Cover of The Snake PitMemoirs
By Kenneth Weene
"I hope...that it has made you think and feel."
The old movie, The Snake Pit with Gloria DeHavilland (1948) was on television this week. I remember when I first watched it, I was fascinated and yet so sympathetic. Another movie, Sybil (1976), came along and I was even more pulled in by that story. Both of these were, I believe, based upon books. Why are we fascinated with those books or movies that reflect the abnormal? Do we see some part of ourselves there? Do we whisper thankfully, "There, but for the Grace of God, go I"?
Memoirs From the Asylum by Kenneth Weene who is a psychologist and pastoral counselor gives us a realistic look into a state hospital for those mentally ill.
Several of the characters in this ward are diagnosed with Schizophrenia (a group of severe brain disorders in which people interpret reality abnormally. Schizophrenia may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions and disordered thinking and behavior). Yes, I looked it up because I wanted to be sure I understood...
One of the things I noticed was that one of the individuals was said to be catatonic, but really wasn't. Marilyn merely lived in her own world--a world that included all the good people that were important to her. You see, she really wasn't there lying in her bed, she was inside a crack in the wall right next to her bed, with her dog, her brother, et.al. On the other hand, the man who narrates the story is merely scared. I found a little bit of myself in both of them...would you?
Weene, in an afternote, said, "The hope that...it has made you think and feel..." Ahhh, indeed I did! There is no way readers will not feel compassion and sympathy for those there in the hospital.
For me, I also could not feel anything but anger and disgust for many of the workers that were there as well. Perhaps because I felt that this was more true than not...
The book focuses on one counselor, Buford Abrose, M.D., first year resident in psychiatry. He has Marilyn as his patient. Since she is seen as catatonic and Dr. Abrose is to spend time with her, we are allowed to see many of his thoughts--about his wife who married a doctor who would be rich and well thought of, not an individual working in a state hospital! He is a caring man, trying to do his job. Readers will feel and respond to his frustration and anger at many actions he sees, but cannot change. Like the head of the hospital caring more about forms to be completed than about the patients there!
Shall I declare Memoirs From the Asylum a must-read for those who work at and care for those in hospitals or other care facilities. Of course, I must...and hopefully they will respond! For those entering the various fields of psychology and counseling, may you feel first and understand what you will need to do. For those readers who have brushed clinical depression, job burnout, and other short-term stresses, you may find a need to read this book.
Readers must decide whether this book is for them; I can only tell you for sure--you WILL think and feel...and you will learn!
And you will remember. Authetic, compelling drama that forces a response!
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