Thursday, November 30, 2006

All I Want For Christmas

You Can Tell By The Way They Dress, Usually

Patient, overheard, in reference to another patient who sported a mohawk, all-black outfit, and pantlegs oddly tucked into his socks:

"I don't know. He looks pretty strange. I think he's an anarchist. Or he might be a Democrat."

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Green Acres Interlude

Nurse: Over the weekend Mrs. K suddenly became cheerful and cooperative. She hasn’t thrown anything or threatened to hit anyone since Thursday.

Dr. Turbo: Wow—that’s a huge change. Did she finally start taking her lithium?

Nurse: No.

Dr. Turbo: So what do you think is different this week from the last three months?

Nurse: Well, we put up the Christmas decorations.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Update On Toast

For a month of so now I’ve been making toast every morning at Green Acres, just after nursing report and before diving in to the day’s activities. To be technical, it isn’t toast, it’s English muffins—but same idea. Overall I would say the effect has been positive. As previously discussed, the aroma seems to have a calming effect on all within wafting range.

It seems, however, that I have become the staff’s “butter daddy”. I’ve been bringing in a half-pound tub of butter every couple weeks, of which I use perhaps a few tablespoons before it’s all gone. I don’t mind, except I fear I might be contributing to obesity. I suppose I could label the tub “Dr. Turbo’s – DO NOT TOUCH” but that doesn’t seem very congenial.

Along the same topic, I would like to buy my unit staff a gift for the holidays, but am stumped for ideas. It should be usable by all, which is roughly 30, working three different shifts. It should not contribute to obesity or smoking. It should not be outrageously expensive. It can’t be a new coffeemaker, because I gave that last year. Any ideas?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Breath In

It’s starting to smell like snow, and whenever it starts to smell like snow, wintery thoughts preoccupy my mind. I seem to have some special affiliation with cold, snowy weather—perhaps a genetic imprint, as I was literally made in New England during the darkest, coldest season of the year. So when that first chisel-sharp whiff of dry icy air wafts in each autumn; when the turf underfoot sends the first crunching sense; when the barometer drops ever so, and the ether seems poised to crystallize; when a deep breath of outdoors fills the lungs with that familiar carbonated tingle—well, then my head fills with a strange admixture of memories and anticipation, of fact and fiction, all of it white, and all of it cold.

The mélange includes scenes of childhood snow-forts during the blizzard of ’78; of gathering icicles with Favorite And Only Brother; of five-cousin toboggan rides down country hills; of overheated college lecture rooms and the distraction of huge snowflakes falling just out of reach beyond the windowpanes; of my grandparents’ horses exhaling icy plumes in barely-daylight, of my grandfather knocking dirty snow off logs bound for the fireplace, and the bare hut above Aspen where I learned the news that grandma had passed away; of a backyard igloo in Vermont, where I slept a night; of a snowstorm in Swaziland and the men who had never seen snow-angels; of hypnotic headlamped night-skis in medical school, all the woes of illness swish-swished away under the kick and glide; of aqua-iced moments of clarity above treeline in the Whites, which never seem preservable; of a riotous glissade down North Slide with Lead Dog; of a dozen yearly sub-zero weekends way up north, stoveside, hearing trees crack in the cold outside, with more friends than any man deserves; of a certain pizza place 517 and I frequented last winter, after Sundays on the slopes; of God knows how many perfect snowflakes caught and admired on black mittens over the span of thirty-some years; and always, always, a little wisp of Narnia, of a sleigh by a lamp-post, tracks in the snow, and the uneasy presence of magic.

Don’t come to the Smallish State in November. It will just seem dreary to you. Unless, of course, you can smell the snow coming.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


One of the staff at GA was asking about the miseries of my last sailing expedition (Smallish Staters are inately interested in all maritime topics.) “Was the boat going like this?”, he asked, making a up-and-down pitching motion with his hand. “Yes,” I said, “and also like this” (making a violent rolling motion) “and like this” (making a horrid yawing motion) “and sometimes even like this” (trying to demonstrate pitching, rolling and yawing motions all at once.)

“Well Dr. Turbo,” said our Peer Support Counselor, who was listening in, “now you know what it feels like on the roller coaster of mental illness.”

And I have to say, she probably has a point, if you can analogize physical to mental disorientation. Was that the point of going on that voyage? I sure hope it had some point.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Threat, or...?

"Motivational" sign on the wall at Green Acres:


Really? Promise?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


One character in the novel I’m reading is a sin-eater, a man who, for a bit of silver, takes on the sins of other villagers at their deaths. His serves by accepting responsibility for the past behavior of others. For this he is paid, but also universally reviled.

Sometimes, in darker moments, I wonder if the current shortage of psychiatrists is not so much a dearth of professionals skilled at treating mental illness, but rather a lack of individuals willing to take on liability for other people’s future behavior, behaviors over which we realistically have, at best, merely a thread of influence. How much of my salary compensates me for helping people—and how much is just paying me off to be culpable-by-proxy when the unpredictable, yet inevitable, tragedy transpires? And, perhaps, to accept an increased likelihood of being myself the victim of such a tragedy?

Through my work I believe I have helped many tortured souls live more peacefully (if not rest so eternally). Yet the work (and I) are reviled by many, often not least by my own “clients”. And I have had my bit of silver for it. Sometimes I can feel flames kindled for others licking at my own feet. As I say, these are dark moments.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Crawled Back Ashore

I'll have more to write about the voyage, probably, but for the moment let me just say: I am so happy to have a bed that stays level, a mattress that isn't soggy, food that stays on its plate, floors that don't fly out from under me, and a roof that doesn't leak (or at least, doesn't leak salt water.)