Roger looked more like a tall, lanky college student than a young adult with schizophrenia. He was also smart: well-studied as if to be a medical school student long before the days where WebMD could make the rest of us stand out from our peers on a particular topic of interest. There was one problem with Roger’s course of study, however. I met him shortly after what could have been his second fatal mistake.
Roger believed that removal of his liver would cure his schizophrenia. Yes, truly, and he would talk about it with a straight face in earnest to his psychiatrist. Roger had poured over medical books, secured all the tools and supplies of a typical surgical suite, and attempted a procedure at home in the past. When he could not control the bleeding at some point during the procedure he called the paramedics and was rushed to a local hospital. They patched him up and transferred him to the mental health unit where he stayed until his psychiatric medication could be “adjusted.”
Within a short time after discharge Roger re-doubled his efforts. He gathered more supplies for a second attempt at a total liver resection. Somehow he never read that the liver is a vital organ and that he would die if he ever succeeded. And who knows where he found sterile drapings, forceps, lancets, and such in the days long before Amazon and Medline? What he did not expect the second time was the intolerable pain he would experience as he got deeper into his surgery. He was alone and got scared. Again he called the paramedics, was hospitalized, and landed on the mental health unit.
I worked as an occupational therapist on that unit with the even lower functioning clients than Roger. While he was not one of my patients, his notoriety was the talk of the nursing station. What incredible bravery it would take to operate on oneself with what, a handheld mirror? I mean, how exactly did he do it? I think I recall that he was discharged to a residential facility after his hospital stay in an effort to preserve his life lest he make a third attempt. The delusion that excision of his liver could cure his mental illness was simply too strong to believe that he would ever give up his theory until he died trying to make it so.
And so here I find myself four days before my own surgical procedure, banking on a theory that excision of two teeth will save my own life. Have I too succumbed to the “Roger effect?” When contrasted to sick thinking, we all like to think that ours is different. After all, I have done my research and can find clinical and anecdotal evidence that what I have asked an oral surgeon to do will cure the worst of my ills. Dr. R doesn’t agree with my suppositions (a biologic dentist did!) yet is willing to proceed to diminish years of dental pain AND after having required extraordinary precautionary measures! Lord willing all will be completed on Thursday, March 26th: my spirit will no longer be crushed with the virtual hell that has left me bedridden most days. (See this blog for details: https://justjuliewrites.com/2015/03/01/only-my-potato-chips-remain-crushed-today/)
Looking back to my days working in mental health I realized that I have come a long way in my view of the world. Today I am more willing to ask the tough questions of life than in the past. I see that I am not so different from many of the patients who landed in a “psych ward.” By the grace of God I did not have to be admitted or committed when my despair exceeded my ability to cope. Somehow the Lord provided the hope, the help, the peace to carry on until the day when the pain was no longer unbearable. Gratefully, much emotional pain has left my life for good. Much joy has taken it’s place even in the face of this horrible illness. My internal joy is no longer measured by my circumstances; He has allowed me to overcome immeasurable desperation. I believe that things will begin to turnaround this week. This week people!
If he is still alive today, I do hope that Roger has found some peace with his struggles. Wherever you are today dear one, I pray these words from the Lord for you and your loved ones. Sometimes letting go of that one thing that got away in our lives is the very thing that brings us to all that we seek: the joy that passes all understanding.
John 16:33 (NIV)
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”