Showing 141 - 150 of 377 annotations tagged with the keyword "Mental Illness"

Running with Scissors

Burroughs, Augusten

Last Updated: Sep-03-2007
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This memoir chronicles the pre-adolescent and adolescent years of the author, the son of an alcoholic, abusive mathematics professor father and a psychotic Anne Sexton-wannabe confessional poet mother. The only family member who does not abuse the boy in any way is estranged--an older brother with Asperger’s syndrome. Meanwhile, the amount of trauma to which young Burroughs is subjected boggles the mind. Just when one thinks it couldn’t get any worse, it does.

Burroughs, who loves bright, shiny, orderly things, also likes doctors--paragons of cleanliness, virtue and wealth. Unfortunately, his mother’s psychiatrist, Dr. Finch, described as a charismatic Santa Claus-look-alike, is unethical, bizarre and squalid. As Mrs. Burroughs becomes more and more dependent on Finch, she allows her son to be adopted into the crazy Finch household.

This family includes wife Agnes, who copes with her husband’s infidelity by sweeping madly; son Jeff, daughters Kate, Anne, Vickie, Hope and Natalie; grandson Poo; and adopted son, Neil Bookman, who is twenty years older than Burroughs and homosexual. When Burroughs is thirteen, and has told Bookman that he, too, is gay, Bookman forces the boy to have oral sex. They become lovers.

The Finches, meanwhile, exhibit their quirks and weird tendencies in multiple ways. "Bible-dipping" is popular to read the future, as is prophesying by examining Dr. Finch’s turds. A patient with agoraphobia, Joranne, lives in one of the rooms--in fact, she has not left the room in two years. Young Burroughs is allowed to smoke and drink. When Burroughs says he doesn’t want to return to school, Dr. Finch facilitates this desire by giving Burroughs alcohol and pills to fake a suicide gesture, then hospitalizes the boy.

Yet Burroughs manages to befriend a couple of the Finch daughters, and to survive his childhood. The book closes with his departure for New York City and with an epilogue outlining various people’s outcomes. Finch lost his license due to insurance fraud.

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The Village Watchman

Williams, Terry Tempest

Last Updated: Aug-14-2007

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This is a short piece, a scant twelve pages, in which Williams remembers Alan, an uncle who had mental deficits. During his breech birth, Alan’s brain was starved of oxygen. In the dominant American culture, Alan is called “retarded, handicapped, mentally disabled or challenged.” Williams concludes, “We see them for who they are not, rather than for who they are.” (p. 29) The title of the work refers to an Alaskan totem pole figure whose expression reminds her of Alan. In Tlingit culture, there’s a story of a kidnapped boy who lived with the Salmon People. When he returned twenty years later, he was seen as a holy man, not an “abnormal.”

To the young Terry Tempest, Alan demonstrated enthusiasm and spontaneity, for example bowling with reckless glee, regardless of where the ball went. When she asked him how he was feeling, he said, “very happy and very sad,” explaining that “both require each other’s company.” (p. 31) She liked his direct answers, those of a person we sometimes call a wise fool. Later, he lived in a “training school,” a joyless, ugly, and smelly place where abnormal children in Utah were sent and warehoused. Suffering from epilepsy, he wore a football helmet to protect him from sudden falls.

At age 22, Alan made the choice to be baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Williams describes the ceremony and how the family supported him through it (including yet another violent epileptic episode). When Alan died at age 28, Williams was 18. Looking at the totem pole, she remembers Alan, seeing him for who he truly was.

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Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Draped in blue rags, an emaciated old guitarist sits cross-legged, strumming his guitar in a desolate setting. He is WRAPPED in his music and grief. Like the blind prophet, Tiresias in the Greek tragedies, he has seen all and knows the tragic destination of our strivings--all result in loneliness and death. Painted in Barcelona, the distorted style is reminiscent of the drama found in Spanish religious painting, particularly that of El Greco. The melancholy and pathos of Picasso's works from his Blue period reflect his sadness at the suicide of his young friend, Casagemas.

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Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The famed surgeon Douglas Stone flaunts his notorious affair with Lady Sannox, although his professional reputation begins to suffer. One night a mysterious Turk asks him to attend his wife, who has cut her lip on a poisoned dagger. The Turk insists that amputation offers the only hope of recovery. Anxious to pocket the proffered gold, and impatient to get to his mistress, Stone dismisses his professional misgivings. He excises the lower lip of the veiled, drugged woman--only to find that he was tricked into disfiguring Lady Sannox herself. Lord Sannox (disguised as the "Turk") thus gains his revenge, with his wife morally chastised (and forever after in seclusion), and Stone’s "great brain [thenceforth] about as valuable as a cap full of porridge."

