The doctor has a problem.

‘I have a problem.’

Dr. D tells me this as he collects me from the waiting room.

‘Well that makes at least two of us’, I say, putting my own brain fog and forgotten sentences aside for a moment, to consult my psychiatrist.

It’s not the first time he’s had a problem at work. There was the time when he worked from a house, and the builders next door let rubble fall onto his Mercedes. But it didn’t seem to bother him too much. Nothing does.

Nonetheless, it’s important to occasionally let the psychiatrist think it’s not all about you, and indulge them.

After all, he spends a lot of time in these four walls with people who are highly intelligent and emotionally unwell, often both at the same time. When he’s not here he’s doing his bit for academia, so he doesn’t get out much. You need to show him there are people who care.

I like to think I’m giving back.

‘So…what’s your problem?’

He pauses, perhaps enjoying the therapy.

‘Someone is borrowing the magazines.’

Now, all waiting rooms have magazines. It’s the 3rd Waiting Room Rule. But Dr. D gets good magazines. They are all super current, and we are treated to Vogue, National Geographic, some health and wellness ones; generally positive stuff.

No Economist just in case it makes people angry. 

Waiting rooms generally don’t have this quality or currency of magazine, so initially I was a little surprised at his generosity. His clientele tend to arrive in various states of emotional déshabillé, so the dates or states of the magazines will hardly register highly on their Big Concerns of the Moment radar. 

They probably don’t even care what day it is, so a ‘HELLO!’ from 2012 isn’t likely to elicit the kind of disgust it might if they were at the dentist’s.

‘I love your euphemisms. Borrowing.’

‘Essential in this business. Anyway, I’ve written a sign for the waiting room. As you’re a writer of some repute I thought you could take a look at this.’

I know this man chooses his words carefully, but I’m intrigued by the last paragraph.

I ponder.

“Do you really think people care that they're depriving others of the chance to enjoy the magazines? You’re assuming a degree of conscience, and an interest in the greater good. I mean, sure, you have people like me who are caring and sharing  - if you’ll allow me a moment of self-love. But generally your target market isn’t overly concerned with the happiness of others; they’re too busy trying to figure out how to cope with the life they are in.’  

‘Interesting,’ he says, pacing the room. He’s already ahead of me on that one, as usual.
‘The thing is, I have to maintain a degree of normality. I have to exhibit the kind of normal behaviour that would be expected of people Out There. It’s good for the patients.’

I can see his point. If your psychiatrist, a person whom you have trusted with your life for years, passively condones stealing magazines in his waiting room, some of the more opportunistic clientele might see this as green light to flout other social norms. So he has to maintain some degree of ‘normal’ order.

‘OK, fine. That can stay. I don’t think you should put BORROWING in upper case, though.’

‘Why not?’

‘It’s too . . .confrontational. It actually suggests they’re stealing. It screams out at you.’

‘I’ll reconsider it.’

‘And, I don’t think it’s necessarily all bad, by the way. Depends who’s nicking things. I mean, if someone who previously hasn’t had the motivation or energy for personal grooming is now enterprising enough to steal a copy of Vogue, it means you’re doing good work. I think you should take it as a positive sign.’  

“Thank you. I didn’t expect such a comprehensive analysis, given your current mental state. Clearly you’re getting better already.’

Lena Semaan. 

Next week . . .

“Depression - real clinical depression – isn’t glossy. Especially when it’s committed itself to you for life. . .”

Liz Fraser