Confronting the Captain's Demons
Counselor's Office, USS Portland
Shortly before arrival on Trill
Authors: Alenis Meru, Delainey Carlisle
Carrying a travel mug of tea, Alenis made her way down to the counselor’s office for her appointment. She was less than thrilled about the idea of going to see a shrink, but Tim had her over a barrel and she didn’t have much of a choice.
Strolling into Delainey’s office, she looked around for the counselor. “Dr. Carlisle? I’m here for my appointment.”
Emerging from her en suite bathroom, Delainey heard the Captain call her name and she turned in Meru's direction, offering a polite smile. "Hello, Captain. Your timing is perfect. May I get you something from the replicator? I was just going to get myself some strawberry lemonade." Before crossing to the alcove which held the replicator unit, Delainey gestured for Meru to take a seat wherever she felt comfortable.
Resisting the urge to ask for a glass of springwine, Alenis glanced over at the replicator. "That does sound good... I suppose I could go for one as well. With mint leaves."
"Coming right up," Carlisle replied with a polite smile. She made note of Meru's glance toward the replicator and her slight hesitation. It didn't necessarily mean anything significant, but it was something she couldn't help but notice for a moment. Perhaps the other woman was just trying to decide if she needed more liquid refreshment. If Meru was anything like Delainey, she spent most of her day drinking liquids of some sort just to make the report reading palatable. It seemed the later the shifts, the unhealthier the drink.
Within a few moments, Delainey had retrieved both of their drinks and handed the lemonade with mint off to the Captain. She gestured for Meru to make herself comfortable in any one of the chairs available in her reception area, and the counselor took a seat across from her, asking casually, "So, what brings you my way?"
"Well, you come highly recommended by Brad and Tyrlai," she explained. "They strongly encouraged... more like insisted... that I make an appointment with you."
Carlisle appreciated Alenis' honesty but wasn't quite sure what to make of her response. "Oh? What do you think about that?" The counselor got the impression Meru didn't agree with them at all, but she didn't want to put words in the Captain's mouth.
Alenis took a deep breath. "I know it's a cliche, that the big shot captain doesn't want to talk to her shrink or anyone else about anything, lest she actually come to terms with her weaknesses and her pain." She offered Delainey a knowing look; surely this wasn't the counselor's first assignment. "But I've never been one to talk to counselors. Well," she added, her eyes narrowing slightly, "apart from Arvel..."
Delainey offered a knowing nod. Doctor Silverton had informed her the former counselor and the captain had been involved romantically, so Meru's statement didn't surprise her. Given Arvel's current circumstances, passing judgment on him hardly mattered, but in truth, the notion of a counselor becoming romantically involved with his superior and client didn't sit well with her. Carlisle wasn't a prude by any means, but she considered certain ethical principles sacred, especially those concerning relationships in which there was an imbalance of power. In this case, she didn't believe the double imbalance of power meant that they canceled each other out. She couldn't help but wonder what came first and was tempted to ask, but it wasn't apparent that had anything to do with why Meru was here, and Delainey didn't want to risk their fragile relationship by asking. Instead, she said, "in your opinion, why do you think they insisted you come speak to me now?"
Alenis took a deep breath. "Dr. Silverton... he suggested that he saw something troubling me while we were on the away mission. He knows of my history with the Borg, and as one of his responsibilities is to make sure the Captain is in peak condition, both physically and mentally, he 'suggested'," said Alenis, placing scare quotes around the word 'suggested,' "that I see you as soon as the battle is over. And since we survived..."
Delainey understood what the air quotes meant and she wondered if Meru's choice to use them said more about how she felt about it rather than how Silverton did. Carlisle couldn't be sure, but she thought she detected a note of anger the captain was trying to hide. "Since we survived," Delainey echoed with a nod. "Is there something troubling you? Was he right?"
"There was," admitted Alenis. She sighed deeply and glanced around the room. "This is all confidential, right?"
"Unless you are about to tell me you are in immediate danger to yourself or the crew, yes, this will stay between you and I."
