Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Director

Pseudo-Uncle haa been nagging me to write this post, but then he wouldn't let me have my computer when we got home from dinner. His bratty little nephew pushed me into a bank of wet snow before I had gotten into my coat at dinner, and I got really cold. The adults wrapped me in warm blankets and wouldn't let me out until now. You don't get sick from being a little cold, but these people are incredibly cautious. Anyway, back to the topic at hand, which is my hospital departement's Director of Medicine, otherwise known as Dr. Jeff. Dr. Jeff, if you happened to read my last blog and miraculously have some recall of it (it wasn't very memorable), had ueged me to write in more depth about the Pseudos because I had made them out to be rather flat characters who exist in my writing solely as pawns in my little world. Pseudo-Uncle, charitable man that he is, particualrly after learning that he had passed his last set of exams of his medical school career (way to go, Scott!!!), thought he should return the favor, and urged me to write about The Director. I'm a guest in Scott's home for the week, so I owe it to him to do as he asks. Nothing I write here is my fault, Dr. Jeff. Pseudo-Uncle made me write it.

Dr. Jeff is an old friend of my dad's from medical school, but I didn't know him well. He and my dad were ushers and groomsmen in each other's weddings before I was born. My parents and Dr. Jeff and his wife skied together on a no-kids retreat virtually every winter since my dad and Dr. Jeff graduated from medical school. Dad and Dr. Jeff looked enough alike to have been mistaken for each other on a fairly regular basis when they were med students. The resemblance has diminished a bit as Dr. Jeff has matured to basically look his chronological age of forty-seven (sorry, Dr. Jeff), while my dad still passes for being in his late twenties. I had met Dr. Jeff a couple of times when he adn his family were passing through and stopped at our home, but the two of us were not well acquainted.

When the unfortunate events of the past fall caused me to have anxiety attacks, nightmares,flashbacks, and all manner of psychological trauma, and the trauma didn't dissipate in the first four weeks as it should have, my parents felt that their best option in seeking treatment for me was to send me to a hospital at which the child and adolescent mental health programs were overseen by Dr. Jeff. Dr. Jeff would not be providing my medical or psychological treatment, for the most part, as it isn't sound practice to treat the child of close friends, and, furthermore, it seems he had a great deal of pre-existing knowledge concerning me long before my parents even considered having me admitted to his hospital. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why, when adults get away from their kids for a few days, all they talk about is their kids. When I have kids, I will not trash talk them to my friends on a regular basis.

So I was at Dr. Jeff's facility, unbeknownst to me. In retrospect, I had seen him observing me in the distance at the facility, but I thought little of it. The last time I had seen him prior to being admitted to his hospital, he was sporting a beard and mustache, and he was clean shaven by the time I entered the hospital. My first face-to-face interaction with him occurred right after the time I snuck out of the facility to go jogging and was sent to his office as a consequence, as though he was the principal or something. There, in his office, I saw photos on the wall that made it clear the man was not a virtual stranger to me.

Since that time, Dr. Jeff has been more openly observing me. He still doesn't provide my formal therapy or evaluation, but he finds excuses to poke his nose into my business on a fairly regular basis. Staff members feel free to rat me out to him any time I am uncooperative, which is typically when I'm being forced to drink growth shakes or to eat something I don't like, but occasionally at other times as well. Then I am summoned to Dr. Jeff's office, where we engage in verbal sparring matches in which he accuses me of opposing him because of my need to oppose my father, who is not physically present for me to oppose. He says that the reason I rebel against my father is that I know he will not let me out of our parent-child relationship even if I behave in an obnoxious and oppositonal manner, but that I am afraid to oppose my mother because I do not have the same level of trust in her.

It's good that he isn't my case manager or therapist of record, because he's far from calm or objective when he deals with me. Our office sessions usually begin with him asking me why I think I'm there, and my suggesting either that I don't know why I was sent there or giving some totally bogus reason in order to distract him. He's incredibly easy to distract. It amazes me that the man had a sufficient attention span to make it through high school, much less through college and medical school.

