I was a “guinea pig” for a mock psychiatry board exam in 1997

I really should put this one in my next book.

The year: 1997. All us mental patients were offered $10 so that we could be “interviewed” by budding young shrinks about to take their board exams. This was their practice run.  Guess what they were practicing doing?

Diagnosing. That’s right, folks, they were practicing doing GUESSWORK.

For about 20 minutes, the student shrink would sit there and converse with each of us individually, a one-to-one interview, and then decide what our “diagnosis” was, while other hotshot shrinks watched the whole proceedings via camera. The nervous student shrink, or resident I should say, would hope he or she did well and GUESSED correctly.

In other words, “What’s my line?” Remember that TV game show?  Some dude would come on and others would ask questions.  It all about guessing the person’s job, or occupation.

“Depression.”  “Bipolar.” “Schiz.” What’s my line?  Oh, I can laugh now.

I wanted that $10. It was going to be cash, too.  This was going to be a laugh and a half. They didn’t know a writer was in their midst.

All I know was that this was 1997. I’d had shock treatments in 1996, far too many, and spent the next year recovering from them. There didn’t seem to be permanent brain injury, however, what happened was that I was repeatedly told I was “mentally sick” and there wasn’t any acknowledgement of the temporary damage caused by the “treatments.” I’m relieved that I’m okay from all that now. The trauma of the repeated insults  and neglect by mental health professionals during those two years was probably even more damaging and long-lasting than the shock treatments.

So they had some multiple “diagnoses” pinned on me.  These diagnoses mysteriously disappeared after I walked away from McLean a few months later, interestingly enough.

So the resident interviewed me.  Was there a scientific test? X-rays?  A blood test? Even ink blots?  Nope. He “talked” to me. Asked questions. This wasn’t even a neuro test, cuz he wasn’t a neurologist.

I ran into the guy maybe a month later.  He was a pleasant and polite guy. He told me he hadn’t done well on the mock test, but that I was certainly a likeable person, and he enjoyed my sense of humor.

So there.  I certainly felt sorry for him.  And I do now. I believe he passed the boards just fine.

Feedback and comments welcome!