There’s this memory I’ve found stuck in my head lately. I’m 18, 19, perhaps 20. I’ve been let into a locked ward at a mental hospital, still in my work clothes; a skirt I’d never wear now, all long cotton pleats and a yellow and black and white geometric patterned shirt I think I might have lost.
I’m uncomfortable; it’s too hot, the skirt is sticking to my legs, and I feel out of place, alien. My father and his first wife and talking with a doctor, just out of my range of my hearing. My brother is laying across a bed, head resting on one of my crossed legs, cushioned by my skirt.
He’s also talking to himself, arguing with one of the voices only he can hear.
I remember my hands being in his hair, absently trying to soothe, or perhaps fluttering nervously. This was back at the beginning, when this kind of scene was painfully new, and not tragically familiar.
I’ve spent a good amount of time in hospitals like that, sitting with my brother, but for some reason it’s this one scene I keep remembering.
I like psychiatry, as a study. I felt the same way about psychology; I loved my undergraduate degree, never once regretted picking psychology over biology. For years, I actually rather thought I’d like to be a psychiatrist. People would tell me I’d be a great one; that I was a good listener, that I gave good advice. As the years went on I fell away from that idea and drifted back towards my first love, obstetrics, but upon starting this rotation I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe psychiatry would make a final jump into contention for my future career.
But now I look at my patients, and I see that scene, sitting on that couch, my hands resting on my brother’s head, so close and yet so, so far from the strange and terrible world in there he retreated to, and never really returned from.
No, I don’t think psychiatry is for me.