Go Crazy? Don't Mind If I Do!
I started working on this ward last Tuesday, choosing it based on its strong reputation of being a great place to learn, to work with interesting people, and to consistently stroll in at 9:00 AM and get out at 1:00 PM every day. Amid a sea of psychotics, I was quickly assigned to two patients, one a manic depressive on a downer so low that he may actually be more depressed than me at a hot shiksa convention (otherwise known as EVERYWHERE…gah!), and another with dementia manifesting as psychotic behavior. Swell.
Observing the proceedings of schizophrenics, I quickly started collecting some of the interesting things that occurred. Some like to punch themselves in the leg. Some are convinced of massive government conspiracies. Some have a penchant for flattery, perppering conversations with remarks about my greatness as a doctor and horrifically flammable farts. Meanwhile, some like to get caught masturbating all around the ward, rubbing their privates in every which way for any passers-by. Lovely.
As each day in this ward has gone by, as I have been surrounded by more and more people with all sorts of delusions about wire-tapping, government agents, being followed, talking angels, leprechauns (OK, OK, that’s not all true…you can’t be a paranoid schizophrenic about government wire-tapping when, in reality, you are actually being wire-tapped), I am noticing a change in my own perception, one not obvious to me until my stroll to the gym this afternoon (“gym” being my code word for “the hospital that I never left during the entire day until 5:00 PM”, of course). Yikes.
Walking down the street, I brushed by a gentleman standing by a pole. I thought nothing of it at first, but soon I found myself thinking about how odd it was that he was wearing a formal suit with dark sunglasses during an otherwise dreary, cloudy day. I kept walking, but when I turned to look behind me he was following me from behind. Weird. I kept walking, faster now, but he was still behind me, keeping pace. Shit.
I made it to the center part of campus where there was a big crowd, and I ran into someone from my class. We chatted for a moment before we went our separate ways, but I couldn’t help but notice that not only was that Sunglasses Guy still behind me, but also there were a few random people nearby giving me funny looks. The kind of funny looks you give someone when they are talking to themselves. The kind of funny looks I give to the transients at Starbucks I see talking to themselves on a regular basis. Then I started wondering whether that classmate didn’t even exist, that I was going nuts, that I was losing my mind just like John Nash did, sans the mathematical genius or ability to score a hot chick who, by virtue of having dark hair, was also obviously smart.
I’m sure there’s a good lesson to take from this. Some would probably throw around ideas of transference and counter-transference or different fancy shmancy big psychiatric words. Others might tell me about my engrams and how I too could be a certifiably insane movie star. I don’t really know. However, I do know that I have another four weeks to go on my psychiatry rotation, and I’m more than a little worried that I’m going to have to check myself in before it’s all said and done.
But, if nothing else, there is one lasting lesson to remember: when they say that part of a patient rubs off on you, at least make sure they don’t mean that literally, because they could be referring to the dude who masturbates in public and it’d be a shame to stain your otherwise impeccably clean white coat.
P.S. Extra points for anyone who can name the person I am quoting in the title and the context in which this person makes this statement. And by extra points I mean a seat next to me and my Queen Amidala doll (Best. Gag Hanukah Gift. Ever.) at the Dorkiest People Alive convention.