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WEATHER DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY. GOOD NIGHT. - Jackdaws love my big sphinx of quartz [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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It has been a pretty uneventful week, aside from the cross-country flight and the hurricane and the demon.

The hurricane was of course Isaac, which seems to have had it in for the Alexander family from the beginning. First it hit Port-au-Prince when my father was there on our annual medical mission to Haiti (2010, 2011), which I unfortunately missed this year due to my work in Alabama. He and his team not only had to deal with the rain and wind and flooding, but the airport closed down for the better part of a week and my father missed several days of work, which for a doctor is kind of a disaster.

Then Isaac shifted course until it was pointed right at Alabama. The meteorologists gave dire warnings. I bought emergency water bottles, just in case. The newspapers ran a bunch of articles interviewing residents about their preparations, from which my favorite quote was: "Isaac is the son of Abraham. I don't think that's a coincidence. It's God's way of telling us not to worry, that everything is going to be okay." HURRICANE NAMES DO NOT WORK THAT WAY.

Well, between the meteorologists and the crazy interview woman, guess who was right? Hurricane Isaac shifted course at the last moment, hit New Orleans, and central Alabama got nothing more than a few hours of light rain and a Very Blustery Day. My desire to see a real hurricane at least once in my life continues to go unfulfilled, and Isaac joins the Hall of Shame For Flaky Disappointing Weather right alongside stupid useless Super Typhoon Shan Shan.

I've been trying to study some Catholic theology lately. Although several amateur theologians have been extremely helpful, I still don't have satisfying answers for a lot of my Catholic theology questions. So I was extremely pleased to get a rare opportunity to meet a domain expert earlier this week. And by "domain expert", I mean a demon.

The elderly man who I'll call Robert was referred to us from the emergency room with the vague comment "intermittent delusions" written on his chart. Dr. H sat him down and began taking a full history as to what exactly these delusions might be, but as it happens he needn't have bothered. About three minutes into the interview Robert began grunting and retching. Then his face flushed red, he fell to the floor, and he began to convulse. Then, in a horrible rasping voice that sounded like the combination of every death metal track you have ever heard, he shouted:

Obviously I don't remember the exact glossolalia and am just trying to capture the general feel; the rest I'm pretty sure I've transcribed pretty accurately. Anyway, he said that, blacked out for a few seconds, and then got back up on the chair and started answering questions again as if nothing had happened. His answers revealed, surprise surprise, that he was an extremely religious Catholic, that he believed he'd become possessed by the demon Apollyon several years ago, that he'd undergone a few mini-exorcisms since then, and that the only reason he was in the psychiatric hospital was because the bishop refused to call in a full exorcism until he'd been evaluated by psychiatrists to "make sure" it wasn't "just" a mental illness. Which, he informed us, we had better do quickly and then let him out, since this was totally beyond our expertise and he had no business being here.

He had of course made one fatal mistake, which was in claiming that something was beyond Dr. H's expertise. As soon as he was out of the room, Dr. H addressed the rest of the team - a younger doctor, a social worker, a medical student, a nursing student, and me. "So," he said "Here's the most important thing you have to watch out for when you're dealing with a demon possession case..." And you people thought you were joking when you suggested he would be a master of the occult.

The most important thing you have to watch for in cases of demon possession, it turns out, is whether in the course of convulsing and dropping to the floor and so on, the person is genuinely flailing in a way that seems likely to cause serious injury, or whether they're doing it very gradually and self-aware-ly so that they don't knock into something and hurt themselves. Because if you're remotely conscious, it's very very hard to suppress your self-protection reflexes - this is why actors have so much trouble pretending to fall over: they tend to prefer a sort of gradual crumple that eventually gets them to the floor without placing undue pressure on any body part. Robert's fall, convulsion and blackout were all more like the actor's than like someone with a genuine medical problem like a seizure. Therefore, said Dr. H, the source of this behavior was very close to consciousness (although not necessarily actually conscious) rather than something deeper like a true dissociative episode, which wouldn't have been so polite and and self-protective. Presumably a demon wouldn't have been either. Dr. H believes Robert is not psychotic, but has various social and life problems that he needs to sort through with therapy, after which he will spontaneously stop manifesting the possession behavior which was just his way of dealing with his issues.

...except that Dr. H went on a three day vacation, his replacement decided to put Robert on antipsychotic drugs, Robert didn't like them, and he decided to leave the hospital Against Medical Advice. Sigh.

That just leaves the cross-country flight. I finished my month long rotation, left behind Alabama and its demons and snakes and goblins (did I tell you about the goblins? No? I need to get around to that story) got on a plane, got turbulenced about heading through the fringes of useless flaky Hurricane Isaac, and landed in Utah last night. I'll stay here for a while visiting my grandmother in her stunningly beautiful desert retirement community, and trying to put up with her hourly attempts to engage me in conversation about how all Republicans are the Devil.

[User Picture]From: marycatelli
2012-09-02 10:04 pm (UTC)

Well, I can assure you that nothing he evinces would have the bishop calling for the exorcists. Glossolalia's not a sign unless it's clearly speaking an tongue that the person doesn't know.
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[User Picture]From: Julia Wise
2012-09-03 04:24 pm (UTC)
The intersection of religion and mental health is so interesting.

