Whether a book or an essay, one phrase often sticks with me long after I’ve finished reading the piece. In Andrea Rosenhaft’s “Eight Months After a Suicide Attempt,” the one that I still focus on is “my psychiatrist was on vacation.” Ms. Rosenhaft’s essay recounts her personal struggle with crippling depression and multiple suicide attempts. Her honesty about the thoughts and feelings she experienced is both brave and gripping. Even with the knowledge that this is not a posthumous essay, I worried that the writer would finally succeed in taking her own life.
With an almost reflexive narcissism, I am drawn to the physician in the essay. I think of my own clinical practice when a patient whom I’ve taken care of shows up in an Emergency Room and I am not available—my guilt as a physician was compounded after reading of Ms. Rosenhaft’s sense of despair when she describes arriving at an institution taken care of by professionals who have no prior connection to her.
I also think about my own experiences in “Physician as Enabler,” where I relate my contribution to a patient developing an opiate addiction. While I try to give a voice to my patient, Ms. Brown, I am struck with how limited her character is drawn. Partially, I know, I did not want to break any kind of confidentiality, but I also believe it is due to my not wanting to delve deeper and acknowledge that she had an addiction.
While the vast majority of what I write concerns the physician experience, I find it incredibly intriguing to see what is on the other side of the looking glass.
Vik Reddy is a practicing plastic surgeon and writer. His work has been published in The Detroit News, The Detroit Free Press, Bridge Magazine, the Journal of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, and Intima: a Journal of Narrative Medicine. Vik lives in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and serves as Medical Director of Quality at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital.
© 2016 Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine