Copyright © 2009 by Richard A. Grossman, Ph.D. · All Rights reserved · E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
(in memory of H.)
H. drank for thirty years, so much and so frequently that his heart, swimming continuously in alcohol was failing. He was still drinking when he came to see me.
Long ago H. had discovered that no one heard him. Not his parents who were wrapped up in their own worlds, not his siblings, not his friends. Of course they all thought they did, but they didn't. When he turned sixteen, he decided to change his last name to the name of his maternal grandmother. He remembered a few warm times they had spent together.
He had seen many psychiatrists and psychologists in the past. None of them had heard him either. They had all fit him into the their frameworks: he was an alcoholic, a manic-depressive, paranoid, one personality disorder or another, and treated him accordingly. He had tried A.A. but found that too mechanical and regimented for his taste.
When he showed up in my office at Massachusetts General Hospital, I wondered whether I would be able to help him. So many highly credentialed psychiatrists and psychologists had tried and failed. And I wondered how much longer he was going to live. But his story was compelling: he was exceptionally bright, he had a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Yale, and had taught at a variety of colleges before his emotional problems and drinking had become too severe. So, I decided to give it a try.
In between teaching jobs, H. told me he had bought a sailboat and for a number of years sailed all over the world. He loved long ocean voyages. On the boat he made personal, intimate contact with friends and crew that he had always longed for but could never find elsewhere. There was none of the phoniness of day to day life--people were genuine; on the open ocean game playing quickly disappeared, people relied upon each other for survival.
So, how was I going to help him? From his stories and the way
Voicelessness and Emotional Survival
Therapy on the High Seas:
A Search for Self