Last week, sniffling and certain that I might perish at any moment, I made an appointment with my doctor. I am an impatient person. This is why I make appointments when seeing my physician. I assume he will stick to a schedule and I will enter and exit, with a prescription in hand, within fifteen minutes. A nice, compact, amount of time.
This time I was left waiting. Children screamed and people who may be as impatient as I am moved their legs up and down rapidly. Everyone made a socially concerted effort not to look at each other.
I decided to settle in and read. At the rate the room was moving — sort of like a turnover rate at a bad job — it was clear I had at least 30 minutes longer to wait.
I have always found ‘literature’ in doctors’ offices disconcerting, though equally fascinating. After all, where can you find a magazine on parenting (a beautiful woman is holding a golden-haired toddler) and a celebrity magazine (apparently, Angelina Jolie has adopted five children from Nigeria) sitting side by side?
I noticed a brochure rack across the room, near the receptionist station, full of white and blue pamphlets. It always feels sort of weird getting up in a room full of people sitting down, but I made my way across the room with intent, avoiding people’s shoes and a toddler who had planted himself nearby. It contained the usual assortment of literature: six tips to live a healthy life, fascinating tips on how to get 30 minutes of exercise in each day and a guide to drinking more water.
Arranged in the same area, I found pamphlets on recognizing the symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and, to my complete surprise, a bleach-white brochure with the words “Understanding Psychosis” in bold and black text. Last time I was stuck in the office I read the pamphlets on getting enough calcium and the increase in cervical cancer among women under 30 years old.
I grabbed the brochure and walked slowly — the toddler had yet to move — back to my seat. It contained a first-person account written by a man who had lived with periodic psychosis and was now recovered. The symptoms of psychosis and their connection to other serious mental illness such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia was included. But I wondered, did it make sense to have it in the waiting room, sitting beside the pamphlets on arthritis and increasing your fiber intake?
I decided to ask my doctor how he felt about mental illness creeping through societal cracks and into his sterile office. As a woman living with bipolar disorder, I feel it is long overdue. But what might he think, as a practicing physician who may not be familiar with psychosis? After all, it is usually a term, a diagnosis, associated with psychiatry.
My name was finally called and I soon found myself in his office. I will spare you the details of my appointment. I did not walk out with a prescription to cure me, no, I had a cold. Just like half of those sitting in the waiting room. He stood up, a signal for me to do the same, but I remained in my chair and pulled the brochure out my purse.
I asked him, point blank, how he felt about mental illness becoming more mainstream and handed him the brochure on psychosis.
He looked at it, and then back at me, and said simply: “Natalie, it’s about time people become educated on mental illness. I was not aware we had these in the clinic, but I’m damn happy we do.”
And so am I.