Monday, June 28, 2010

He who fights with monsters...

I've had to make some career decisions lately which got me thinking. The older I get, the more my professional and personal interests intersect. For example, I enjoy working with monsters both fictional and real. I am fascinated by what makes them tick, drives them to do what they do. To say that I am not frightened by them would be foolish. They are frightening, they're supposed to be. We mythologize serial killers as a form of exposure therapy. By hearing the terrible things they've done, we hope the shock will wear off. It's why we tend to make our monsters in cinema and literature either feral or cuddly, but rarely anything in between. If they're feral, you load up the artillery and go hunting. Problem solved. If they're sexy and innocuous, they aren't a threat. It doesn't matter he has fangs and no pulse, you can still pick out china patterns and take him home to Mommy. I like my monsters to be monsters even though their complexity makes my job inevitably more difficult. Complexity is not a vice. We all will be called upon to fight monsters at some point in our lives. It never hurts to be prepared.

Monday, June 21, 2010

We'll always have Heaven on Seven

I joke and say being a doctor is my day job, but the reality of any residency is practically living at the hospital. There’s a special bond which develops between people thrown in this pressure cooker for years at a stretch. My program has a buddy system, tossing two residents together for a year and a half of grueling inpatient work and a call schedule that makes everyone want to cry. For those eighteen months, I was with my resident partner in crime more than I was with my husband. Being in the trenches with someone fosters a certain level of trust and a deep sense of camaraderie. There aren’t too many people I believe would truly have my back, in fact, I can count them on one hand. He’s one of them… and he’s leaving. With any luck he’ll read this and understand while I may be good at manipulating words, I am terrible when it comes to saying goodbye. I am not an easy person to get to know, but he put in the extra effort. This easy-going attitude and concern for others around him is what makes him good at both his job and life. I don’t think I ever said thanks. Gratias tibi ago, my friend.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


The spiders have invaded. In all fairness, I knew they were coming and yet I did nothing to repel their advance. So here I sit, barricaded in my citadel, hoping our stockpiles last their siege or the first frost in the fall wipes them out, whichever comes first. I swore to a friend of mine in college I would never live higher than the tenth floor of a building. Turns out my foresight is terrible and I currently reside on the thirty second floor. The view makes it worth it and since I am a mosquito magnet I was hoping to at least get a reprieve from the bugs. No such luck. The spiders popped up that first summer and have been a reoccurring theme ever since. Overall, I like spiders. I like watching them spin their intricate webs and crawl around the windows doing their aerial acrobatics. What I am not so fond of is them dive bombing into my hair while I am trying to get burgers off the grill. I am left with the choice of surrender through cohabitation or making my stand and reclaiming the patio which is rightfully mine. This means war.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness.

I have absolutely nothing witty to say today. There are going to be days like this. I stare at a blank piece of paper and no matter how hard I try, all the creativity I have been granted with is nowhere to be found. I had a patient once who told me they didn’t want to take their medications because it dulled their creativity. Colors didn’t seem as bright, the world moved on around them, but their mind didn’t make the leaps it usually did. The spark was simply gone. I empathized with this more than the patient may have believed at the time given my strong insistence they remain on their regimen. Preserving their life through the crisis period was more important, but I know the abject loneliness of having that creative side escape you even for a short time. For truly creative people it’s not just a hobby, it’s an ingrained piece of themselves. It is all pervasive and when it is gone it leaves a gaping blackhole in the soul.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Doctor, the werewolf in bed 4 wants to talk to you.

After careful assessment, I have concluded a certain patient is not the werewolf they claim to be. Clinical lycanthropy is a rare psychiatric problem, but a very cool one which I have yet to see (for those who assumed I was purely vampire obsessed, guess again). In a nutshell, it is a psychiatric disorder where the person's delusions have them convinced they are or can change into an animal. Lest you think this is limited to alpha creatures like wolves, there is a case report of a patient who thought they were a bumble bee (and the list of creatures just gets odder from there). While many in my profession rightly chalk this behavior up to the delusion, I take an extra minute to reflect. I have read enough medicine to know the rational explanation is usually correct, but enough history and mythology to know the world is a strange place. A part of me is on the lookout for the outlier, the patient who may be beyond the scope of medical science and in the realm of the paranormal. I will likely never encounter this. The brain is a fascinating and sometimes terrifying organ, creating chaos where none exists. I spend my days helping people heal a troubled mind knowing somewhere out there is a person haunted by demons which are not merely a distortion of the minds eye. Medicine and time does not heal all wounds.