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“Rally, Bill, Rally!” A Good Self-Talking-To

Rally – come together again in order to continue fighting after a defeat or dispersion. Oxford American College Dictionary

So I hit the sack at 4a today after a 12-hour E.R. shift. And it was rise and shine at 8 to approach another. Somehow I pulled myself out of bed and, zombie-like, made my way into the shower. We’ve all been there and we all know at times it takes all we have to pull things together and face another day.

Such was certainly the case early this morning; and as I have so many times in the past I found myself repeating aloud…

“Rally, Bill, Rally!”

Okay, I have to ask. Do you have a word or phrase that seems to work magic for you? You know, something that’s very soothing or motivating. Well, don’t ask me why, but “rally” does it for me during times like this. By the way, see if you can come up with something that’ll work for you when life gets tough.

So I rallied my fanny out of the house and off to work I went. But, believe me, I was dragging big-time. Well, at least until a very unexpected moment of learning and perspective occurred.

I was called to a case at the E.R. My patient was a guy in his mid-40s who’d been diagnosed with schizophrenia 25 years ago. So often society hears the word “schizophrenia” and very inaccurately envisions some sort of mad and dangerous person who’s all kinds of paranoid and hearing all manner of voices – who must be avoided like the plague. Uh…wrong. Now, clinically, there’s a wide variety of schizophrenic presentations, as well as varying degrees of insight and management. However, with meds and counseling schizophrenia can very effectively managed.

“Dave” was extraordinary. And the fact that he works 20 hours a week as a machinist, drives, and stays meds-compliant only scratches the surface. What I respected most about Dave was his acceptance and ownership of his illness. Yes, Dave knows he’s schizophrenic and very seriously ill; and he knows he has to take his medicine and carefully manage his life.

By the way, does that sound like any number of other medical situations?

Please try to grasp the tremendous challenge posed by the meds Dave has to take to stay on top of his illness. Given he was diagnosed 25 years ago, Dave cut his teeth on the first generation antipsychotics – in his case, thioridazine (Mellaril). That’s some serious medicine, folks, and it brings a ton of unpleasant and potentially dangerous side-effects to the table. Fortunately, the atypical antipsychotics have been around for a while now; and Dave takes, among other meds, risperidone (Riseprdal) and aripiprazole (Abilify). And for the record, they pack some whopping side-effects, as well; but not in the league of the first generation antipsychotics.

As a tribute to Dave, he ended up in the E.R. because of his disorder insight and management. He’d been feeling especially anxious over the past week. And he knew his thoughts were beginning to become, shall we say, creative. Dave told me as he was driving he’d become intensely worried he’d be pulled over for some reason when he saw a police car. He also said he was experiencing some anger directed at a softball coach from his past. In addition, he’d been working some extra hours and was feeling the stress. And along came a high blood sugar reading this morning.

Dave knew he needed to touch base with his counselor, so he drove to her office and talked things over. Together, they made the decision Dave ought to head for the E.R. for an evaluation.

Dave and I talked for longer than what was clinically necessary. But that’s because Dave and I connected. I mean, let’s not forget about my lifelong emotional and mental illnesses. Throughout our time together Dave talked very frankly about his circumstances; and though he wished they were different, they bottom-line aren’t. And he knows he’ll have to manage his disorder for the rest of his life, as there’s no cure. So guess what? That’s exactly what he plans on doing. And on top of it all, he’s a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and does speaking and advocacy work whenever he can.

In fact, one of the reasons Dave does all he can to stay healthy is so he can continue helping others.

Well, Dave wasn’t admitted psychiatrically. But I can tell you he would have been if he didn’t work so hard to manage his life. I’ll go ya’ one step further – if Dave didn’t take care of himself he’d be living in some sort of institutional environment, instead of living at home with his mother.

Can you tell I really needed to meet Dave today? And you know, it isn’t at all about, “Aw, what a sweet story – you see, others have it so much worse than you.” Are you kidding me? That would be an insult to Dave and his situation.

For me, the value of our time together is based in coming to know the very best of rallying cries. And it wasn’t mine.

What are your feelings and thoughts? You know we always appreciate, and need, your comments.