Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Sunday, 21 February 2016


The Lady Doctor

William spoke of his "scars" –
which I thought showed remarkable insight –
and he tried to look down my blouse.

I let him look
though I could see he didn't understand
but he believed.

He called me Honey
and when I asked he said I was sweet.
I don't think he was joking.

29 June 1988

I’d never spoken to a psychiatrist or even a psychologist in 1988. They held the same kind of fascination as prostitutes though. I always thought they’d be interesting people to talk to. I’ve since been treated by four and they were all women. I was given the choice the last time. I could’ve had a man but I asked for a woman. I like talking to women. I don’t hate talking to men—men can be interesting—but most men I’ve met in real life tend to be one or two steps removed from me. They’re into sport and drink and roughhousing. I’ve never been a man’s man. I’ve never liked being around men like that which is hard because in Scotland in the seventies there were a lot of men like that. No one wrote poetry. No one read books their teachers didn’t make them read and mostly they skimmed them.

I’ve always enjoyed talking to mental health professionals. I’ve never found them especially helpful but that’s neither here nor there. Where exactly William is at this point I keep vague. Remember we don’t even know what age he is. Maybe he’s a stray who’s been picked up by the police who’ve realised there was something not quite right about him and decided to get him checked out. It doesn’t matter. Somehow the white coats have got a hold on him.


Kass said...

Excellent observation that sometimes the most valuable thing to be gotten out of psychotherapy is a peek down a blouse.

I've recognized that the times I've sought counseling were because I like talking about myself, even if it rehearses/re-emphasizes problems.

Jim Murdoch said...

With me, Kass, I’ve always found them at a bit of a loss. Whenever I’d meet them for the first time I’d list off all the things not to worry about: I don’t drink; I don’t take drugs; I don’t gamble; I have no money worries; I don’t beat my wife nor does she beat me; I don’t have an eating disorder although I do have a fondness for sweet things; I have all my body parts and they seem to be functioning normally; I’m not racist, sexist, ageist or homophobic; I don’t smoke; my favourite TV show has not just come to an end and neither my dad nor my dog’s just died. You see where I’m coming from. I always got the idea that they were more used to people walking in who had mountains of debts, were just about to lose their wife, their kids and their jobs because they couldn’t control their addiction to scratch cards and the doctor says, “Do you think it might be something to do with scratch cards?” And they go, “You know I never thought about it but you might be right.” Of course I’m stretching a point to make a point.

Kass said...

Jim, I'm going to recopy your list of things not to worry about, modify, add to it, roll it up and put it in the Mezuzah by my entry door.

Jim Murdoch said...

The thing I’ve found about being a writer—about being the kind of writer I am—Kass, is that I’m very good at introspection. Just because I don’t talk about stuff doesn’t mean I’m not aware of it and you’d be surprised at the number of things I don’t write about. All of my depressions stemmed from one thing: overwork. I was suffering from burnout. The sensible thing to do once I realised this would’ve been not to work myself into the ground but that wasn’t me so I worked myself into the ground, burned out, sat on the bench for a few weeks and then began the cycle again. I would do it now if I could. Work, even overwork, makes me happy. I hate being idle. I hate not being productive. There are worse things to be than a workaholic.

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