When Evelyn Walker tried to swallow the ant killer she had bought that February day she found the smell overwhelming.
Undaunted, she emptied the chlordane into a pitcher of lemonade from the refrigerator and drank it down. She fell to the floor with a primal scream and awoke at the La Jolla Scrips emergency room. Resting after undergoing gastric lavage to rid her body of the ant poison, she turned out the lights and willed the pain in her belly and chest to go away.
The door swung open, the lights came on, and her psychiatrist stood at the foot of her bed saying, "You didn't even know how to kill yourself. You used the wrong kind of poison."
"I'm very sorry," she found herself responding with bitterness, "I'll try to do better next time."
"I should think so," he replied.
How did she come to be in such a horrifying situation? This was a woman who by all accounts appeared to have it all -- the handsome, devoted husband, two beautiful sons, the $160,000 house in La Jolla, and an eye for color and line that she had developed from a cottage industry into a successful career as a interior design consultant.
But her life was overshadowed by headaches and depression. Deciding that they weren't caused by any physical problem, she asked her friend and neighbor, Dr. Gary Shepherd, to refer her to a psychiatrist. From his list, she selected Dr. Zane Parzen, a respected member of the psychoanalytic community and a teacher of Shepherd.
She began seeing Parzen once, then twice, a week. Within six months after her first appointment, she became involved in what were, in essence, 50-minute sessions of psychosexual abuse.
Week by week, Parzen would guide her to greater sexual intimacies, telling her that she belonged only to him and that only he cared for her. When she would accede to his demands but ask why she was still paying $55 a session, his response was, "You're paying for the time, not the caring."
Their relationship was no secret. She was forbidden by him to tell anyone, but in her often drugged state, she would find herself telling her husband, his family, and her neighbors.
No one wished to become involved. Her husband abdicated responsibility, telling her she was Parzen's problem now. Shepherd was reluctant to file a complaint against a colleague.
Evelyn's suicide attempts became so common that one neighbor remarked that taking her to the emergency room was as common as taking her kids to school.
Remarkably, it was not the fact of their relationship that brought one of Parzen's fellow analysts to begin an investigation. Dr. Al Robbins, chairman of the impaired physicians committee of the San Diego Psychiatric Society, was asked by one of his part-time employes if he thought it was appropriate for a psychiatrist to hit a patient in therapy. The employe was a severely anorexic woman who was a patient of Parzen's.
When Robbins started to look into this, he found that Parzen had asked this woman to let him take nude photographs of her emaciated body so that she could see how sick she was. He also discovered that the woman had become pregnant by Parzen, and had had an abortion arranged by him. The woman refused to testify against Parzen.
Shepherd and Robbins approached Evelyn Walker and requested her help in bringing charges against Zane Parzen. Parzen had stopped seeing Walker some time before and had sent her to another psychiatrist.
She agreed to help bring charges against Parzen, not to hurt him, but because she believed it would help him and, perhaps, bring him back to her.
With her help, charges of unethical conduct were brought against Parzen before the Board of Medical Quality Assurance, the California board that licenses doctors. Eventually he admitted his guilt in all the incidents but claimed that he should still be allowed to practice, as long as he didn't see a particular type of woman patient with whom he felt he could not control himself. The board disagreed and suspended his license for one year.
Evelyn Walker went to court to win the right to file suit against Parzen for his admitted malpractice, and the jury agreed that the statute of limitations had not expired.
She then sued Parzen for malpractice and was awarded more than $4 million. One juror was heard to say that $100 million wouldn't be enough.
Far from a vindication, the award was a reflection of the jury's belief that Evelyn Walker was so damaged as a result of her two years of "therapy" with Parzen that she would require psychiatric care for the rest of her life.
Walker wasn't the first woman to be victimized by her psychiatrist, and she won't be the last.
In the July 1986 edition of The Psychiatric Times it was reported that in November, 1984, a research survey was sent to every fifth American psychiatrist under age 65. More than six percent of the respondents admitted to having had sexual relations with their patients.
Perry Dean Young and Evelyn Walker have brought forth a compelling account of one woman's abuse at the hands of her psychiatrist.
This book is not a diatribe against the profession of psychiatry. Nor is it an indictment of all psychiatrists treating female patients. It does address the issue of how it is possible for a woman to become so under the influence of her analyst as to be incapable of leading a life even remotely normal.
She became so incapacitated by his psychological abuse and overmedication that she was unable to function, losing her family, home and security, and these events were all planned by Parzen (as evidenced by his foreshadowing them in his clinical notes) so as to further increase her total dependency upon him.