Showing 221 - 230 of 369 annotations tagged with the keyword "Mental Illness"

Creeping Thyme

Pies, Ronald

Last Updated: Oct-11-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

"Spell Check for a Malformed Fetus" (p. 1) sets the stage for some of the important themes in this collection by poet-psychiatrist, Ronald Pies. First, the lack of honest language to express life’s "mistakes" and disappointments. Our attempt to disguise the pain by using easy, but inaccurate, words. And finally, an expression of hope, even if only in the world of imagination: "if only / in your first fission / some godly processor / had blessed / your blighted genes."

Some of these poems emerge from relationships with patients, notably "Consultation Request" (p. 35), "Three Patients" (pp. 37-39), "Prolapse of the Uterus" (p.76), and "Congestive Heart Failure" (p. 85). "Smoke, Lilac, Lemon" (p. 45) evokes a fascinating test apparently used by some clinicians to distinguish depression from Alzheimer’s disease on the basis of olfactory function. The four "Alzheimer Sonnets" (pp. 87-88) tackle the difficult task of expressing the experience of dementia from the patient’s point of view.

Many of the other poems deal with love, memory, loss, and pain in the context of family and intimate relationships. Among the best of these are: the title poem (p.3), "Sitting Shivah" (pp. 14-15), "Riding Down Dark" (p. 16), "Visitant" (pp. 41-43), and "Migrations" (pp. 64-69).

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Esther (Marina de Van, who also directed the film) is a young urban professional woman. At a party, she goes out into the dark garden and trips, falling and tearing her trousers. Only several hours later does she realize that she has seriously wounded her leg. This is either the beginning of, or the first evidence of, a radical shift in her relationship with her own body.

The doctor who stitches the wound is surprised that she had not felt injury, and tests her for neurological damage, finding none. She starts cutting at the wound, refusing to let the skin close. Her boyfriend, Vincent (Laurent Lucas) and her friend Sandrine are both concerned and repelled by her behavior. She experiences a kind of separation from her body, and it appears that her mutilation of it is an effort to re-anchor herself in her own flesh.

At an important business dinner with clients, she drinks too much and suddenly experiences her left arm as separate from her body, a severed object that threatens to act on its own. She has to stop her left hand from playing with her food and, holding her arm on her lap, she cuts it as if to make it feel, to use pain to reattach it. To explain away the damage she has done to herself, she has to fake a car accident.

Eventually the compulsion exceeds her ability to control it, and she enters a crescendo of mutilation. She hurts her body with calm, detached interest, cutting her face, attempting to tan a piece of skin she has removed from herself, even eating her own flesh. At the end of the film she is alone, in some kind of new state that is not explained.

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Amends in Halak-Proot

Padilla, Ignacio

Last Updated: Jun-30-2004
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A medical school graduate, E. A. Talbot, fails twice his qualifying examination for a position as British Army surgeon. He leaves England and vows never to return to Europe. He lands a job working for the Dutch government as the administrator of Halak-Proot, a psychiatric hospital that houses about 100 mentally ill officers and some colonists. It is located in the jungle of Java. The institution is a magnet for madness. Patients never improve and sometimes get worse there. The soldiers are more inclined to feign psychosis than return to battle.

When his father dies, Talbot inherits property. He sells it and uses the money to transform the psychiatric hospital into a luxurious estate. Cases of dementia soon plummet. The facility no longer accepts any patients except those who are indisputably insane. Soldiers somehow discover their sanity and are refused entry. Talbot grows old in his exclusive paradise that now has room for only him, a guard, and a custodian.

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Summary:

Dr. Flaherty, a practicing neurologist, sets out to explore the act of writing and, more broadly, creativity, in the context of both neuroscience and emotion. She begins by describing several brain conditions that seem to enhance the need to write, even to the extent of obsessive hypergraphia. Next she turns to the opposite state, writer's block, looking at both psychological and neuroscientific perspectives.

Using some of the recent studies of the relationships between certain brain centers and language related phenomena, Flaherty further clarifies some of the cognitive bases for creating literature. Finally, the study turns specifically to the temporal lobe as the possible organic site of the perceived voice of the muse in religious and creative inspiration.

