The Last Word: on choosing your career

May 23, 2013 § Leave a comment


“Only rugby players?” My elderly mum fell last week but was less interested in her fractured wrist than the orthopaedic practice’s photographic décor.


I briefly explained how a burbling pool of primordial soup and an electrostatic generator had conjoined to beget Neanderthals, Cro-Magnons and Orthopods; albeit some say not in that order. Grrl power can’t fight the fact that your archetypal orthopod spent his formative years on a footie field breaking bones and tearing ligaments. Occasionally his own. Hence the career in corporal carpentry.


It’s natural to be interested in your own problems. That’s why diabetic doctors become endocrinologists, asthmatics become respiratory physicians, madcats become psychiatrists and dodgy docs do expert legal opinions. I’d best not mention drug and alcohol physicians.


It’s therefore predictable that form-filling fetishists become GPs. And don’t try to deny it for that would be repression—or is denying it denial?


Denial, the least lucrative defence mechanism, has a bad reputation. Beyondblue has just launched an awareness-raising campaign aimed at people who are anxious but don’t know it. Why do mental health professionals keep knocking denial? Isn’t reality just a crutch for people who can’t handle being drug and alcohol physicians?


I recently had brunch with a sick friend. She finished chemo last year and says she’s taken my counsel—which I totally deny giving—that, far from being bad, denial is a fantastic defence mechanism. She then vented about a psychologist who shatters patients by encouraging them to think about their past traumas.


Time heals all wounds—if you don’t pick at them. Okay, nearly all wounds. There’s a reason patients fear psychotherapy. As must I.


Last year, I had a curious patient encounter that ultimately involved nine paramedics, a dozen police, two TV crews and a small riot. Youth service staff commented that for twenty years I have been the only employee who never receives debriefing. My spine chilled and I quickly fled. I must have debriefing phobia.


This afternoon I spent $15 purchasing a pre-loved 125-year-old Dictionary of Medicine. It goes from phlyzacium to phosphatic diasthesis without an entry for phobia. The book’s contributors included Braxton Hicks and Florence Nightingale but not Sigmund Freud.


Two decades would pass before Freud published about little Hans’s horse widdler phobia. Hans was of course also phobic of widdler-less horses, but Freud never let the facts get in the way of a good stiffy.


A friend once worked with a phobic dentist. Equine widdlers weren’t her issue. The dentist would not, however, enter a treatment room until a certain organ was covered with gauze. Moral: don’t do dentistry if you’re phobic of tongues.


I can relate to a tongue phobia. I don’t have arachibutyrophobia, the fear of peanut butter sticking to my palate, but Google Translate suggests I do have adhesitlinguafrigidametallumphobia. I’m petrified my tongue will stick to a metal ice cube tray. I can’t enter rooms with uncovered ice trays yet I’m too scared to get therapy. True. Ish.


I was about 18-years-old when a yahooing uni student fell from a car. He died. A friend of mine was also in the car. He seemed to cope. I don’t know if he got counselling.


In a physiology prac, the friend asked me to listen to his heart. He thought it sounded odd. We’d never used a stethoscope before. It turned out we were listening to the machinery murmur of his undiagnosed patent ductus arteriosus. He’s now a cardiologist.

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