“And, by the way…”

He came in for his routine yearly visit with me, stable for the most part in that he was living with his chronic psychotic illness and moving through the world in a fairly normal, logical way most days. He was in his mid-twenties, neat, clean. He was attending to his personal hygiene and wearing rumpled but passable casual clothes. His hair was combed, but it had not been cut or even trimmed in quite a while.

“I don’t think my antidepressant is working,” he announced matter-of-factly.

Like many of my patients, he was and has been subject to that best of all psychiatric interventions, polypharmacy (Yes, I AM being sarcastic), whereby if a patient tells you they are having an exacerbation of symptoms on their current regimen of drugs you simply add another one and hope that augmentation is a real phenomenon. (The drug companies assure me that it is.)


I waited.

He waited.

“Tell me more.”

He did.

His change in symptoms was both vague and intriguing, troublesome and irksome. We’d been down this road before, he and I, several times.

He thought it was the medicine.

I did not.

Ninety-nine per cent of the time it was not.

Medicine is just an easy target. There it sits, on the nightstand, on the window sill above the kitchen sink, in a purse, under the bed. In a brown bottle, with a white childproof cap, neatly labeled,  it is the best absorber of causation ever devised by modern medicine. If something is not right, if something is difficult to figure out, if something is not working or responding the way we all think it should be at week one, week four, or week eight, then it must be the medicine. What else could it possibly be?

“I’m more depressed. I don’t want to do anything. I don’t leave the house. I have no interests. I don’t sleep. I don’t eat.”

We chatted. He weaved and bobbed. I confronted and clarified.

“Maybe it’s the medicine,” I offered, not wholeheartedly but with some degree of inevitable resignation.

“I told you it was the medicine,” he said, triumphant.

We talked about a dosage change. A small increase. A homeopathic sacrifice to the gods of common sense and exasperation.

“There,” I said. “Anything else you think  I should know before we stop?”

He was silent.

I typed in the new dose of the medicine and sent it on its way to the pharmacy in electronic form.

I got up, proffering my hand.

“And by the way,” he said, a calculated afterthought. “I’m very lonely, you know. I’m very lonely. Do you think I’ll ever have a girlfriend?”

I sat back down.

My next patient had already canceled.

I had not been able to do psychotherapy, even rudimentary, time-limited, short-term psychotherapy, in such a long, long time.

I laced my fingers in my best Freudian way, stroked my white goatee, and crossed one leg over the other.

“I’m listening,” I said.


Guaranteed for Late Arrival


At the first of the year, I made a pact with myself. This year, I was going to make a concerted effort to spend money, time, and energy on having quality experiences, both by myself and with other people, instead of spending the capital on material goods such as new computers, hardware or other tangibles.

Approaching the end of the summer, and way past mid-year now, it’s time to take stock and see how I’m doing. Where have I been, what have I done, and who have I done it with? Is there room to squeeze more quality time in before we all sing Auld Lang Syne?

In January, I attended the Poison Peach Film Festival at the Imperial Theater in downtown Augusta, Georgia. While I did not feel that I was properly dressed, rocked the pony tail or had the requisite number of tattoos, this was a fun experience. I liked the campy films, the scary one with the old house in the middle of the woods (don’t trust the pretty lady-ever) and the general creative atmosphere of the Imperial during this festival.

Reconnection with friends began in January as well, with phone calls to Jan in DC, steak dinner and world problem solving with Rob, and discussions about SC mental health at the USCA Convocation Center with basketballs dribbled on the hardwood as backdrop. I especially loved the basketball games, and I paid my six bucks and perched high up in the corner on many weekday evenings to watch the Pacers play. Watching basketball in January also extended to Athens, GA, where the Bulldogs and Stegeman Coliseum were my GPS targets more than once.

February started with a wonderful impromptu reunion of sorts with old high school friends and a stay in the Bowdoin Room in one of the student-managed cabins on the campus of Berry College, my alma mater. The Berry campus and the visit with friends (who told some stories I had never heard before!)  recharged me in a very nice way. More basketball in the wonderful new Cage Center with friends followed on Sunday.