For example, the time I organized the food boycott where all any of us in the ward threw our dinner entrees in the trash but heaped spoonfuls of mayonnaise onto our trays and ate it because the psych staff member in charge of observing the meal had disclosed that she loathed mayo so much that even watching someone eat a hamburger or sandwich with a liberal amount of it would make her throw up. I just pretended to eat it. In truth, I hate mayonnaise almost as much as the psych staff member we were grossing out. If I had been in the Donner Party and had been offered the options of a serving of mayo, death by starvation, or a piece of Tamsin Donner's leg to eat, I'm not sure which of the latter two options I would have selected, but I know I wouldn't have eaten the mayonnaise.

One staff member (whose identity shall remain undisclosed in any form because the person is a true friend to crazy people) had clued me in that Dr. Jeff had a big jar of mayo in his office and was going to make me taste some since I professed to be so fond of the stuff. He must have remembered from some earlier incident my parents had related to him just how much I detest the greasy white glop. I knew I had to go to Plan B, which I save for my very worst crises.

Anyway, my parents don't even know this (they do now), but I can dislocate my left arm at the elbow at will just by twisting it in a funny direction. It doesn't even hurt when I dislocate it, and I can put it back into place myself almost as easily as I can dislocate it. I actually hurt it once on the uneven bars in gymnastics when I was little, and while one of the coaches was trying to reach my parents, I accidentally snapped it back into place myself. I convinced the coach not to call my parents because I hated medical treatment even then. I should have been a Christian Scientist or a member or the General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn or one of those other churches that kills off its kids by not getting medical treatment for them.

Since then, I discovered that my left arm is easy to dislocate and pop back into place. It was once my talent in a talent show at tennis summer camp. The kids voted on the winner, and I beat everyone including juggler and the kid who could play tuba and piano at the same time. My parents saw the trophy and assumed I had played the piano to win the competition. My brother didn't rat me out. My uncle, as the camp owner and operater, didn't bore himself with plebian matters such as the talent shoe, and thus had no knowledge of it to impart to my parent.

Dr. Jeff had me summoned as usual. I twisted my arm out of its socket at the elbow right before going into his office. He started with general small-talk stuff. I'm sure he was trying to lull me into a false sense of well-being before springing for the kill. Just as he appeared to be getting close to mentioning the actual reason for my presence in his office, I rested my left arm briefly on the arm rest of the chair in which i was seated and began biting the fingernails on my right hand. Then I moved as though I was planning on biting my left fingernails, but winced as though it hurt to move the arm, but minimized it as though I didn't want to let on that I was in pain. I quickly moved the arm to my side using my good arm.

He caught the bait, noticing the protruding bone. "What happened to your arm?" he demanded.

"Nothing. It's fine," I insisted, pulling the sleeve down as far as it would go. He forced me to show him my arm. I eventually lied and told him it happened when I was trying to do Chinese pushups (a stupid form of pushups that I'm sure no one in China has ever heard of, and I, for one, certainly don't waste my time doing). He mentioned X-raying my arm, but finally decided just to put it back into place. I protested loudly, but I eventually let look at but not touch my arm. He promised me that putting it into place wouldn't hurt, and that if it did hurt, he would let the ward order pizza for dinner. (That was what the whole disagreement involving the mayonnaise-only food protest had been about in the first place; we wanted to use our own funds to purchase pizza and were not allowed because we hadn't done anything special to merit a celebration.) I held him off for about three minutes, but pretended to be interested when he showed me a bird's nest in a tree outside his window to distract me. He took me arm and gave it a few quick twists, popping the bone back. He didn't do it as quickly as I could have done myself, but he was probably trying to be gentle. By the time he had relocated the bone in my arm, Dr. Jeff had, of course, forgotten all about the mayonnaise revolt. He even gave me a Tootsie Pop for my troubles, and he paid for the pizza that we all ate for dinner that night.

