Quite a few years ago we had on staff at our medical clinic a foreign born psychiatrist with just enough of an accent to make him sound more reliable and authoritative than he actually was. (Compare with Henry Kissinger’s accent.) This psychiatrist was very collaborative—he might say to me in reference to some patient, take a substance abuser as an example, “Do you want to be the good guy or the bad guy this time around?” He really meant it and would appropriately coach me in my designated role.
I will never forget the mutual patient who was very paranoid. I commented to my psychiatrist colleague that the patient’s story just might be true and shouldn’t one of us check that out with his family and other sources? The psychiatrist’s reply was, “So-n-so is so paranoid that he’s still paranoid even if it is all true!” This was an entirely new concept to me that set me thinking. I decided never to let myself be locked up because of a paranoid attitude even towards something that had really and truly been done to me. Was my colleague telling me that the line of distinction between normal and paranoid is dependent on the circumstance of the locked psychiatric ward door? Since then, I have been very careful not to display my natural paranoia about certain subjects to the point of being slightly less than well adapted to this crafty world we live in.
I did many medical consultations in the locked psychiatric ward and was a little put out about my not being given a key to the ward in spite of many courteous requests by me which I emphatically remember did not display any overt paranoia. One day I was unable to get out of the ward because there was no one present to push the remote unlocking button in the nursing station for me. I swept a chair from the floor and placed it on the nursing station desk with its back down, then placed a pencil between its appropriately available leg and the unlocking button—permitting it to stay pushed in until I got down the corridor and out the door to freedom.
A key to the door appeared in my mailbox the next day without verbal or written explanation. Another escape from clinically significant paranoia.
John A. Frantz, M.D.
August 26, 2002
If you live near a college or university, consult their web site occasionally for the calendar of campus events, a cornucopia of interesting opportunities that you couldn=t know enough to think of on your own. Let me give you an example: before web sites, we used to contribute a few dollars to the Beloit College front office meanwhile requesting to be on the mailing list of events. One of these events was a visiting actor impersonating Charles Dickens lecturing in England about his visit to America in the early 1840s. During our two year stay in Afghanistan, I had been sitting in the waiting room of the mayor of Jalalabad, presumably adjusting some medium sized bureaucratic glitch, the details of which are lost. The locals, also waiting for similar reasons, were chewing tobacco and spitting on the oriental carpet, the same image the actor in Beloit conjured up when Charles Dickens was waiting for an audience with President Polk. By this calibration, progress from being underdeveloped to becoming a developed country takes no more than 150 years.