Showing 221 - 230 of 372 annotations tagged with the keyword "Mental Illness"

Zimmerman's Tefillin

Pies, Ronald

Last Updated: Oct-19-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This is a collection of humane and humorous stories by psychiatrist Ronald Pies. Many of them portray snippets of Jewish-American family life; others feature Pies's alter egos, young psychiatrists named Applebaum; or Ackerman, or Alterman; still others introduce a number of wonderful geriatric characters the reader is unlikely to forget.

In the title story, an elderly man lies in the hospital and remembers how he inserted snippets of pornography into his business partner's tefillin nearly 40 years earlier, just to spite his holier-than-thou partner, who had evicted his Playboy magazines from the premises. "Mandelbaum's Passion" is the story of an elderly professor whose daughter wants to put him into a nursing home. He, on the other hand, focuses his energy on anticipating the twice-weekly visits of Luz, his 26-year-old Hispanic visiting nurse.

Dr. Otto Hertzmann in "Show Us Where God Is" is a retired analytic psychiatrist who lives with his sister. When a young admirer comes to visit, the sister introduces him to Davie, Hertzmann's severely retarded son who, when asked to "show us where God is," grins widely and points to the ceiling. Max Dershman, found dead in his room "stinking of cheap cigars and surrounded by Playboy centerfolds," is another such character. He falls head over heels in love with Riva Greenberg, the nursing home social worker, and leaves her a love letter when he dies ("A Medical Diptych"). In "Sophie Fein Goldberg Stein" the title character insists on always being addressed by her full name--at least, that is, until the nursing home psychiatrist is willing to sit down and listen to the full story of her life.

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The Tell-Tale Heart

Poe, Edgar Allan

Last Updated: Oct-18-2004
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The unnamed narrator of the story is a "dreadfully nervous" character who disputes the allegation that he might be crazy. He contends that his disposition arises from a heightening of the senses: "Above all was the sense of hearing acute" (74). The narrator provides care for a wealthy elderly man. For some inexplicable reason, the narrator becomes obsessed with the diseased eye of the old man. The narrator likens it to a vulture’s eye and is so haunted by the Evil Eye that he decides to murder the old man.

He meticulously plans the murder. After one week of preparation, the narrator charges into the old man’s bedroom after midnight and kills him using the heavy bed the victim had been sleeping in to either crush or suffocate him. Even after the murder, the victim’s heart continues beating for many minutes. The narrator carefully dismembers the body in a tub. He conceals all the pieces under the floor boards.

At four o’clock in the morning, three policemen arrive. A neighbor heard a scream and notified the police. They are here to investigate. The narrator maintains his composure and even entertains the police. After all, he has committed the perfect crime. Suddenly, he hears a repetitive noise like the ticking of a watch. At first soft, the sound grows louder and louder. No one else hears it. What is the cause of the noise--paranoia, his conscience, auditory hallucinations, a supernatural clue, or (most likely) the sound of his own pounding heart? The narrator can no longer tolerate the thumping and confesses to the murder: "I admit the deed!--tear up the planks!--here, here!--it is the beating of his hideous heart!" (78)

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Pilgrim

Findley, Timothy

Last Updated: Oct-12-2004
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction — Secondary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The narrative of Pilgrim and his psychiatrist, Carl G. Jung, begins with Pilgrim's most recent unsuccessful attempt to kill himself. The surrealistic nature of the tale begins with this mysterious inability of the title character to exit life--a life self-proclaimed to have covered multiple incarnations over millennia each of which he has memory. His friend and his servants take him to Zurich to the renowned psychiatrist's clinic for institutionalization and therapy. Enter Dr. Jung, whose personal and professional life assumes a dominant role in the narrative.

As the story progresses, the reader learns from Pilgrim's journals the interstices of his seemingly endless voyage. While Pilgrim's tale--real or imagined--is progressively revealed, the immediate lives of the Jungs are explored in increasing depth. Layer upon layer of development of plot, past and present, is peeled away until Pilgrim escapes his prison and Jung's emotional chaos is exposed.

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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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