The inmates in my facility call Dr. Jeff "John Edwards" behind his back because he has a large mirror in his office which he uses to look at himself in order to fix his hair. He looks at his images in any reflective surface he can find, including the clock outside the nurse's station and the high-gloss ebony grand piano that was moved up from the third floor because no one there uses it. Dr. Jeff doesn't like to wear his glasses because he thinks they make him look old, but he can't read anything without them. He apparently thinks appearing illiterate is preferable to looking his age. He wears white tennis shoes with his dark dress pants. No one knows if he thinks it looks good or if he's color blind, or if he feels that athletic shoes are necessary for his line of work (he never knows when he'll have to chase or run away from a crazy kid or adolescent, apparently) and doesn't realize athletic shoes can be purchased in dark colors as well as in white.

I could tell many more Dr. Jeff stories, but this post is much too long already. Another time I will share how Dr. Jeff has fallen for stories about of how aliens and Catholic saints visit me in my room at night, or that I can't have injections because my parents think I will learn to like the feeling, and it will lead to self-injurious behavior on my part. Other things I can't mention here at this time, because once I do, he will know the stories are false, and my dad will know I told blatant lies to a doctor. (My dad already knows now, or will by tomorrow morning, and I'm already going to be in trouble, but I will minimize the damage because I'm not a masochist.)

I must end this post by being fair. Dr. Jeff doesn't allow anyone on the staff to abuse me without dire consequences.(He probably feels that the privilege of abusing me is uniquely his.) If I have a bad headache, he tries every available remedy until he finds one that gets rid of my headache. If my dad is supposed to show up at the hospital and flakes out because his mind is on lymphoma and leukemia instead of on his only daughter, Dr. Jeff takes me to do what my dad had said I would get to do. If I'm tired of hospital beds and hospital food, he takes me home to stay with his family for the weekend. If I need to run, he puts on his running shorts (he's already wearing the shoes) and runs with me.

The entire experience surrounding my need to be a patient in a mental health ward is not one I would wish on anyone or one I would have chosen for myself, but I know it would have been worse if I weren't in Dr. Jeff's hospital.


  1. Hey! There's a honoured tradition of psychiatrists wearing white tennis shoes with dark trousers and even suits!

    A prime example of this is the late Dr Timothy Leary. actually, no, he was a psychologist, not a psychiatrist.

    I once heard of someone who always wore one red shoe. but he never revealed why.

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  3. Wow! So Dr. Jeff is following some sort of protocol. We just thought he was clueless.

  4. Alexis,
    I have to admit I enjoyed reading your blog even though I was troubled by your "talent" of dislocating your arm. I trust that you have seen the light by now and are going to focus upon one or more of your many other talents. Have fun but stay out of trouble for the rest of your trip. I have enough work on my hands without having to reform you when you return here. Besides, I'm awfully busy just keeping my hair perfectly in place.
    The hospital wing is too quiet without you. Everyone misses you.
    Dr. Jeff AKA "John Edwards"

  5. Listen Dr Jeff, take it from me, it's nice to have enough hair to keep in place!

    By the way, here's a sobering thought for you all. My wife is a psychologist. She always seems to know what I am going to do, even before I know!

  6. Matt, my mom has about a 90% success rate as far as predicting what I will do or say. I don't know if she's as good at predicting the same for my dad; she's never told me about it.

  7. Matt, the little twerps under my care may think I'm vain, but they have no idea of the mess they'd have to look at on a regular basis if I didn't shellac it into place and touch it up every chance I get. It's for them that I do it. I don't have to look at myself.LOL.
    Jeff/John Edwards

    Alexis, when are you going to blog about the serial polygamist who visited you?

  8. Jeff, if you've got it, flaunt it, that's what I say!

  9. 90%? She's good, I'll give her that! ;o))

  10. This post gave me a good laugh. Thanks, Alexis!