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This Japanese horror story is set in a hospital in financial crisis, short of supplies and staff. We see various nurses and doctors struggling with their working conditions. A patient is injured falling out of bed, a nurse practices her IV technique on an unconscious burn patient, a demented woman wanders the hallways talking to apparitions she sees in mirrors. Two events set the central plot in motion: the burn patient dies because of a medication error and those present—Dr Akiba (Koichi Sato) who was responsible and Dr Uozumi (Masanobu Takashima) who was supervising, as well as the nurse who gave the lethal dose and her supervisor—decide to cover up the mistake, and a patient is brought to the ER suffering from a mysterious infection that is liquefying his internal organs.

Dr Akai (Shirô Sano), a senior physician, demands that Drs Akiba and Uozumi begin a study of the infected patient, despite their terror. The patient is never shown directly, but we see green ooze running from his bed. Akai argues that that discovering the pathogen causing this illness will raise money for the hospital, but the real incentive he offers is blackmail: he knows about the mistake and the cover-up.

As the night proceeds, all those involved in the error are infected, taking on zombie-like characteristics, behaving abnormally (a nurse attempts to transfuse her own blood into a corpse; a doctor tries to strangle a patient who has asked to have his pain relieved) and oozing green fluid before dying. With Dr Akiba, however, we begin to realize that the pathogen is not purely somatic. Dr Akai may in fact be the dead burn patient, the “green” ooze is red blood seen through the distorted perception of those haunted by guilt, and the title’s infection is the contagious fear felt by health care professionals who, for various reasons, are incapable of the infallible work of healing that is expected of them.

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Thin

Greenfield, Lauren

Last Updated: May-31-2007
Annotated by:
Jones, Therese

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Thin, a documentary film produced, aired and distributed by HBO, is the centerpiece of a multi-faceted project that explores the complex issues of body images and eating disorders in young women. Photographer and journalist Lauren Greenfield began documenting eating disorders in 1997, eventually publishing an article for Time Magazine and a book entitled Girl Culture, as well as producing a traveling photographic exhibit. Returning to one of the facilities featured in the exhibit, Greenfield took up residence at the Renfrew Center, an in-patient facility for eating disorders in Florida, to film the day-to-day suffering of four young women struggling with anorexia over the course of six months.

The youngest is Brittany, a sad and troubled fifteen-year old, whose bulimia and anorexia began when she was only eight (her weight bounced from 185 to 95 pounds in one year) and whose mother has her own very unhealthy relationship to food. Brittany is eventually returned to her weight-obsessed mother because of the loss of insurance. Shelly, a twenty-five year-old, psychiatric nurse, has been anorexic for six years and enters Renfrew at 84 pounds with a surgically-implanted feeding tube. Her identical twin visits to plead with Shelly to refrain from slowly killing herself and ultimately destroying their family. Polly is a twenty-nine year old, charming troublemaker whose health is returning but whose defiance of rules eventually gets her kicked out of the facility. The oldest patient is Alisa, a thirty-year old, divorced mother of two whose eating disorder ostensibly developed at age seven when a pediatrician persuaded her mother to put her plump daughter on a severe diet. Alisa's graphic account of a single day of binging and purging is shocking, and her forced release from Renfrew because of problems with health insurance precipitates a return to this pattern after she tucks her children into bed.

 

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Because She's My Friend

Sirof, Harriet

Last Updated: May-29-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Serving as a summer hospital volunteer, fifteen-year-old Teri d'Angelo meets Valerie Ross, a girl her age who has damaged a nerve in a fall, and lost the use of one leg. Valerie's anguish over her partial paralysis takes the form of anger; she manages to keep most of those who try to help her at a distance. But Teri finds her intriguing, and Valerie's condition evokes a kind of sympathy and interest in her that overcomes even the patient's most strenuous rebuffs. Gradually, and with much caution on Valerie's part, they become friends. Valerie finds herself welcomed into Teri's large, warm Italian-American family. Teri's compassion for Valerie grows as she recognizes her loneliness; Valerie's parents are divorced, her father rarely visits, and her mother keeps up a hectic work schedule.
      
Teri also benefits in ways she didn't expect from the friendship; Valerie's bravery, even when masked with anger, inspires her to speak up more clearly on her own behalf, to ask for what she needs, and even to circulate a petition at school when she feels she has been discriminated against in the judging of a science project.
     
When Valerie is taken to a "sanitarium"-a mental health facility-for depression and apparently psychosomatic involvement of her good leg in the paralysis, Teri visits her patiently, despite Valerie's apparent lack of interest. But finally, when she watches Valerie rejecting the grandmother who traveled from England to see her, she acts in uncharacteristic anger, and in the shock of the moment, Valerie stands up, proving to herself and others that her good leg does, infact, function.  It is a turning point in her healing.

In an interesting twist, the book ends with the girls drifting apart.  They are, indeed, very different. Valerie is planning to attend City College in engineering. Valerie is going to live with her grandmother in England and attend Oxford University, hoping later to become a writer. In a final phone call, two years after Valerie's accident, the girls part with some affection and gratitude on both sides, but also with an acceptance of the fact that their friendship may have been for a season. They gave each other important gifts, and now life is taking them in very different directions. 

