Thursday, September 28, 2006

You don't have to be crazy to work here... actually, you do.

Sarah is sick, one of the more convincing cases of actual laryngitis I have seen, and so things here have been rather rushed over the last few days. Consequently no responses to posts as of yet (sorry) and four or five half-finished entries by me sitting in draft form.

The ideas in these entries have probably passed their use by dates, but if I don't post them now... well admittedly life will probably go on. However, I feel I should make an effort.

So... we had our drug and alcohol doctors meeting today. It's a small affair, and today's was smaller than usual, with only me, Dr Blatherton, Dr Grizzle, Dr Dryad and a medical student. The medical student was small and wide-eyed, and said nothing.

Weirdly, I enjoy the doctor meetings. It's almost the only time I get to see other doctors, and the meetings are the only time (except the dinner table) I can discuss medical stuff. We list it down on the programme as "professional development", and if no-one wants any professional development, the boss talks about his junior cricket team or something.

We use the time to discuss any of our worries or concerns about how we practice, so when I am there everyone gets to sit around and watch as I develop myself professionally, often for the full fifty five minutes.

This is also the forum where I (silently) hone and test my theory that the drug and alcohol service only hires doctors with a recognised Axis I or II psychiatric disorder. Some of this is a matter of public knowledge - Dr Grizzle, who has been introduced to our multiply pierced ferociously competent social worker eight weeks in a row, each introduction eliciting the same pleasantly surprised look and handshake of welcome.

Doctor Girzzle recently wrote words close to the following in a patient's discharge letter: "Unfortunately, while Mr Smith was in the Remand Centre his house was broken into and some of his possessions were stolen. Perhaps now he knows what it feels like to have your house broken into, your intimate possessions rifled through and anything of even trivial value sold for a tenth of its price to feed someone’s life of vice!"

All true, and there can be few who have not thought similar things themselves, but not the kind of thing the renal registrar at the Royal needs to know.

So, Dr Grizzle has what she says is bipolar disorder, but I think is either that or schizoaffective. I have managed to conceal my illness from my colleagues via posting about it on the internet. Dr Dryad is, by her own admission, an old-school neurotic. Sarah married me, not the most ringing endorsement of her mental health. Dr Rueben, our hepatologist, is an electrokleptomaniac, buys hundreds of things per week on eBay. As in hundreds of things.

And Dr Blatherton, the doctor who runs the north? Well, the case is not yet closed, and today he told us something remarkable about how he thinks.

I was talking about some terrible lie I had been told and how I had had to gently remind the woman that Wednesday's sworn testimony flatly contradicted Tuesday's sacred oath on her children's lives, and somewhere along the line I said “Imagine that”.

“I can’t” said Dr Blatherton.

There was a pause. “What do you mean, you can’t?” I said.

“I can’t” he said. “I’ve got no visual imagination.”

This struck me as so extraordinary that I felt I had to pursue the matter. “By none, you mean none?”

“None at all” said Dr Blatherton. “When I close my eyes and try to imagine things, I can’t. I can’t picture stuff in my head. It's all black.”

“Good Lord” I said, impolitely but wonderingly. “So if I say ‘picture a triangle’…”

“I know what one looks like, obviously” said Dr Blatherton. “But I can’t ‘see’ it in any way, unless it's there. I suspect most people are the same, actually.”

“If I want to”, I said slowly, “I can picture a pink triangle superimposed over your face. It’s not as real as your face, not as solid, but it’s a definite, very clear triangle, a little more see-through, and I can say what the angles are, the size, that kind of thing.”

The medical student, quiet, big eyed, nodded in agreement.

“That’s weird” said Dr Blatherton. “Is it any use?”

“Use?” I said.

“Does it, I don’t know, serve any purpose?”

I honestly didn’t know what to say to that. I had a feeling like Wells' men must have had when they beheld the Martian on Horsell Common, or the feeling you got when you first tried to work out how it must feel to be a bat. That time you work out that there is no way of telling whether what you say is blue is the same as what I say is blue, or whether we just have the same name for irreducible distinct phenomena.

Trying to explain the sea to someone who hadn’t seen it.

Anyway. Yours in weirdness,
John

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In one of my writing classes I met a woman who claimed to dream in text. She also couldn't imagine anything in pictures - as a child, when a teacher asked the class to picture something in their minds she thought the teacher was kidding, and she surveyed our (adult) class on this topic with interest.

Her writing was extremely detailed, but I had trouble figuring out how you could write a scene without seeing it in your head. Apparently she just saw the text (and presumably read it to herself). I'm still not sure I entirely believe her.

Interestingly, her grandmother reputedly shared her view that picturing stuff in your mind was impossible, but her brother thought they were both nuts. A gender inheritance?

10:53 PM  
Blogger Prom said...

I may be another that doesn't actually "see" it in my head. I know what something looks like, I can form a search image but that image doesn't have any quality that is like unto an hallucination (which I have managed to induce a time or two). I also do better than most people with the search image task. For example, I rarely am limited to only one example when told to find a "pitcher" because I search for pitcherness, not a single type. I also don't really think I dream in pictures. I just know what happened. It is funny because I do very well on those visualization tests that have you mentally fitting puzzle pieces together.

1:44 AM  
Blogger Juanita J. Sanchez said...

Call me crazy, but I can picture things. Are you taking a survey?

4:55 AM  
Blogger TOBY said...

The trick as far as I'm concerned is getting the damn pictures to go away long enough to focus on what's actually there. I'm quite good at it now, but I remember feeling genuine astonishment as a child when told that nobody else could see the dinosaur that lived in our garden.

11:21 AM  
Blogger Niamh Sage said...

I picture things quite vividly. When I'm writing a story, I watch the characters act out the scene in my mind while I write it down. Sometimes I'm frustrated by the fact that what works well on my internal video screen doesn't translate nearly so well (or at all, in fact) to the written word.

I guess that's another one of those things that occurs along a spectrum.

3:29 AM  

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