The first of several trips to Beaufort, SC, came next in February. Sitting by the river in a swing, good conversation over dinner with friends and the one-of-a-kind salt marsh air of Lowcountry SC have a way of permeating the soul and carrying you through until you can get back down to the plough mud and bridges that span the rivers that divide the islands.

The end of February found me traveling up the road to the Newberry Opera House to see the Peking Acrobats, a highly entertaining troupe of highly coordinated people who can stack chairs to the ceiling and the sit on them to boot! A visit to my roots, Cochran, Georgia, for another visit with family was long overdue and brought more stories and laughter with those who were there when I was a small boy. Contrary to what you’ve been told by me or anyone else, you can go home again.

The middle of March found me at the Koger Center in Columbia, SC, for a stunning performance of Les Miserables. The venue is expansive, the sets were fantastic, and singing of the national touring company was stellar. If you haven’t seen Les Mis, you must get tickets and see it right away. It’s a stunning show.

Family visits to Athens have sprinkled the year with fun and busyness, and the Easter Egg Hunt with grandkids at the end of March was great fun. That big bunny was a little scary though…

April brings the Masters to Augusta, but it also me heading out of town to a visit with a childhood friend who, with her partner, became my tour guide and companion on a lovely trip to Washington, DC. The picture above, outside the Smithsonian on a stunningly beautiful day, gives you a peek into the bright fun had on that trip. DC is a Metro-riding, walking town, and we logged miles from the Washington Monument to the Tidal Basin, missing the blooming of the cherry trees by only days.

Mid-April took me back to Columbia to the Koger Center for Dream Girls and some of the biggest voices I have ever heard on stage. One week later, I listened to the powerful voices of Chanticleer at the Etherredge Center of USCA, a wonderful little venue only six minutes from home.

The end of April took me back to Beaufort and Charleston. I came back with some sun and a new painting by a Lowcountry artist friend of mine, a wonderful marsh landscape that now reminds me daily of that part of the state that I love so much.

April showers bring May flowers, but for me May brought phone calls to family members, friends, and writers who were wonderfully generous with their time, expertise and advice to me as I struggled to get back to blogging again after a few months’ hiatus. Make no mistake, contact with friends and family, in person, by phone, by mail, or any way you choose costs you very little but pays large dividends.

June found me in another arts venue, this time with the Town and Gown Players in Athens, GA, for the Great American Trailer Park Musical, a hilarious show that featured my oldest daughter, one in a long line of performing Lambs and Smiths. I laughed out loud, something that I rarely do but need to do more.

In July, I visited the National POW Museum and the Andersonville National Historic Site, a moving place full of memories, beauty and stories. At the end of the month, I hiked and walked my way around lakes and parks and thoroughly wore myself out.

I think I have been true to my mission of spending time, money and effort on doing things, having experiences and branching out a little this year. I have five months left until we hit 2014. What will I do with that time?

Well, the list so far includes a trip to visit Monticello and UVA in Charlottesville, Virginia, a few more trips back to the Lowcountry to hang out with friends, taking in a few UGA football games in person to watch the Dawgs march toward a national championship, and heading back to see performances by symphony, opera, broadway companies and more in Augusta, Aiken and Columbia.

The last weekend in September will find me traveling to two reunions in one day (that should be fun!). The fall will bring the launch of a football program at Berry College and I plan to cheer on the Vikings anytime I can make it to Rome to see them.

The end of the year may bring a third grandchild, though the due date is in January. More pictures will follow, so get ready.


All in all, I think things have been busy, productive , fun, and have allowed me to connect with people and places that I love and enjoy. Of note, I have not bought a new iPad, iPhone or any other shiny hardware in a number of months now.

But hey, the iPhone 5s launches in October. Can I hold out and keep my year-long pledge?


Are you kidding me?