I once read the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe with my evangelical Christian cousin. (Indigenous Mexican peasant goes to bishop and says the Virgin Mary appeared to him, speaking his native language and ordering that a church be built for her. Bishop does not believe him and orders him to go back and asks the Virgin for a sign before he builds any churches. Peasant returns with out-of-season flowers and the Virgin's image imprinted on his cloak. Bishop builds church.)

In a normal fairy tale, the bishop would be shown as a corrupt unbeliever for not having faith in his parishioner's vision. But realistically, religious leaders must be presented with these kinds of claims all the time. My evangelical cousin confirmed that the ability to deal with people having "visions" that other church members consider false is an important quality in religious leaders. They've been dealing with this stuff for a lot longer than any other profession has.

Edited at 2012-09-03 04:29 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: gwern branwen
2012-09-02 10:27 pm (UTC)
I am beginning to understand why there seem to be so many psychologist/psychiatrist writers.
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[User Picture]From: adelenedawner
2012-09-03 12:17 am (UTC)
> ...except that Dr. H went on a three day vacation, his replacement decided to put Robert on antipsychotic drugs, Robert didn't like them, and he decided to leave the hospital Against Medical Advice. Sigh.

Putting someone on antipsychotics who is probably not actually psychotic and is in a situation where they are unlikely to feel able to meaningfully refuse to consent: Abusive!

Putting someone in a situation where the only way they feel able to avoid a particular treatment is to avoid all care: Probably abusive, depending on how you define the term; probably neglectful if you consider that a separate thing; seriously sketchy in any case!

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[User Picture]From: squid314
2012-09-03 12:34 am (UTC)
I'm sorry, I hadn't considered that for the trigger warning.

The new doctor considered Robert psychotic because of the demon things; here he just plain disagreed with Dr. H.

Robert willingly accepted the antipsychotics the first time because he figured accepting it would make the bishop more likely to admit it was a real demon and give him his exorcism. Although I didn't mention it, the doctor asked him if he would like haloperidol, Robert said no because he had heard of some bad side effects, and he and the doctor settled on a drug they both agreed on.

He left the hospital after the drugs didn't immediately cure him after two days, complaining that they were wasting his time with the drugs when what he really needed was an exorcism. No one made any attempt to stop him from leaving.

Principle of charity, please.

Edited at 2012-09-03 12:49 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: adelenedawner
2012-09-03 12:51 am (UTC)
That does sound less augh-worthy with more context, yes.
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[User Picture]From: adelenedawner
2012-09-03 12:54 am (UTC)
(Also, principle of charity happens well after the automatic processes that I'm trying to avoid being triggered, here, as do most of the processes that differentiate 'probably okay in this case' from 'abusive'. 'S why I put the 'plausibly' on my original request. I do think this wouldn't've triggered my 'abusive use of power' sensors if you'd presented it as you did in the reply, though - it's clear enough that consent was achieved, there.)
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[User Picture]From: squid314
2012-09-03 12:57 am (UTC)
I'll try to explain better in the future, then.
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[User Picture]From: adelenedawner
2012-09-03 12:58 am (UTC)
Thank you.
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[User Picture]From: marycatelli
2012-09-03 12:34 am (UTC)
A real hurriciane is, BTW, a Very Blustery Day with heavy rain, and usually warm.

Lived through three. Belle I slept through since it hit during the night while I was a child, but Gloria and Isabelle were basically that.
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[User Picture]From: gwendally
2012-09-03 02:49 am (UTC)
Yes, this. Gloria caused us all to take a nap. We woke up to find some tree damage.

Irene caused little mountain steams to become torrential flooding road-eating monsters and wiped out bridges, but during the actual hurricane it just felt like a heavy rain.
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[User Picture]From: avanti_90
2012-09-03 03:57 am (UTC)
Now I am even more impressed with Dr. H the occult master. And I would love to hear the goblin story!
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[User Picture]From: grognor
2012-09-03 05:11 am (UTC)
As long as you are talking about psychology and weather, I recall exactly the first time I thought I might die: right before a hurricane. The next ten dozen billion didn't phase me nearly so much. What I am trying to say is that there were ten dozen billion hurricanes in 2004 and 2005, and I assure you they were not the least bit exciting after the first several million.
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[User Picture]From: hentaikid
2012-09-03 03:13 pm (UTC)
Based on your anonymizing policy I'm trying to figure what was actually wrong with the old dude. I'm taking a stab that the last line in your post is a key and I'm gonna go with "Usually liberal old man with intermittent delusions that he's Ronald Reagan"
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[User Picture]From: purejuice
2012-09-03 05:13 pm (UTC)
fascinating, thank you.
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[User Picture]From: mercureal
2012-09-03 09:54 pm (UTC)
In my experience your grandmother's line of conversation is a refreshing change! Old folk I meet, and especially those to whom I'm related, gun in the other direction.
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[User Picture]From: ikadell
2012-09-03 10:19 pm (UTC)
Don´t forget to tell the goblin story
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