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The Naked Lady Who Stood on Her Head: A Psychiatrist’s Stories of His Most Bizarre Cases Hardcover – September 28, 2010
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Psychiatrists, counselors, and the like are in a unique position. They are in possession of incredibly interesting stories, yet the constraints of confidentiality and ethical concerns make sharing them difficult. Balancing the maintenance of privacy with the urge to tell—what are stories for, if not for sharing?—is a tricky matter. Small achieves that feat in this collection of “his most bizarre cases.” This is not a metaphor. While working a psychiatric ward shift as a new doctor, he is faced with an unresponsive client who is naked and standing on her head. Another client seems obsessed with having an arm amputated. A couple faces conflicting dreams and nightmares of a Disneyland wedding. Small’s stories cover the entire range of his more than 20-year career, from his fumbling attempts at looking professional with a client who is certain he’s trying to seduce her, to a recent encounter with a mentor who feels that his career has been a fraud. The stories are witty; the clients are treated respectfully, and the reader reaps the reward. --Matthew Tiffany
From the Back Cover
True stories are more bizarre than any fiction, and Dr. Gary Small knows this best. After thirty distinguished years of psychiatry and groundbreaking research on the human brain, Dr. Small has seen it all—now he is ready to open his office doors for the first time and tell all about the most mysterious, intriguing, and bizarre patients of his career.
The Naked Lady Who Stood on Her Head is a spellbinding record of the doctor's most bewildering cases, from naked headstands and hysterical blindness to fainting schoolgirls and self-amputations. It is an illuminating journey into the mind of a practicing psychiatrist and his life in medicine as it evolves over time—a behind-the-scenes look at the field and a variety of mental diseases as they've never been seen or diagnosed before. You'll find yourself exploring the puzzling eccentricities that make us human.
Often funny, sometimes tragic, and always compelling, Dr. Small takes you on a tour of his career that moves from the halls of a crowded inner-city Boston emergency room to the multimillion-dollar ski lodges of the nation's elite. In between, Dr. Small introduces a strange cast of true-life characters and conditions, while dealing with mysterious hysterical blindness, a man convinced that his penis is shrinking, secret double lives, and frighteningly psychotic romantic desires. His career and personal life come full circle when his own mentor becomes his patient, making Small realize that no one is beyond mental exploration—not even himself.
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In my opinion, Dr. Small does an excellent job of interweaving his most memorable or unique cases with sympathetic insights on behaviors we all encounter (or display). Certain passages also could be used with great effect to help destigmatize mental illness and the treatment thereof.
On a personal level, I found his sense of humor and candor refreshing. Psychiatrists and psychologists often seem to inspire a mixture of fear, awe, and contempt. It was wonderful to find that Dr. Small, at least as written, is reassuringly human. He is sometimes bored by patients, or frustrated by them. He's as self-doubting as any of us. Occasionally (especially in his earlier years) he has been clueless. But he is a warm, funny, and kind narrator, honestly interested in his patients, and sincerely trying to do his best for them. At the very least, that should be worthy of respect.
And at the very most, I wonder if—despite all his other impressive accomplishments—making mental health care professionals more relatable might not turn out to be one of his greatest gifts.
Read the book, and decide for yourself.