Monday, November 13, 2006


Late afternoon here, after a day of highs and lows. You can look out over the balcony (through the safety glass) and see the parklands and the tops of trees and maybe a glint of river. Beneath me, in the smokers' gazebo, you can see the tips of lit cigarettes, glowing and burning, the colour of cats' eyes.

A few years ago Clearwater (and much of Mordor) suffered the ignominy of a mosquito problem. I smiled when I heard it. I like the thought of mosquitoes descending and alighting on our patients, then flying off feeling… somehow different, filled with psycho-active chemicals from the patients' blood.

Clouds of mosquitoes on lithium and valproate, fat, calm, celibate and benevolent mosquitoes. And the mood stabilizers gradually seeping through the ecosystem until we have relaxed magpies, chubby mice, hawks who don’t feel any more that the government is keeping an eye on them.

Nature, fluffy and pink in tooth and claw.

The low came earlier today, when I was told that I would not be going home today as hoped. I had been home over the weekend for overnight leave, and advised to have a “low stimulus” night at home, which I interpreted to mean sharing a bottle of wine over a romantic Doctor Who video and later on watching an episode of ER.

That was good, that part of the night went very well, but not everything else was good. I did go backward a bit, as if by returning to the place where I got sick I took the sickness back.

I got the whole emotional lability (going from fist-clenching frustration to to sentimental tearyness in minutes, each time in response to things I would normally have taken in my stride), indecisiveness (being literally unable to decide whether I should or should not have a cup of coffee), and late at night the return of that churning, repetitive, dull kind of thinking, like a cement mixer, over and over and over again, until I surrendered at one AM and took the prescribed “something to help me sleep”.

Anyway. Ups and downs. The main thing at the moment is Dr Tesla feels I am not yet well enough (“And did you think you would be? Are you Speedy Gonzales? If your leg you had broken would you be running only two weeks afterwards?”) to go home, and so we will see. Maybe Wednesday, maybe Friday. Two weeks off from work after that, if we can afford it.

I know I have some way to go. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt I cannot work as a doctor like this. I would not put myself in charge of the onion rings at the football.

The thing is, I feel – I don’t know. It takes time. It takes time not only because I have to heal but because I have to change, change the way I do things.

Without wishing to be tedious, this is how I see things. The following may contain traces of amateur psychology.

When I get sick I feel that there is some absence, some structural deficiency in me, something essential missing, some loss or something lost. I suspect this may be the case for everyone.

In my daily life I spend a lot of time and energy trying to cover up for the loss, pouring a lot of stuff into the void, filling up the emptiness with noise and light. Working, helping, saving, as if there is some equation that says “If I do this, if I work hard enough, if I am interesting enough, if I be good enough, If I save enough people… I will be loved.”

Again, I suspect this may be the case for a lot of people I know as well.

The problem is that there is no amount of this kind of stuff that will fill that hole. There is no amount of external validation that can fill up that internal lack. There is not enough sacrifice and noise and spectacle in all the world for that, no way to solve this algebra of the heart.

So how do you stop causing it? How do you change what you’ve been doing for years, stop all the fuss

...the least experienced drug and alcohol doctor in the busiest clinic in the part of the city with the grimmest part of the city … doing lots of “extras” – giving talks to the interns, med students, nurses, being involved in the ECG program (me and three others), the immunization program (me and one other very part time guy) and the methadone/endocrine program (me and no-one else)… trying to keep in touch with my chosen field, through infrequent shifts and even less frequent study, as the exam draws ever closer and my chosen field moves further and further ahead of me…being a husband to Sarah, a son to my elderly father, an uncle/father to my niece and a father to my two sons*, trying to write and keep fit and keep the house looking decent and feeling more and more guilty and panicky as these things trickle out from between my fingers… and covering up the guilt and panic by scrabbling for more things to take up –

... stop all the fussing and start to learn to do without it?

How do I learn to listen in the quiet when that's just not something I've been particularly good at for the last ten or so years?

With things as they were, something had to give. There is a reason they called these places asylums.

Anyway, that’s what I have to learn to do. I am wary of “shoulds” and “have tos” at the moment, wary of drawing that line which I then trip over. But I think it would be a good thing to learn, and I’ve been told to take this two weeks off, not do or plan or work at anything other than getting better (and some manual labour – apparently building a new chookhouse is okay), and in this I will, against all previous inclinations, be guided by my doctor.

Thanks for listening,


*It was in this last cause, by the way, that I went with my eldest son the other day to see Jackass II. The best thing about it was you didn’t have to see Jackass I beforehand, you could sortof pick up on the plot and the character development that had happened before fairly quickly.


Blogger Benedict 16th said...

And what part of a U2 concert is quiet and serene and contemplative etc....

Who is not at the concert teasing his fritz off!

Word Verification: drlthk - Dr Lightthink? Dr Lthk ???

9:30 PM  

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