"Okay," she said, taking a deep breath and looking at Delainey. "To be honest, I had never gotten over what had happened at New Algiers. Almost everyone on the Gol died; I was the highest ranking officer to make it off. I would have nightmares, I was taking sleeping pills, and at one point, I was going through a bottle of springwine a day. I think Ko-ko was the only thing that was keeping me sane. But now..." Alenis trailed off and glanced around the room once more.
"I don't know what it is. Whether it was reconnecting with the Prophets, having died and come back, or having gotten revenge on the Borg, I feel like I'm at peace for the first time in years."
"Okay," Delainey replied, her tone not so much skeptical but curious. She wouldn't be a social scientist if she didn't question what was presented to her at face value. It wasn't exactly a secret Alenis struggled emotionally ever since New Algiers, but it did concern Carlisle that she hadn't realized Meru was drinking so heavily. Now of course she was claiming to be more at peace, but Delainey was less curious about why that was and more concerned about whether it was true. She'd known people to be so eager to feel better or to avoid painful psychological examination that they would often prematurely announce they had taken care of the problem. "I'm glad you're feeling better, but I think we owe it to ourselves to be skeptical of this recovery just for your health and safety," Carlisle offered. "After all, you didn't develop these problems overnight, so realistically, I would expect it to take more than a bit of time to work through." She paused then added, "I want to make sure I understand what you're saying. Are you saying you're no longer experiencing the symptoms which caused you to rely on pills and alcohol, or are you saying you're still experiencing those things and you’ve found better ways to manage them?"
"I've been reading more religious texts," she admitted. "I had always been a little aloof from my Bajoran heritage, growing up as a refugee on earth. But after visiting the planet for the first time in decades, I've been trying to make up for lost time with the Prophets. There is a lot of wisdom there..." She paused and took another deep breath. "That, and having died and come back only to stare down a Borg armada kind of takes the edge off anything I could possibly be afraid of."
Meru wasn't the first person to report finding perspective after trauma or to find solace in religion, and Delainey wasn't about to minimize the positive impact of either on mental health, but that didn't seem to be what she was hearing. "I'm concerned you haven't found a healthier way to cope with your feelings as much as your recent experiences have shamed you into deciding your feelings shouldn't exist or matter in comparison. As I said, I'm not certain problems that have developed over time can disappear so easily."
"I don't suppose you have any suggestions, do you?" countered Alenis, remembering why she didn't like visiting counselors in the first place.
Delainey detected the challenge in her words, but refused to take the bait. She didn't become a counselor to prove herself and to prove to the people she worked with that she was right, but she recognized an honest concession when she heard it. "I think we should meet for regular sessions," Delainey said honestly. "As I said, you didn't get here overnight and it won't change overnight, but recovering from all the trauma you've suffered requires very specific sustained help, help that you've gotten only piecemeal over time." Carlisle paused, then added, "Before we can do any of that, however, it's important for you to understand you're not weak because you couldn't put a stop to this yourself. You're one of the strongest people I know, Meru, and if psychological trauma could be healed simply by deciding it was so, I'm certain you'd be healed 50 times over."
Alenis blushed slightly at the compliment. She was never good at taking them, but what Delainey had said really spoke to her. She strove to never show any weakness, which helped her rise through the ranks of Starfleet. But there was a downside to that, and it was that she had never gotten the help that she so very badly needed. “So… every other week then?” she asked, changing the subject.
“That would work,” Carlisle replied with a nod. “I’m also open to every week, but it’s up to you.”
"Well, I am usually rather busy..." Alenis reached over for a PADD that contained her schedule and flicked through it. Reports, meetings, and bridge duty had her pretty much booked solid until after her little vacation. "Mind if we do it two weeks from Thursday? I'm planning on spending shore leave at the spa, without my comm badge."
If Delainey didn't know any better, she would say the captain was stalling, but she couldn't very well disapprove of the woman taking time for herself. "That'll work for now, as long as we can get on a more regular schedule after that. I know you don't want to lose any progress you make."
“Sounds good,” replied Alenis, standing up from the chair and breathing a sigh of relief. “Two weeks from Thursday it is.”
"It's a date," Delainey replied with a grin, noting how relieved she seemed to be to have that much breathing room. She hoped Meru wouldn't find some reason to cancel, but for now, Carlisle was hopeful, and that was the best way to be as a therapist.
Capt. Alenis Meru