Dr. Drew Bridges’ lively book recounts his 40 years in academic, administrative and clinical psychiatric settings in North Carolina. Every patient has a story to tell, he writes, recalling the words of a medical school professor, and Bridges has heard many of them.
Bridges’ stories don’t always follow a strict chronology, instead providing a look at various individuals with mental problems and their treatment, including pharmacologic and therapy advances, during his career. He begins with reminiscences of his early years of training and practice. The tales illustrate both his youthful naiveté and the shortcomings of some peers and teachers, including arrogance and ’70s versions of sexism and racism.
Throughout, the author is often humorous. For example, he recalls a flight back from York, UK, where he had toured a reconstructed Viking ship. He was the only physician available to help a passenger in respiratory distress, but his new Viking warrior T-shirt, blond shoulder-length hair and full beard frightened her. “When she…saw the image of the Viking,” he writes, “I saw terror.” Fortunately, she calmed down, and once Bridges learned she had only one lung, he quickly realized she needed additional oxygen, which the airline provided.
Other vignettes are more serious and thought-provoking. He describes encounters with people experiencing dissociative identity disorder (multiple personalities), spurious malpractice suits, a sociopath pretending to need mental health institutionalization so he could prey on patients and healthcare workers, family members with their own agendas, and more.
Bridges’ writing is straightforward, without much artistic flair, but he knows how to spin a story and often ends with an unexpected twist. Readers will appreciate his dry humor and his empathy as he describes the challenges of a psychiatric practitioner. Better still, he never forgets the humanity of colleagues and patients, treating all with dignity. While some stories are less engaging than others, most are short, making the book a quick, easy read.
Overall readers should enjoy this insider glimpse at a psychiatric career.
Also available as an ebook.