The world of normality
According to Raymond Chandler, American novelist, “Psychiatry is fifty percent bunk, thirty percent fraud, and ten percent either parrot talk or a fancy lingo”. Since the human existence, mental problems caused anguish, agony or even social exclusion. The view of psychiatric wards deteriorated last month, after publishing terrific news about Tunisian Razi Hospital, where doctors treated people in an inhumane manner. Patients became less likely to reach out to the professionals as they took witness’ relations for granted, irrelevant to a hospital’s location. Our curiosity boosted a fact that psychiatrists did not utterly appeal to talk about their own activity, and their contribution was kept behind closed doors. However, an experienced doctor, Anna Oberle, decided to stop allegations and break a silence. She told us in-depth about the everyday world inside the psychiatric hospital, why she reckons doctors as executioners, and what is her real influence over patients’ lives.
Janusz Reykowski, famous Polish psychiatrist once said that listening to words of newly cured person is the best part of his life, but what is the comment of your patient that sticks in your mind carefully?
Once, I have treated a young person who was suffering from schizophrenia. His psychological appearance improved over few weeks and he told me, “I am re-born”. It still crosses my mind as schizophrenics struggle with revealing emotions. In terms of negative ones, I have heard from a patient who was denied to leave the hospital that I am an executioner. That is obviously truth, sometimes I need to be so, just to help “re-born” another patients once again, and again. For instance, after seven months of treatment, I managed to deinstitutionalise a patient, who had arrived to hospital in a very poor health state. I admit that he reminded a corpse, and personally, I hope that he won’t ever come back to my ward.
I have noticed that you are proud of yourself. It seems that in this particular case you had to really challenge your experience and theoretical knowledge.
Definitely as his state testified that he might have died. Furthermore, due to in-depth alcoholism, the patient suffered not only psychologically, but also physically. As a consequence, his body was contracted by scabies, pediculosis, and changes in blood vessels. I relish the result as the man is still alive, even though many of other doctors doubted if it was manageable to happen. That’s a decisive factor why the outcome of this treatment is so memorable for me.
Patients like this man are the toughest part of your job ?
Probably yes, because in some cases my duties include knowledge that is out of psychiatric profession. In my opinion, the patient should have been treated elsewhere, but to be brutally honest, nobody except me was about to take responsibility for him. For all these inconveniences, the fact that neither I am surgeon, nor physiotherapist, but he managed to be taken out from the hospital, the joy is unusual.
Situations that are similar to this one, which require special knowledge and approach, do they pose biggest motivation for psychiatrists ?
Yes and no, because it might be depressing experience as well. If you notice that doctors neglect their duties and are reluctant to take care of people, you become aware that you cannot rely on anybody else. That is the most devastating part of this occupation.
Due to your devotion to this profession, could I call you the mother of your patients?
You may but I prefer not to do so. It is obvious that sometimes I let appreciate myself in this way, but the crucial part is to drill a patient that he is the only one who is in charge of a treatment. Were I tell them, that their health is up to me, patients would take an opportunity and put the blame on everybody, but they for their failures. When I feel, that I deserve to be awarded, I boast about it, but only to myself.
So how would I call you in terms of a profession experience?
Supporter, guardian, angel, sometimes devil, usually torturer. The human, who loves people so much that is willing to help them, even though usually it entails putting up with their opposition.
Working as a doctor requires from you many years of preparation for this occupation, but what was the point that surprised you mostly shortly after graduating from university?
I was very appalled that I am not scary of approaching sick people, even these who are very aggressive, because you are aware that they are not responsible for any offensive words. Thanks to calm approach you might be able to say whether the person is ill or not, after just a few minutes examination of patients’ behaviour, or gestures. However, very often you need to figure out who is a deceiver and want to leave the hospital at once.
There is also the other point which was mentioned during my spell at university, but I doubted that it really happens. There are some people who piques your concern as you are not sure what is the real background of their problems. Then, you need to look through people that surround a patient. Alcoholic is always in touch with another alcoholics, schizophrenic is eager to talk with other schizophrenics etc. To tell you the truth, working as a psychiatrist appeals to me more than I expected before, because it includes being either a policeman or even a detective.
A hermetic world like hospital ward might give you another point of view for many issues, so how has the profession influenced your mind-set ?
I am more tolerant on many situations that earlier I reckoned as too quirky for me. However, it did not abandon me to be very decisive, what is the crucial point in terms of being a doctor. Currently, I am also able to distinguish when I should collide with a patient and when to go away as soon as it is possible, whilst somebody poses threat not only for me but also for other patients. I am not infallible, however my experience gives me an opportunity to push boundaries further and circle out an approaching strategy.
What makes this profession so unique ?
A human. Everyone is different, genuinely unique. The psychology is inimitable, so I can claim that every day I meet thousands, at least hundreds worlds. My responsibility is to be familiar with them and take out only beautiful parts. Re-creating, treating these “microworlds” is by far the best aspect of this profession as it proves me that I have a profound mission to share with the others.
You have had 20 years of experience in this profession, if you had to describe psychiatry in one word what would it be?