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Weekends at Bellevue: Nine Years on the Night Shift at the Psych ER Paperback – October 26, 2010
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No one is immune from mental illness. After working at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital for nine years, as the psychiatrist in charge of admissions at the psych E.R. on Saturday and Sunday nights, I came away knowing this for sure. Over the years, I admitted heiresses and art dealers, altar boys and college students, homecoming queens, studio executives, bankers, lawyers, correction officers, and the list goes on. No matter who you are, what you do for a living, how much money you have in the bank, or how often you go to church, circumstances can transpire that will bring you to Bellevue. This is one of the hardest lessons for our patients to learn.
My years at Bellevue taught me many things, life lessons I could never have hoped to receive elsewhere, but the main take-home message was this: cherish your sanity, for it can be lost in the blink of an eye. Sometimes I saw the same patients repeatedly, alcoholics and addicts who were hitting bottom in regular cycles, showing up when their funds ran out. Other times, however, I met patients with no psychiatric history, who ended up at Bellevue when a bad break-up led to a suicide attempt, or a shared cigarette at a bar led to a PCP-induced psychosis. There are so many ways in which a life can suddenly unravel, and many of my patients could specify just when that started to happen for them--whether it was joining the army, leaving home for college, or living through the death of their child.
Many of the people I encountered at Bellevue tried strenuously to convince me that they did not belong there. Or vice versa. A big part of my job was learning how to separate the genuinely disturbed from the fakers (some people actually wanted to be admitted to Bellevue, if only for the promise of a clean bed and three meals a day), and to identify the people who had been misunderstood, misdiagnosed, who weren’t mentally ill at all. After a few years of Bellevue experiences under my belt, I developed a sixth sense for what real crazy looked like, sounded like, and yes, smelled like. One night a young man was brought in to the E.R. because he was found on a street corner preaching to passersby to give up their worldly possessions. I knew enough to listen and wait, and not rush to judgment, even though it might have seemed a no-brainer to admit him. Once I was able to draw him out, I learned that he had taken psychedelic mushrooms and then spent time in a Chelsea art gallery known as COSM, which I myself had been to and knew to be an intense, inspirational and potentially overwhelming experience, something that might well unhinge a person on mind-altering drugs. I spoke with him gently as his trip slowly ebbed, helping him to navigate his re-entry in the city hospital where he had landed with no money or identification. He stayed in touch with me for months afterwards, grateful that I was there to protect him when he soared--however briefly--beyond the boundaries of normal behavior.
There is a diaphanous membrane between sane and insane. It is the flimsiest of barriers, and because any one of us can break through at any time, it terrifies us, causing us to turn our backs on those who remind us of this painful reality. But spending so much time with people who marched out of the lockstep of sanity has made me less forgiving of the way the mentally ill are ostracized and shunned. We owe them something better. And we should remember that the barrier separating "them" from "us" is not nearly as secure as we might think.--Julie Holland--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
This autobiography details some of the more interesting cases seen by Julie Holland, a pyschopharmacologist, as she worked weekends for 9 years at the Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, where the psych cases are taken. Unfortunately, it reads like a case of narcissitic personality disorder, where an individual has a pattern of grandiosity, needs admiration, and lacks empathy.
She has a machismo attitude, is sexually aggressive and competetive, and ignores the illness of her good friend. Holland flaunts and honors her difficulties with authority, although she does not tolerate challenges to her authority. As she relates the stories of her cases, Holland doesn't seem to empathize with her patients, or relate to them emotionally. Even then, the story focus is usually on her - how she reacted to the patient, how she should've reacted to the patient, or how she ignored the patient. Did readers really need to know she felt herself lubricate because there was a man in scrubs, and she was fixated on scrubs as a sexual object? Is this book about Bellevue and mental illness, or is it about her? She mentions how she was suggested for attending several times, but was unwilling to take it and give up her weekend hours. For story progression, it's not very relevant. It's out of fear of what could happen to her, with her family, that is part of what makes her quit the ER and move to private practice. She calls for patient follow-up once, hears that the person didn't do well, and "learned her lesson" not to inquire about a patient once they are discharged.
It also reads like a television spot.Read more ›
And, as a fan of doctor-authors like Abraham Verghese, Jerome Groopman, and Oliver Sacks, I wonder if she's ever read their work and observed the craft and poetry they bring to it. They're in another league. Occasionally, there's some comment on the system and the underlying societal factors that create it, but they feel tacked on. An editor's suggestion, perhaps?
This is not a book about psychiatry in an urban setting so much as it is a book about the author and various assaults on her ego. It does get better as she goes into therapy, loses a mentor to cancer, and becomes a parent. Just about the time you think she's qualified for the work she does, she hangs up her hat and walks out.
Having never read one from a psychiatric perspective, I was doubly looking forward to it.
What I found instead was quite disappointing.
ALL ABOUT DR. HOLLAND:
Dr. Holland's perspective was strangely ego-centric even for an autobiography. It was all about her, her ego issues, how she came across to others, how she excused some very non-caring behavior. I really didn't see any interesting cases, any real learning about treatments, nor personal growth.
From the beginning she spoke of her caustic interactions with difficult patients. How she baited those who could not retaliate. In fact she brought this fact up to her own therapist as a concern. Granted it might have been uncomfortable bearing her soul in a book of this type about these issues, but if you are going to do this, at least be honest about it. I don't think she pursued understanding of this for the patients benefit, but her own, as she was clearly putting herself in harms way.
JUSTIFICATIONS AND EXCUSES:
She also befriended another physician on staff that she considered a role model. When this friend became ill, she did what every best friend would do....Disappeared. I think not! She wallowed in her own self pity and explained her behavior. Only when the friend died, did she realize, she should have been there and only then for her own edification.
I found myself wincing at her justifications and explanations.
When her colleague's felt she deserted them at 9/11 rather than realizing there may be reasons they felt this way, she continued to hide behind the convenient excuse of her family. I'm sure other's could have done the same but didn't.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Was really looking forward to reading this book but wow this woman is brutal. I'm thankful that not all doctors are like this one or we would be in trouble. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Wicked Lil Pixie
Book was every interesting. Thingsyou learn that you wouldnt think of happening in that type of setting. Type of book you wanna just keep reading. Read morePublished 2 months ago by d r seaford
It drew me in. I liked the alternating stories of the Bellevue Hospital and the thoughts and therapy of the Doctor/ Author. Good information. Read morePublished 2 months ago by marla
This book gave a firsthand look at what happens in a very dark time in ones life. The Medical Staff are tasked with caring for them and show so much compassion I was so taken with... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Don McConachie
Starts out strong, and gets weak by the end. Dr. Holland may be good with mes management but she is not a true clinician. She diagnoses and prescribes meds... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Garrett Raubolt
What a great book!!!!!!!!!!! I am an ER nurse in a community hospital (or as I call it...Wal-Greens) and wish I had more excitement besides the pts who call 911 for a runny nose!Published 4 months ago by Sharon
This was a good book.
At times, the information about her home life was boring to me, and she does not share nearly as much insight as I hoped she would. Read more
Well written, held interest throughout. I didn't know what to expect, but I got into the flow early and looked forward to each new chapter.Published 6 months ago by bfrank
It is so refreshing to see that even doctors feel the pain of both patients and other first responders. Phenomenal!Published 6 months ago by Edward E Tolliver