Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Normality is positivity. Philosophy 101 (taught by a mental case)

I was always sad that my MBChB didn't involve any philosophy courses.

But there are teachers of the philosophical arts everywhere.
They are even present on the Psychiatric Island...

The Isle of Psych is the northernmost corner of our massive emergency unit. A non-officially designated far-flung corner of the EC to gather and herd the acutely psychotic patients.
We do not have a cushioned, calming space to keep the constant stream of psychiatrically disturbed patients contained, so we created  the Psych Island. ( We learn to make it work around here.)

I spent the day on The Island today. I don't know what I did to piss my boss off, but I was banished there for 9 hours, and given the sole job of sifting through the complicated mess of certification forms, and transfers to the correct psychiatric facilities.

One inhabitant of the island, was a peace-loving rastafarian. He was a lover of Mary-Jane, and he told me that, as a medical professional, I should know that all medicines contain a trace of marijuana and if doctors are using it then it should be legalised.

I know some doctors who have used heroin. So his logic is kind of dangerous.

I asked him why he thought he had been brought to hospital.

He told me that it was because people do not want to listen to the wisdom that was bestowed upon him by Jah above.

Intrigued by his reason, I asked him, "Well what is wisdom, my brother?"

He replied, "Wisdom is humility".

"Ah" I said. (humbly, because I am wise)

"Doctor," he said, " I really shouldn't be here. Can't you see that I am normal?"

"What is normality, my brother?" I asked him.

"Normality. All that it is, is simple. Normality, it is positivity, my sister".

Normality is positivity. Yes!
I was now starting to doubt this diagnosis of mental illness a little bit. And while it may have been the strangeness of a busy day spent on The Island and not having had time to eat lunch,  this guy was suddenly starting to sound like a true sage of infinite widsom.

So I said to him, " But sometimes, we feel very negative, and that causes problems. We can't be positive all the time can we?"

To which he replied, " No, my sister but we can try all the time. And time is a healing power, that marches inexorably towards love."

Holy shitballs!! There was no way I could certify this patient as crazy. This patient was a philosopher come to teach me the all-encompassing ancient truths of the universe.

I was suddenly in love. Mostly because never in my 7 years of being a doctor has a patient ever used the word  "inexorably" .
Actually, nobody of all the people that I know has ever used the word inexorably in a conversation.


I  told the boss that I had discovered a philosphising oracle on The Island and thanked him for putting me there today.

He ignored my excitement and told me that actually the patient was a forensic psychiatry case and was referred to us incorrectly by the local courts. He had sworn at the judge during trial, and behaved bizarrely in court so had to be assessed for mental fitness.


No matter. I wasn't gutted. This meant that I was off the hook, and did not have to officially declare my Rastafarian guru as a loony tune.

"Peace be with you", he said as he left with the policeman. That made me feel warm inside. And I immediately forgot about the dreariness of the long day. I walked out at 17h00 with a smile on my face thinking that truth is perception and experience. So yeah, ok fine,  that judge thought Rasta guru was a mental case because he swore at him and only answered his questions with parables. Fair enough. But after a day dealing with angry and frustrated psych patients,  my interaction with him left me feeling like I had smoked some of the happy tabaccy.

I floated out of the unit remembering one of my favourite quotes from a beloved childhood book:

"...And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.  Those who don't believe in magic will never find it."
 - Roald Dahl, The BFG

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