"Hey, honey, you'll never guess who came into the office today!"
These are words a psychiatrist never says. *
The work we do is dressed in secrecy, mandated by a need to preserve patient confidentiality: started by Hippocrates, finished by HIPAA, and filled in in the middle by a need to be certain that the shameful (or not) drippings of one's fantasies and the guilty (or not) remnants of one's misbehaviors have a safe outlet which won't come back to bite.
But, at the end of the day, what about the psychiatrist ? How many blanks can we leave in our stories?-- For surely we're human, too, with some need to talk about our lives, and our days are filled with stories-- often fascinating stories-- we can't repeat. Really, we can't even write blog posts without confabulating our patients beyond recognition. It's a border we can't even get close to. What if we're upset by an interaction, want a suggestion on how to handle a difficult situation, want counsel as to what to do next with a complex medication issue? Or what if we just want to be heard? Of course, we can seek formal consulation or supervision, but what about the day-to-day stuff?
Years ago (we won't go into how many: enough), I worked in a clinic with another fresh-out-of-residency psychiatrist who also had a new baby. Just in case it's not enough to be a new shrinks starting together at the same institution, parenting issues were an instant form of bonding. And this psychiatrist's baby was (and remains) a constant source of enchanting stories. Eventually, we both left the clinic, and she relocated to another area code. Our friendship, however, remained fixed, and through an assortment of associations my friend has somehow acquired the nickname "Camel." So that we're clear, this is not a reflection of her physique.
Camel is often my go-to person. When a child (generally my own) says or does something that taxes the limits of my self-control, I call Camel-- she's on speed dial and she often can provide empathizing stories. When something good or bad happens in my life, I call Camel. When I need a support psychiatrist to fly to psychiatric conferences with, I take a Camel. She's better than a duck and almost as good as a goat. When I win the lottery, I will call Camel. When I need a friend to have a drink with...well, sometimes, the distant area code thing gets in the way so I have local friends for such emergencies.
Camel is also my first stop for Curbside Consults. She knows a lot about medications and is kind about my ranting. ClinkShrink, while my first stop for all matters forensic, doesn't Do psychotherapy, and whenever I ask her about her experience with any medication patented after 1973, she says "we don't have that in jail." Camel keeps up-to-date and remains an invaluable resource, friendly ear, and the origin of many entertaining stories.
* I put an asterik here because, really, I have no idea what psychiatrists tell their spouses. I never divulge the names or identifying information about any of my patients to either my spouse or my camel. Unlike the blog, however, I don't go as far as to confabulate new information to create a hypothetical scenario.