Lensing nimbly lowers herself into the waiting area chair next to Sally's and tells her in a tone of woman-to-woman straight talk that mania—and she refers to it as if it is a separate entity, a mutual acquaintance of theirs—mania is a glutton for attention. It craves thrills, action, it wants to keep thriving, it will do anything to live on. "Did you ever have a friend who's so exciting you want to be around her, but she leads you into disaster, and in the end you wish you never met? You know the sort of person I mean: the girl who wants to go faster, who always wants more. The girl who serves herself first and screw the rest. It could be a boy, too, of course, I'm just giving an example of what mania is: a greedy, charismatic person who pretends to be your friend. We may not be able to resist her every time, but one of the things we're going to try to learn is to recognize her for what she is."
"You're talking about me. I'm that girl," says Sally.
"Sally, they don't make them any smarter than you. Now come on, let's get cracking."
To me she says: "We'll spend about 40 minutes alone together, then, if it feels right, I'll ask you to join us. Okay?"
After about half an hour, Lensing reappears, inviting me into the sanctum: a large, shabby south-facing room with a ripped couch on which Sally is stretching herself and yawning, soporific yet restless.
"Your daughter is a pleasure to work with, Mr. Greenberg."
They giggle like girlfriends sharing a private joke, and I marvel at the instant rapport Lensing seems to have struck with her.
"Sally and I have agreed upon a goal: for her to be in shape to return to school in September. We have five, maybe six weeks. Right now, for her to try to go to school would be like running a marathon with a broken leg. So that's our first piece of good fortune: We're lucky it's summer."
August stretches before us like a desert we haven't the stomach to cross. Sally's irate euphoria ignites without warning, in the middle of the night or at 1 in the afternoon. Tearing out of an unreachable stupor, she berates me for my ignorance, my fear, my helplessness, my attempt to control her, to keep her down. "I feel locked up," she says, and she doesn't only mean in the apartment—to Pat, she confesses a powerful desire to rip herself open as if she were zippered inside a fur suit.
By mid-August, Lensing is speaking of Sally's "measurable steps toward real recovery." "Remission" is the word she often uses, to keep us from nursing unreasonable expectations.
"It wouldn't be obvious to you who are with her all the time, but it's happening. I can see it clearly."
When Sally is in the bathroom, she tells me: "I persuaded her to visit the coffee bar on Greenwich Avenue where she had some of her most disturbing moments while manic. The idea is for her to demystify these places, to see that they are ordinary, that the things she believes happened there were all in her mind. When I asked her what it was like to be there, she said, 'What kind of question is that? It's a coffee shop. I had a cup of coffee.' I loved that answer. I'm going to lower her haloperidol, starting today. If all goes well, it will be the beginning of a gradual tapering off."
"We can't be too careful about this. The adjustment will be slow. She's still having psychotic flashes. Short in duration. Sometimes no longer than a minute."
"What kinds of flashes?"
"She thinks a neighbor is watching her or that she's being followed. That sort of thing."
We Hear You!