What's Normal? Narratives of Mental and Emotional Disorders

By Carol Donley; Sheryl Buckley | Go to book overview

From Love's Executioner and Other Tales
of Psychotherapy

IRVIN D. YALOM


CHAPTER 5: "I NEVER THOUGHT IT WOULD HAPPEN TO ME"

I GREETED Elva in my waiting room, and together we walked the short distance to my office. Something had happened. She was different today, her gait labored, discouraged, dispirited. For the last few weeks there had been a bounce in her steps, but today she once again resembled the forlorn, plodding woman I had first met eight months ago. I remember her first words then: "I think I need help. Life doesn't seem worth living. My husband s been dead for a year now, but things aren't getting any better. Maybe I'm a slow learner."

But she hadn't proved to be a slow learner. In fact, therapy had progressed remarkably well—maybe it had been going too easily. What could have set her back like this?

Sitting down, Elva sighed and said, "I never thought it would happen to me."

She had been robbed. From her description it seemed an ordinary purse snatching. The thief, no doubt, spotted her in a Monterey seaside restaurant and saw her pay the check in cash for three friends—elderly widows all. He must have followed her into the parking lot and, his footsteps muffled by the roaring of the waves, sprinted up and, without breaking stride, ripped her purse away and leaped into his nearby car.

Elva, despite her swollen legs, hustled back into the restaurant to call for help, but of course it was too late. A few hours later, the police found her empty purse dangling on a roadside bush.

Three hundred dollars meant a lot to her, and for a few days Elva was preoccupied by the money she had lost. That concern gradually evaporated and in its place was left a bitter residue—a residue expressed by the phrase "I never thought it would happen to me." Along with her purse and her three hundred dollars, an illusion was snatched away from Elva—the illusion of personal specialness. She had always lived in the privileged circle, outside the unpleasantness, the nasty inconveniences visited on ordinary people—those swarming masses of the tabloids and newscasts who are forever being robbed or maimed.

-61-

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What's Normal? Narratives of Mental and Emotional Disorders
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Literature and Medicine ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • Editors'' Commentary on Narrative xiii
  • Part One - Clinical & Bioethical Perspectives 1
  • The Meaning of Normal 7
  • From Madness, Heresy, and the Rumor of Angels- The Revolt against the Mental Health System 17
  • From the Flamingo''s Smile- Reflections in Natural History 30
  • From Rewriting the Soul 39
  • From "On Being Sane in Insane Places" 54
  • From Love''s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy 61
  • Three Stories from Cases in Bioethics 68
  • Part Two - Narrative Perspectives 85
  • Section One - Children & Adolescents with Mental Disorders 93
  • Silent Snow, Secret Snow 95
  • The End of the Party 110
  • From Girl, Interrupted 117
  • From Equus 125
  • Section Two - Mental Disability (Retardation) 135
  • Two Stick Drawings 137
  • From Joe Egg 139
  • The Life You Save May Be Your Own 146
  • From of Mice and Men 156
  • Average Waves in Unprotected Waters 165
  • Lily Daw and the Three Ladies 173
  • Section Three - Women''s Experiences with Mental Disorders 183
  • Three Poems 185
  • From like Water for Chocolate 187
  • From Faces in the Water 189
  • The Yellow Wallpaper 201
  • The Woman Hanging from the Thirteenth Floor Window 215
  • The Avalanche 218
  • "No Name Woman," from the Woman Warrior 219
  • Three Poems 229
  • Section Four - Mens Experiences with War Trauma, Including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 233
  • "1919" from Sula 235
  • Night March 241
  • Mental Cases 249
  • From Ceremony 250
  • From Mrs. Dalloway 257
  • Section Five - Men … Mental Disorders 269
  • Panic 271
  • King of the Bingo Game 273
  • "Cash" from as I Lay Dying 281
  • Gogol''s Wife 285
  • The Tell-Taie Heart 295
  • From the Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge 299
  • Section Six - Alzheimer''s & Dementia 301
  • To You My Mother Lost in Time 303
  • From My Journey into Alzheimer''s Disease 305
  • From in a Tangled Wood- An Alzheimer''s Journey 325
  • Two Poems 340
  • A Wonderland Party 343
  • Notes on Contributors 345
  • Permissions Acknowledgments 350
  • Index 354
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