Sunday, February 06, 2005

The ordeal

My new patient stretched his faux-fur paws, and sighed. "I need to talk," he said quietly.

I studied his chart. Age: two months. Height: fifteen inches. Born in Vermont. Recently released from restraints, and still under commitment?

"I felt fine before they put the straitjacket on me," he said. "And the first five minutes weren't bad. Then I said, 'Okay, ha-ha, take this thing off me.'

"But they didn't..."

Please go on, I said.

"You can't imagine what it's like. You can't feed yourself. You can't toilet yourself. My paws started to hurt...I was totally powerless.

"Our union said they were trying to get us released. We saw protesters outside the store. I got anxious..."

Was he aware of the controversy? Some thought that he symbolized harsh and inhumane treatment of the mentally ill. They feared that his company sent a message: that it's fine to make light of a mental patient's most anguished moments.

"What? No, all I knew was that I was tied up, and I couldn't stand it.

"Fortunately, my legs were free. I jumped off the display case and ran out of the store. A protester from NAMI saw me and set me free. I lost her phone number. This is the worst experience I've ever had..."

We read his commitment paper. It cited poor appetite, poor sleep, and racing heartbeat. Did he have those symptoms?

"No, well, maybe a little," he said. "I have nightmares, too. Have I really been committed?"

I reassured him that no judge had signed his commitment form. He seemed much relieved. We discussed possible diagnoses and treatments. I cautioned him that psych meds were not approved by the FDA for toys.

"Well, I'd prefer to avoid meds anyway," he replied.

We settled on a plan: a physical exam by Dr. Charles; an EKG, to assess his racing heart; basic labs, including a thyroid test; and continued psychotherapy. If he needs any help with his commitment paper, he should contact Curious JD.

He seemed pleased with that.

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