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Destiny

Parks, Tim

Last Updated: May-11-2004
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Written as an interior monologue, Destiny begins as Chris Burton receives a phone call informing him of his schizophrenic son's suicide. Burton, a British ex-pat journalist in the final stages of writing his chef d'oeuvre--a cultural history on national character--is married to Mara, a provocative, capricious, flamboyant Italian. The vitriolic arguments and hurtful stratagems that characterize their discordant marriage intensify with the crisis of death and its aftermath--the identification, transport and entombment of Marco's body. Family relationships are further complicated by Mara's distrust and estrangement of her adopted daughter, Paola.

Burton reveals the chaos that schizophrenia imposes not only on the patient, but also on the entire family. In order to avoid prison following an attack on his family and home, Marco had been placed in a psychiatric institute, Villa Serena, and it was at this facility that Marco stabbed himself to death with a screwdriver. The onset of disordered thinking and erratic behavior, the search for therapies, the various repercussions of guilt and blame (including recriminations about the intense, border-blurring maternal love lavished on Marco), are re-examined by Burton as he travels from London to Rome, sits vigil by his son's body in the camera ardente, and confronts his wife at her family's tomb.

Burton's physical distress mirrors his mental anguish. Burton has heart disease and obsesses about lacking his anti-coagulant medication. In addition to the worry of clot formation, urinary retention prevents Burton from emptying his bladder. These physical ailments of containment, confinement, obstruction and blockage form resonances throughout the book: the tomb, the strictures of marriage and the leakage of adultery, the oppressive family 'house of ghosts,' the separateness of interior thought from observable behavior, the barriers of language, the herky-jerky redirections of emergency travel.

Furthermore, the will to create permanence, to make one's destiny more than a transient destination, informs Burton's moves. In the midst of his exploding marriage and tormented trek home, Burton agitates over his work, and in particular, his book, which "must serve to transform a respectable career into a monument" (p. 1).

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Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This story of one exceptionally accomplished family's discovery of their past and future relationships with Huntington's Disease (HD) is also the story of how the Wexler family changed the cultural narrative of HD for other families at risk for this genetically-transmitted and currently incurable disease. The HD diagnosis of Leonore Wexler (the author's mother) inspires Milton Wexler, a psychologist, to create a major foundation for HD research, which develops critical mass and influence as Leonore Wexler's condition deteriorates, and after her death. The book interweaves the story of the Wexlers' emotional and other negotiations with HD and the story of their efforts to create an HD community comprised of those with active symptoms of HD, family members, advocates, and researchers.

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Ward 6

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Apr-22-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Dr. Andrey Yefimych Ragin has for many years been the superintendent of a town hospital. A solitary man who pursued a medical career to please his father, he feels superior to the people who live in the provincial town, none of whom engage in intellectual or aesthetic pursuits. Initially, Ragin was conscientious about his duties at the hospital, but after a while he withdrew his interest and energy. Now he sees only a minimal number of patients and leaves the rest to his assistant, Sergey Sergeyich.

Ragin has developed the philosophy that, since "dying is the normal and legitimate end of us all," there is no point in trying to cure patients or alleviate suffering. The endeavor is futile. While Ragin accurately observes deficiencies in the hospital and in the surrounding society, he does nothing to try to remedy them. Instead, he withdraws to his apartment and spends his time reading.

At one point, Ragin accidentally finds himself in Ward 6, where the lunatics are kept. One of them, Ivan Dmitrich Gromov is a well-educated paranoid man who engages Ragin in conversation. Ragin is so taken with this stimulating interchange that he begins to visit Ward 6 daily to debate with Gromov. Since the doctors never visit Ward 6, this is considered very peculiar behavior. Based on this new evidence of incompetence, the town council decides to fire Ragin from his position.

Ragin then goes on an extended tour with his one friend, Mikhail Averyanych, the postmaster. But when he returns, he behaves more strangely than ever. Finally, the new superintendent, Dr. Khobotov, tricks Ragin into visiting Ward 6, whereupon they incarcerate him as a lunatic. Shortly thereafter, Ragin has a stroke and dies.

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The Examining Magistrate

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Apr-21-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A district doctor and an examining magistrate are on their way to an inquest. The magistrate tells the story of a young pregnant woman who "foretold her own death" shortly after giving birth. Though she was apparently healthy, she simply closed her eyes and "gave up her soul to God." This tale, the magistrate contends, is an illustration of how inexplicable life can be.

