I am a veteran psychiatrist in my sixties. I practice now in a state hospital in a southeastern state, North Carolina. I have lived in NC most the years since 1974 when I came as an eager, thought I knew it all, young psychiatry resident at Duke University Hospital in Durham. I picked Duke to do my training at because I knew nothing about (!), had applied late to the program, because I had flirted with neurology and neurosurgery for two years and missed the “Match,” the annual March Madness for residents, interns and medical students that ‘matches’ you to a training program. Actually I trained at Duke because on my interview visit there, the chief resident, Dr. Steven Potkin, now a big cheese world beater research psychiatrist scientist in the brain issues in schizophrenia in California, had taken me to lunch outside the hospital for some fresh air. He was enjoyably open and informal with a marvelous sense of humor. But what made me decide to come to Duke was that he took me on a short walk to the Sarah Duke Gardens beside the ‘old’ Duke Hospital and we ate outside beside a koi fish pond. I had spent seven cold awful winters in Ann Arbor, and although I loved Ann Arbor dearly, I was from the deserts of the Southwest and had vowed to go somewhere “warm.” That hour in the Duke Garden made my decision for me and I truly knew nothing about Duke’s psychiatric department. What a dummy I was. I came to Duke because it was close to my mining engineering gypsy geology parents who moved all over the country and the world during my growing up years. Duke was close to them as my father at the time was in southwestern Virginia rehabbing one of the coutnry’s largest open pit lithium mining sites. Duke, one of the training programs I was accepted at, was the closest I could locate to them. So I became a “Dukie,” having no idea what that meant, i.e., fanatical ACC basketball, and academic rigors and workloads that would kill Hercules Jr. One of the first things I was taught as part of my orientation to Durham and Duke, was to NEVER call anyone on the phone on Tuesday or Thursday evenings or Saturday afternoons during basketball season. Only call during halftime, and even then the poor then GTE phone carrier was always jammed, would ‘go down,’ and you couldn’t talk to anyone anyway. The perfect time for bad guys to go on crime sprees since no one could reach 911 for help…
I stayed in North Carolina to continue long term psychoanalytic training at the UNC-Duke Psychoanalytic Training Program as I loved psychotherapy and figured correctly that this was one of the best foundations for pursuing that craft. I was blithely fortunate again as I had a gracious warm but proper psychoanalyst from Boston who saved my emotional life as I quickly found out, yep, I had “issues.” He was like most psychiatrists, he never quit. He was 77 when I started with him in for day a week lie on the couch free associating nerve wracking sessions, and 87 when I finished with him. Next to my father, he was the most profound influence in my life and I am ever grateful I was paired with him. He had an amazing psychological intellect, was warm, gracious, tough when I needed prodding and confronting, empathic and a saint in my view. This is not idle unresolved idealism, for in that Institute as psychoanalytic training programs are often called, there were a number of training analysts with those qualities and still are as it is part of the culture there. And I was lucky because unfortunately the UNC-Duke program had a bad apple, an analyst who violated countless females analysands (patients) and it was a great scandal. So there are folks like that. My office partner was a training candidate of his and I will never forget the pain he suffered when this scandal emerged.
I also stayed in NC for another reason. I was ready to marry and found my wife who is Cherokee and became as I have always called her “My Cherokee Princess.” And she did play Princess Wiloney in the Cherokee tribal drama for three years, the story of “Trail of Tears.” The play still runs each summer and is still the most successful and actually the first such outdoor ‘tourist’ drama of the country. It takes place in a simply breath takingly beautiful nightly through the summer in Cherokke in the outdoor amphitheatre above the pow wow grounds, I still recommend The Trail of Tears to anyone and consider one of our country’s great national treasures. So we were tied through her family most of whom resided on the reservation in western NC, the “Qualla Boundary.” It became my second home and I am glad for it. My wife had a child, a daughter, a delightful first grader by her first marriage, and I was thrilled over that as well as I had always wanted children, and mostly girls to boot. We had later a biological daughter and then even later a “rescue daughter,” a middle school and high school best friend of our younger biological daughter’s we knew and loved in Arizona when we lived there, again to be close to my parents in their waning years. She was abused by her family as a teen and we took her in but had to give her up when we had to leave AZ but later rescued her from living under he Salt River Bridge between Phoenix and Tempe when she had to escape her parents after we left. We put all the girls through school and our rescue daughter, for instance is a professor of two disciplines with a Ph.D. at a midwestern university. And then in our early fifties we took in a toddler whose mother had to be deported after 9/11 because even though she came to the USA legally, she was from East Africa and pffft many thousands of such immigrants to this country in the aftermath of 9/11 were arbitrarily deported for no cause. The boy became another miracle in my life and is now a unique dry witted very bright young teen who has proven to me I could be a father to a son [one of my issues was I thought I would not be a very good dad to a son since I am about as athletic as Spongebob.
So that is my wordy introduction. Nowadays I play host to one of our daughters in between jobs in the quicksand world of the dot com eonomy and their three preschool children and am back in the baby business again, which can be tiring but is one of my older adult life blessings and miracles. And as a child developmental psychiatrist, I get a great and hilarious refresher course in child development!
I spend my professional life caring the for toughest psychiatric patients of my career, and realize that somehow psychiatrically Providence trained me for four decades to be able to work well with these folks who present the greatest and most fun challenges I have ever faced. Coming out of my Duke residency and coming to this work environment would have seen my fall flat on my face professionally in very short order. I get to work with patients on our medical unit which is tough but to my incredibly interesting as my two worlds as a physician intersect constantly challenging me to my utmost. I am privileged to help my colleagues, do admissions and help set the initial treatment direction for the incoming patients and seen patients all over the hospital to consult and help my colleagues. And on top of that I still get to teach students and residents in many different health care tracks from physician extenders, to pharmacists to medical students and residents. Everyday is fun even when it isn’t is my motto.
And lastly I watch very little television but loves children’s movies and have seen almost every new children’s movie since the 1970’s. My taste is clothes is horrible as I have no taste except in my mouth, am weirdly partially color blind and if permitted to dress myself, I look ghastly. In music my tastes range from Gregorian chants, to reggae, to good rock and roll, classical and baroque, good modern composers, electronic, bluegrass, southern delta blues, Middle Eastern music, Mexican music especially “conjunto,” church organ music, Baptist old fashioned hymns, AfroPop, but I hate muscials. Go figure. And I have a musical wife who knows lyrics to literally thousands of songs and I cannot ever remember the National Anthem and barely “Happy Birthday….”
My parents moved many many times during my development years, so I changed schools up to four times a year, lived overseas in several countries and learned early on fortunately thanks to my parents who grew up with blacks and the Apache respectively that all peoples different from oneself are not only NOT to be feared or reviled but wlecomed into our wherever we lived and learned from and escaped most of American racism thank God and my parents who were exceptional world view folks.
So fasten your seat belts, this blog aims to more than interesting with humor galore, and more viewpoints than I have hairs on my still tonsrlorially populated scalp.