Month: February 2015

Reading of the Week: Alcohol and Withdrawal

On the Reading of the Week

As we did last month with the benzodiazepine papers, the selection of this week’s Reading was made with the editorial board of the International Psychiatry Twitter Journal Club, allowing us to consider this paper here, and to continue the conversation on Twitter. And that conversation is going on today.

Bonus: the paper’s first author is participating in the Twitter discussion. And Dr. Maldonado will be presenting unpublished data, too. #Cool. Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Dr. Doidge and Neuroplasticity

First he noticed it was becoming hard to sing, a nightmare because that was how he made his living and singing was who he was. Then he could barely sing at all but could still speak his lines. And then over a couple of years he began to lose his speaking voice, until it became wispy thin and trailed off, so that he could generate only short, barely audible bursts of whispered air.

“It was agonizing to watch him lose his beautiful singing voice, heartbreaking. I fell in love with that voice,” said Patsy Husmann, his wife of 50 years.

Years ago, I was invited to a dinner party. I found myself seated at a table with a noted poet, a New York Times bestselling author, a Toronto psychoanalyst, the former editor of a smart literary review, and an award-winning essayist. All these people were named Dr. Norman Doidge. Continue reading

Reading of the Week: My lovely wife in the psych ward

There’s no handbook on how to survive your young wife’s psychiatric crisis. The person you love is no longer there, replaced by a stranger who’s shocking and exotic. Every day I tasted the bittersweet saliva that signals you’re about to puke. To keep myself sane I hurled myself at being an excellent psychotic-person’s spouse. I kept notes on what made things better and what made things worse. I made Giulia take her medicine as prescribed. Sometime this meant watching her swallow, then checking her mouth to confirm that she hadn’t hidden the pills under her tongue. This dynamic led us to become less than equals, which was unsettling.

I’ve been a physician now for nearly a decade and a half. Much of everything has become routine. It wasn’t always like this. I remember the first night on call as a medical student doing my Internal Medicine rotation – the angst and confusion, as I received page after page. As a resident, I remember my first few “observed” psychiatric interviews, with the entire team present, so many people watching me. I remember the first few months of being an attending, trying to pace myself and navigate everything from dictations to the parking lot. But those days are behind me. Practicing day after day, week after week, year after year, routine sets in.

For patients and their families, though, health care is so often not routine – and that’s especially true with mental illness. It’s a world of first appointments, unexpected side effects and complications, recovery and relapse. Continue reading