No, the doctor responds, there is no effect without a cause. The woman probably poisoned herself, the doctor explains. Her husband was unfaithful. She wished to commit suicide, but did not want to harm the unborn baby. Thus, she waited until after her confinement. The magistrate is overwhelmed with grief--in fact, the story is that of his own wife. His infidelity may have caused her suicide!

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Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This is the story of Siddalee Walker's desperate search to understand the life of her outrageous, melodramatic, beautiful, alcoholic mother, Vivi. Now a 40-year-old successful director, Sidda is estranged from Vivi because of a too-frank newspaper interview that characterized Vivi as a loving, outrageously creative, abusive mother. Putting her engagement on hold, Sidda hides away in a cabin in the northwest with the only thing her mother concedes in Sidda's efforts to make up: a scrapbook that chronicles Vivi's life with three other spirited Southern belle renegades, the Ya-Yas.

Thus, the story unfolds with scrapbook versions of Vivi's rigid Catholic upbringing and the beginnings of the Ya-Ya sisterhood, through their adolescence and bayou debutante years, through their marriages and mothering the Petites Ya-Yas. Living her mother's life through the scrapbook and with a little help from the now 60-something Ya-Yas, Sidda comes to understand her mother's character with all its lavish, passionate, sorrowful, and always humorous dimensions.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Anthology (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

This is a new collection of poetry and short prose by nurses, edited by Cortney Davis and Judy Schaefer, whose remarkable first anthology, Between the Heartbeats: Poetry and Prose by Nurses [see annotation in this database], may be the founding document of "nurse writing" as a recognizable genre. In the Foreword, Cortney Davis comments on the process of selection and sketches the similarities and differences between this and the previous volume.

One of the interesting similarities is that nurses write more often about birth than death; one of the differences is the wider range of topics, including nurses who reveal their own experiences as patients (see Amy Haddad, "Conversations with Wendy," pp. 100-102) and others whose fatigue and frustration cause them to step away from nursing (see Pamela Mitchell, "A Nurse's Farewell," pp., 149-151)

As in Between the Heartbeats, the authors of Intensive Care appear in alphabetical order, which favors variety and surprise over categorization. In "Medical Ward," the first poem (pp. 1-2), Krys Ahlman captures many of the themes of the anthology. "I was wearing a thousand tiny failures," Ahlman writes, and concludes: "I held out my hand, I said / I am not afraid to cry."

Intensive Care is full of delights. As advertised, there is much about bringing children into the world and caring for them; for example, Lynn Bernardini's reminiscence, "Does This Day Mean Anything to You?" about having given up her own baby for adoption (pp. 11-16); Celia Brown's poem "Forget-Me-Nots" (pp. 35-36); and the powerful but ambiguous hope of "Neonatal ICU" (Leigh Wilkerson, p.247). There are the painful memories of dying children and adolescents, especially Jeanne Bryner's amazing, "Breathless" (p. 42) and "Car Spotting, " (pp. 173-184), a story by Christine Rahn about a terminally ill adolescent. In "Car Spotting" the head nurse criticizes the young narrator because, "You become too personally involved with the patients . . . Nurses must make decisions based on objective data. Becoming too attached can cloud professional judgment." (p. 175) I found this an interesting statement coming from a nursing instructor--it could well have been made by a professor of medicine to a third year medical student.

Other major themes include the humor of nursing (see "RX for Nurses: Brag!" by Kathleen Walsh Spencer, p. 203; and "What Nurses Do on Their Day Off," Judy Schaefer, p. 188); women's health (see "Every Day, the Pregnant Teenagers," Cortney Davis, p 69; and "Redemption at the Women's Center," Jeanne Lavasseur, pp. 132-133); nursing the elderly (see "Home Visits," Paula Sergi, pp. 195-196); and the wonderful narratives of patient care (see "Sarah's Pumpkin Bread," Terry Evans, pp. 87-90; "Edna's Star," Chris Grant," pp. 95-99; and "That Mystique," Madeline Mysko, pp. 158-167). Finally, Intensive Care looks back thoughtfully in a number of pieces to nursing in military settings.

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