ImageI spoke to a patient today in his mid 70s. Depressed.  Denies suicidal ideation. No plans. The holidays trigger memories of his son, who died at the age of 30. The pain in his voice is as palpable as a pulse. I try to maintain professional composure and not allow my emotions to show. It’s hard to keep the tears from my eyes, but I believe I’m successful.  I picture my little ones for a nanosecond and I can’t imagine. I don’t want to imagine. Burying one’s child is the worst emotional trauma a person can undergo.

I’m agnostic, but I also believe in respecting my patient’s beliefs. It’s not about me and my personal opinions. “Are you spiritual, sir?” I ask.

“Yes, I go to church every week. I like my church, and the people there are really nice.”

“Where do you think your son is?”

“In heaven.”

“He’s watching out for you?”

“Yes.”

“Would he want his father to be sad?”

“No, no, no.”

I start feeling like Ricky Gervais in the Invention of Lying (good movie, although if you’re the religious sort, I don’t recommend it. You will be deeply offended, more so than you are right now.) I don’t believe what I’m saying, but if it makes my patient feel better, what’s the harm?

“Someday, you’ll be reunited in heaven, won’t you?”

“Of course.”

“That’s something to look forward to, isn’t it? Let’s just not make it today, alright?”

He laughs. “No, not today.”

“Good, “ I reply warmly. “You can call us anytime, alright? If these feelings return, we’re for you. There’s always someone on call.”

“I guess I need a lot of people watching out for me, “ he says wistfully.

“That’s why we’re here.”

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Oh, So Sad

To be fair, that’s the face of a Mets fan during the regular season too.

I have came up with a phrase to describe the malaise I have been feeling since the baseball season ended. You might have heard of SAD, what us health professional types call seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that, as its name states, is related to the seasons of the year, namely the dark, shorter days of winter. Many people need the UV rays of the sun to produce happy chemicals in our brain. When the days turn shorter, joy vacates the afflicted like leaves fall off trees.

For us, the baseball fanciers, we have a similar illness, one which I have coined Off-season Affective Disorder (OSAD). When baseball season ends, we become sad, our moods turn dark. Since the season ended, I find myself in this abyss where I am forced to confront everyday harsh realities. My favorite mode of escapism, 9 innings of meaningless perfection, is gone. I don’t know why it gets me every year–I mean, I know it’s coming, right?

How to tell if you might be afflicted? Do you find yourself searching Twitter for any snippet of baseball trade rumors? Are you re-watching all your favorite baseball movies? Have you built a shrine to your team with Zim-bear as its centerpiece out of sheer boredom? Are you counting down the days until voluntary spring training reporting day for pitchers and catchers? Are you considering watching alternative inferior sports like football? Do you find yourself in interminable circular arguments about the superiority of cake versus pie? If you’ve replied yes to one or more of these questions, talk to your doctor. Or, rather, don’t. She’ll think you’re crazy, and yeah, she’s probably right. Just self-medicate until February. Pass the rum, please.

The Power of Play

I read an article today about this ball, the One World Futbol, on the New York Times web site and I think it is the coolest thing. It is a virtually indestructible soccer ball (futbol) designed to be used by children in underdeveloped nations, or anyone who plays in less than ideal conditions. Rough terrain destroys regular balls and most balls don’t last more than a day. The inspiration for this ball came from the inventor watching children in Darfur kicking around a ball made of trash tied with twine in a refugee camp around rocky terrain. These balls never deflate and never need an air pump. For every one that gets bought, one gets donated, or you can just buy one to donate. They can also be used for other purposes, such as a chew toy for large rambunctious dogs. Like I said, it’s very cool. I think I know what I want for Christmas this year.

There’s also a tie-in to baseball. Jeremy Affeldt, a relief pitcher for the San Francisco Giants joined forces with the One World Futbol Project to raise donations for Ethiopian youth. All around, it’s a great project, and one I am happy to promote.

Goodbye Little Buddy

Today is a sad day. Ronnie Darling, my 13.5 year old Pomeranian was euthanized this morning. He once belonged to my mother, but I rescued him from a bad situation when she began dating a man who would abuse the little dog. When I got him, he was a snippy thing who would definitely bite the hand that fed him. If I had to clean his backside or wipe his eyes of gunk, I had to be fast or risk losing a finger to those razor sharp tiny teeth. He would low growl and bare his little Pomeranian teeth at me. He never did let go of that aggressiveness and he bit me several times. Honestly, Ronnie could be a royal pain in the ass and I would never choose to adopt the yappy little breed, but he couldn’t help being who he was.

The poor dog had bad hips and already had had surgery to repair his dislocated right hip two years ago. He was then diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease (over-secretion of corticosteroids–people get it too). He had tumors. He was having difficulty walking. The last straw for my husband was the incontinence. He had been housebroken, but he lost control of his bowels at the most inopportune moments and places. The indignities of aging don’t escape anyone, even man’s best friend.

Rationally, I know the humane thing to do was to put him down. I gave him his last meal last night, a nice big juicy hot dog. He loved it and even allowed me to pet him while he ate it.

Coming home tonight and not seeing his happy wagging tail is what I’m dreading. This isn’t my first time losing a dog to death. I lost my beloved chubby ugly epileptic dachshund, Dinky, years ago and I still tear up over his death–his loss was unexpected and sudden, and he was one of those special life changing dogs. People who have been owned by dogs know what I mean. Ronnie was not one of those dogs, but for some reason, I’m not finding this much easier.