Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Unable to Check Out of the Hotel

“There’s an emergency with my eye. Can you come right away?”

Hotel doctors don’t like to walk in on emergencies, so I asked him to elaborate.

“I’ve been to the Mayo Clinic where, it’s sad to say because they’re wonderful doctors, they performed the wrong MRI, so the eye is now looking to the right, but it’s not right because I’m a right-thinking citizen who looks both ways before crossing the street….

If a schizophrenic checks into a hotel, I hear about it.  

In its dictionary derivation, schizophrenia comes from the Greek meaning “splitting of the mind.” Hollywood, as usual, gets it wrong in movies featuring entertaining characters with multiple personalities. In fact, split personalities are so rare, some psychiatrists believe they don’t exist. The “split” in schizophrenia doesn’t involve personality but reality. Schizophrenics don’t know what’s real and what isn’t. They find this confusing, but it’s surprisingly uninteresting to observers. Holding a conversation is frustrating.

Like any disease, symptoms wax and wane. Victims with enough connection to reality to check into a hotel may deteriorate and become unable to check out, so employees ask my help. Everyone (the movies again…!) think an injection will fix things. Antipsychotics eliminate delusions, hallucinations, and disordered thinking but do nothing to restore a sense of reality. In any case they may take weeks to work. 

Anxious to relieve themselves of a demented guest, hotels often offer to pay my fee. I once spent an hour in a room with a naked, incoherent man, and since then I try to solve these problems over the phone. Hotel employees may believe they can’t call the police unless there’s a danger, but I assure them that if someone is too helpless to care for himself, the police will take him to the appropriate social agency. It’s OK to call the police for crazy people.    

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