Part 5 in multipartite post, The ‘Madwoman’ v. the Madness of the State.
My interview with a second state-sanctioned Designated Examiner occurred on 22 May 2014. Wearing pointy-toed boots but not even a state-issued lanyard by way of identification, offering neither business card nor stating his business, an aging – and not in a good way, not like fine wine or oak-barreled scotch – strawberry blonde with matching beard, and gummy eyes that did not quite meet my own, the State’s second DE disrupted one of those precious natural sunlight hours when he swaggered to the picnic table where I sat with other involuntary members of a state-mandated matching captions-to-pictures card game in lieu of psychotherapy, and introduced himself as Rick.
Throughout his brief evaluation, Rick Sonnenberg, DE, stood under the shade of a tree uncomfortably close to me, backlit by dappled sunlight that periodically blinded me. He redundantly fired Mr. Stanciu’s rote-memorized questions at me, and interrupted and talked over every single one of my responses without bothering to listen to them, visibly enjoying his position of power over his involuntary and – in the ward in which I was held – predominantly female clients.
What month is it? What day is it? Who is the President of the United States? What time of day is it? Why are you here? Recognizing that Dr. Sonnenberg was likely not attempting to engage in deeper philosophical debate with that last question, I responded by succinctly summarizing the answers I had already given to Mr. Stanciu and Dr. Abbasi: Belinda Dalrymple, a naïvely young state social worker, repeated the name-calling “diagnosis” offered by my brother-in-law, an electrical engineer not qualified to make psychological evaluations, and again inquired if the Department of Health and Welfare had had an opportunity to review her email files.
“I don’t know.”
“Have you picked up the phone, called Oregon’s Department of Justice, and asked the prosecutor whom I referenced in my email to Ms. Dalrymple if his father worked the Patty Hearst case for the FBI, to add expert witness to the veracity of my biography?”
“Uh, no,” with a supercilious look he might have learned from Dr. Abbasi, or, to borrow a term from the business world, a look that I am beginning to recognize as the psychiatric persona.
“Who is the public defender assigned to my case?”
“I don’t know.”
“Will I get an opportunity to meet with the public defender before my court date?”
Whereupon Dr. Sonnenberg either lied or the DE is unfamiliar with Idaho’s mental health court procedure or the overburdened and underpaid caseloads of public defenders, “Yes.”
In a follow up question, Dr. Sonnenberg confused my brother-in-law as my brother and could not remember Belinda Dalrymple’s name. On the witness stand seven days later, Dr. Sonnenberg could not remember the location of our interview, confusing Intermountain Hospital with Saint Alphonsus.
“What day of the week is it?” Dr. Sonnenberg continued his well-rehearsed psych evaluation.
“Governor Otter did not fare so well in a couple of the counties in the GOP primaries, that was on the front page of today’s paper,” smiling as sweetly as I could muster, “Is it Thursday?”
“Ohh, I didn’t even know that,” Dr. Sonnenberg confessed his lack of political awareness, not unusual within the mental health professional community, as I learned, listening to staff repeatedly tell me, in a tone of martyred whining, “I don’t watch the news. It makes me depressed.”