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Bedside Manners

Watts, H. David

Last Updated: May-25-2007
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

The subtitle to this collection of insightful and compassionate essays by gastroenterologist David Watts is: "One Doctor's Reflections on the Oddly Intimate Encounters Between Patient and Healer." Watts provides 48 narratives, most of which concern his patients and are written in the first person. In the preface Watts states "The stories in this book are true" (xv), that he has received permission from his patients, and that he has "disguise[d]" his patients to respect their right to privacy.

The stories cover a range of settings, from Watts's home and locations in the San Francisco Bay area, to the clinic and hospital. They also cover a range of his experience from medical school ("Sylvester" and "Love is Just a Four-letter Word") to his current position as a practitioner and an attending physician at a teaching hospital.

Stories in which Watts clearly situates himself with the patient and details the encounter are most compelling. For example, in the opening essay, "White Rabbits" and later, in "Flu Shot," Watts allows the reader to discover that patience and listening are required to in order for the patient to expose why he or she is truly there. In that space, Watts becomes present for his patient, and one learns that what may initially appear tangential is central to the patient's concern.

Watts writes of some very difficult patients and families, such as a woman who stalks him ("The Stalker's Bridegroom"), a woman who obsesses over caring for her elderly mother ("Home Remedy"), and a woman who demands narcotics ("The Third Satisfaction"). In one of the longer pieces, "Codger," Watts describes an irascible, elderly Jewish patient who skewers just about anyone with his critiques, including Watts's young son, and yet who later exposes his vulnerability by unfolding the tale of his World War II service and discovery of a Nazi death camp. It is because Watts spends time with the Codger and recognizes that the doctor-patient relationship is above all a human relationship that the doctor receives the gift of the story: this terrible experience which informed the rest of the Codger's life.

A few of the vignettes explore the therapeutic potential of poetry. For instance, in "Annie's Antidote" a piano teacher, fearful of endoscopy, asks Watts to recite one of his poems. The poem concerns the tender relationship between Watts and his son and is a metaphor for Watts's patient encounters as well: "for this is one of those moments / that turns suddenly towards you, opening / as it turns, as if we paused / on the edge of a heartbeat. . . " The poem works, the moment opens, and the woman has her endoscopy.

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Summary:

This remarkable collection of short writings, introduced by renowned poet Naomi Shihab Nye, who visited the Sutterwriters (of Sutter Hospital in Sacramento, California) to offer a workshop, provides a broad, compassionate, imaginative window into the life inside and around an urban hospital. Patients, staff, and all interested in healing through writing are invited to come and participate-with an accent on the latter: no one is invited who isn't willing to write.

Chip Spann, the editor, came to Sutter Hospital with a Ph.D. in English, and has the privilege of coordinating this fluid community of writers as part of his work as a staffmember. His conviction, voiced in an engaging introduction, is that literature is a powerful instrument of healing--both the literature we read and the literature we create--and that the experience of literature belongs in community. The individual pieces are accompanied by photographs and short bios of contributors.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Paul Edgecombe (Tom Hanks) is in charge of death row in a 1935 Louisiana penitentiary. The cell block is nicknamed "The Green Mile?due to its green linoleum floor--the path that an inmate must walk from his cell to the room with the electric chair. Paul, a decent, moral man, treats each prisoner with respect. His life changes, however, with the admission of John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), a huge African-American man convicted of the rape and murder of two young sisters. Despite his powerful build, Coffey is gentle--and possesses a miraculous, mysterious power to heal.

Coffey heals Paul's bladder infection, resurrects a dead mouse, Mr. Jingles, that is the treasure of another inmate, "Del,?and cures the warden's wife of her inoperable brain cancer. Each healing requires direct contact between Coffey and the "patient,?and is accompanied by much electric and mystical effects. Coffey takes the infection, brokenness, disease into his body and is able to expel it, though it exhausts him.

Coffey's powers extend to visions and he directly feels the pain of others. He transmits his visions of the death of the two girls to Paul--who realizes that Coffey is innocent (indeed he had been trying to "heal?the children when he was apprehended) and that another inmate on the green mile is guilty of the crime. Paul, counseled by his supportive wife (Bonnie Hunt), asks Coffey what to do. Coffey, exhausted from suffering the knowledge of the evil of the world and cognizant of his lowly position as a poor black man, asks to have the execution proceed. His only request is to watch a "flicker show.?Paul arranges for him to see a Fred Astaire movie.

The executions are graphically depicted. One is particularly gruesome because of the evilness of the whiny, rookie guard, Percy, who deliberately causes a prisoner (Del) to suffer in the extreme. After giving the orders for Coffey's execution and watching him die, Paul quits his job.

The story is framed by Paul as an old man in a nursing home. Paul "tells?his story to another elderly "inmate?as an explanation for why he was overcome when watching the Fred Astaire movie in the common room. Paul reveals that he is far older than thought possible--as is Mr. Jingles who is still alive six decades later. Paul and the mouse were "infected with life?when touched by Coffey.

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