hoped she was just going crazy because the alternative would be harder to treat.

But, she didn't want to think of that right now. She found herself standing outside the Counselor's office and with a sigh, pressed the chime.

"Come in," Avery called out, the doors opening as usual upon her command. "Hello, Doctor," she offered, with a bit of surprise in her voice. The last time she and Jayla had talked, it seemed to Avery the CMO was appreciative of what Stuart had to say, but was really doing well and politely humoring her at the same time.

Jayla attempted to smile as she entered, but it came off sort of nervous and unsure. "Hello... Doctor," she said, and then her smile relaxed a bit. "I promise I'm not playing copycat."

"That's okay," Avery returned with a small smile of her own. "It's been a tough mission and we are all tired." She gestured for Jayla to come in and make herself comfortable. "Everything okay? How can I help?"

Jayla chose one of the chairs and sat in it, at first sort of perching on the edge, then settling back. "Well," she said. "To be honest, I'm a bit worried that I may be cracking up. I mean, I suppose it's normal, but... well, actually, I think going crazy would be easier to correct than the alternative."

Of all the things Avery expected Jayla to say, this is definitely not one of them. Looking at the doctor, Avery could see she was genuinely worried that she was going crazy which not only seemed out of left field, but completely seemed out of character for the virtually always optimistic Jayla. "Where is this coming from? Why would you think you were cracking up?"

"It's difficult to describe," Jayla replied. "I've been noticing that things I do- when I'm angry or afraid- they sort of feel like they didn't happen to me. Well, no, they feel like they happen to a previous host. You see, memories from a symbiont's previous host feel a bit like an echo. It's easy to tell them apart from my own memories. And these... these reactions feel like they're not mine."

The counselor considered Jayla's description of her concerns for a moment. She wasn't an expert in Trill psychology, but she knew enough to know blending between current and previous hosts wasn't completely abnormal or entirely unexpected. "So if I'm following you, you're saying your reactions when you're angry and fearful seem like those of previous hosts? In other words, you're not just reliving previous memories, but it feels as if prior hosts are in control briefly?"

"Yes!" answered Jayla quickly. "And, I mean, it's not difficult to correct- if I can get to the symbiosis commission for training, but for one thing, we're stuck in the gamma quadrant and for another, we're not even in our own universe right now and who knows if we'll even get home." She stopped and sighed. "Anyway, so you see how it would be easier if I were a bit mad."

"You're not crazy, Jayla," Avery reassured, placing her hand atop the doctor's. "Truly mentally ill people are not able to question their mental health as lucidly as you are. Secondly, you are able to recognize when your reactions aren't coming from you, which is an indication your psychological faculties are intact. I suspect you're having these experiences because of the great deal of stress you are under right now. You said it happens when you're especially angry or fearful, two emotions connected to the flight or fight reaction meant to preserve survival. I'm not an expert in Trill psychology, but I suspect the symbiont is driven to promote the survival of itself and the host at all possible costs. Perhaps when it senses you're feeling especially threatened, emotionally as well as physically, it enters its own fight or flight mode of sorts and triggers the memories of previous hosts and is driven to elicit reactions that may help promote survival."

However, instead of reassuring her, this only made Jayla's heart sink. If she wasn't going crazy, that meant that Belar was taking over and she had no idea how to correct that. She could always delve into Gavara's memories, but she dreaded doing that. "That's possible, but the things I do should still feel like I'm doing them," she said finally. "But, they don't. I just react and... and then it's like someone else did it. Are you sure I'm not crazy?"

Avery shook her head. "Crazy isn't a word I'd use even if I thought something was wrong, which for the record, I don't," she quickly reassured. "So far, you've mentioned a few incidents which have taken place while you were under extreme stress. As you know, stress can affect the body's physiological processes without there being any signs of underlying illness. Stress impacts behavior the same way. People behave in ways that are atypical while under stress they wouldn't otherwise exhibit. Maybe for brief periods your previous hosts do take over because you get overwhelmed by stress and their priority is ensuring the survival of the host and symbiont as a unit. In humans, it's natural to disassociate from reality when experiencing intense anxiety or just being very distracted. Things like not being able to remember the actual journey someplace even though they clearly walked there under their own power. It doesn't mean there something psychologically wrong, it just means the process is so familiar and repetitive the human brain isn't going to use resources attending to it." Stuart paused, then added, "I'll tell you what. How about keeping a journal of these instances and what was going on just before they happened, including your thoughts and feelings? That way, I can get a better sense of the frequency of these instances and perhaps we can identify particular triggers."

Jayla nodded. She supposed that was as good as it was going to get for now. "That's a start, I suppose," she said. "I have another avenue I can pursue, if it comes to it. But, I'd really rather not. I'll look through my personal logs and see what I can't piece together from memories."

"I'm prepared to help you do whatever you need to do to get to the bottom of it," Avery offered sincerely. She got the impression Jayla was somewhat disappointed. The last thing Stuart wanted to do was make her feel worse than before. "Should we go ahead and set up an appointment? Also, don't worry if your logs don't reveal much. I don't expect you to find the triggers all by yourself. I know it may feel like it, but you're not alone, Jayla."

Jayla nodded. She certainly felt alone, that was for sure. "I'll try to remember that," she said finally. "Is- is there anything else? I mean, that I can do?"

"Sure," Avery offered. "Why don't I take you through some relaxation exercises? As I said, I suspect these instances are stress induced, but I know worrying about them is adding to your stress, which can't help the situation. How good do you think you are at identifying when your stress is slowly creeping up on you? What I mean is, do you think you could identify changes in your anxiety level before it felt the most intense?"

"Maybe," replied Jayla. "I mean, it's usually when I'm in a dangerous situation. Like when we were boarded awhile ago and we had to retake the ship, or when we were on Razmena a few days ago. Just normal every day stress doesn't seem to do it."

"I understand. The theory behind practicing relaxation strategies and getting more in tune with when your anxiety level is escalating is that you'll be able to engage in the strategies more easily, the more you practice. In other words, the idea is that if you practice, the strategies will become second nature, even in situations where your anxiety is high. It's like practicing techniques in medical school. The hope is, the more you practice, the more easily you'll be able to do what you need to do, even in an emergency."

"That's a great idea," agreed Jayla. "I should definitely learn those. Do you have time to teach me a few now?"

"Absolutely," Avery replied with a nod. "Let's start with some simple mindfulness exercises and then we can move on to progressive muscle relaxation. You'd be surprised how much simple deep breathing and basic visualization can ease anxiety."


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