Soon after I'd bought my new car, two things happened. Dr. Lebensohn lowered my medication to as low a dosage as he thought possible, and my three month medical leave of absence was up.
My agreement with United required passing interviews with four doctors before I could start work again. So during one week in mid-August, I drove in to D.C. for my first evaluation with Dr. Lebensohn, my personal psychiatrist, and then flew to San Francisco for an interview with both Dr. Wong, the psychiatrist who had treated me when I was in the hospital, and Dr. Schwartz, a medical director with United. When I came back from San Francisco, I met with the last doctor, another United medical director.
I remember walking in to meet with each of these gentlemen feeling like a quiet and polite zombie. I was looking much better, having gained a few pounds, with my hair one color, and wearing either a summer weight linen suit with two inch heals or a simple professional dress. In addition to the Revlon China-glaze Red lipstick and discrete eye makeup, my face had now cleared up. No more adult acne as I'd been fighting since my early twenties. I was pleased I didn't look like a hippy or beatnik, as I had at one time, but I felt artificial and frozen as I took my seat on their judgement stands. Then my gift of gab would kick in and with one or two questions from the doctors I was off, carrying on a conversation that any first class passenger and my mother would have been pleased with.
Each doctor seemed remarkably kind to me. I was likely the first United employee with schizophrenia wanting to get her job back that any of these men had ever had to interview. One doctor let me know that if it was marriage I was looking for that I shouldn't worry. He was younger than I and seemed puzzled that a thirty two year old "older woman" would want to start back to work after three months off. The other United doctor could only imagine I'd been on drugs. He was from San Francisco of course. Fortunately my appearance seemed contrary to a typical 60s West Coast drug user and my demeanor was more polished and focused than the sedated women from the Valley of the Dolls. Despite the discomfort of trying to answer their probing questions while still fighting the fog of medication, each doctor told me at the end of their interview they would be recommending reinstatement.
So by the first of September my life had turned a corner again. I received a letter from the Personnel Office letting me know although I would remain on probation for six months, I was now scheduled for my first flight. Unbelievable! While still feeling like a fallen angel with no place to go, I could now return to my love of flying.
To be continued ...