Last time Erin and I went to a reading/book signing, she introduced herself to bizarre-science author Mary Roach by saying, “I have two uteri and one kidney. You should write about me.” I was, as usual, impressed by and a little jealous of her gusto, and, even more pleasantly surprising, Roach seemed interested.
So last night, when Doug and I went to a reading/signing of psychiatrist Gary Small’s The Naked Lady Who Stood On Her Head (a chronicle of the strangest cases of his career so far), I decided to channel Erin. Placing my copy of the book on the table for him to sign, I asked, “Should I introduce myself by my name or my psychiatric diagnosis?”
Dr. Small, a quirkily handsome professional with a twinkling smile and sense of humor, wasted no time in formulating his response: “How about you tell me your name, and I’ll guess your diagnosis?”
This would be an amazing party trick, but unfortunately was just a joke. I told him both.
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” he said upon hearing me stumble over the words “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
(I immediately regretted having said anything, worrying that I had made it sound worse than it was. We associate PTSD with war vets, mostly, don’t we? And the things they’ve seen and experienced must be so much worse than my trivial little miscarriage. So I always feel a little ashamed claiming PTSD for myself, even though that is in fact what I’m struggling with.)
“Do you have all the symptoms, like, do you break out sweating?” he asked.
Still feeling a little ashamed, I mumbled something about having localized anxiety around pregnant women. Erin would be eating this up right now, I thought. Lucky bitch.
Then Dr. Small asked me something that, in the haze of the cold I was still ignoring at the time, I didn’t fully hear or understand until later. “Have you heard the studies they’re doing about treating Post-Traumatic Stress with hallucinogenic drugs?”
“No, I hadn’t,” I said. Like I said, it wouldn’t be until later, in the car, that I would turn to Doug and ask, “Did he really say they’re using hallucinogenic drugs to treat psych patients?”
“But don’t try that,” Dr. Small said, and Doug quickly agreed. I, still not quite paying attention, was already pulling out the little card with my blog address on it, handing it to Dr. Small, and inviting him to read it if he liked.
“I’m in therapy, and writing about it really extensively,” I said. “I think you might find it interesting. I mean, I hope I’m interesting.”
“I don’t have a lot of extra time, but… Oh, you’re on wordpress; that makes it easier.”
“Even if you just want to pop by and read a little of it,” I said. “I’d be honored.”
And that was the end of that.
“I hope he does go read your blog,” Doug said, as we wandered the aisles of the little book store.
“Me too. Even just a little.”
I guess my point is, I really do hope I’m interesting. I hope that one day, there’ll be strangers reading this, people other than the awesome support group I have through my friends and family and facebook acquaintances. I hope that psychiatrists and doctors and housewives are able to find a personal connection to the things I talk about here.
In the advance praise on the back of Dr. Small’s book, author Daniel H. Pink writes, “Small searches for and finds the humanity that lies hidden under even the most bizarre symptoms.” And that’s what I think I’m aiming for here: I say the war vets have it so much worse than I do, even though our diagnosis is the same; yet friends and acquaintances have contacted me to say, “my life is nothing like what you’ve been through, but I can relate to what you’re writing about.” And I think, if we feel we can relate to each other, then our experiences are alike, even though the details may vary.
It always comes back to this: human connection is an amazing thing. And I am hungry for more of it.