Shawn Katuwapitiya is a Psychiatry Resident (R4) at the University of Ottawa who graduated from medical school at Western University in 2014
This poem was performed at the 2017 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, where Shawn was acting as one of Ottawa's representatives from the Urban Legends Poetry Collective. He regularly publishes poetry at http://psychiatryproject.tumblr.com.
as a child,
i would speak to everyone in my proximity.
as i grew,
that expanded to include those in yahoo chat rooms
and msn messenger contact lists,
and i still start conversations with an A/S/L,
(you know, age sex location?)
always driven by insatiable curiosity,
i sate myself with stories,
always seeking to connect,
i derive energy from external sources,
so let me bask in your glow,
let me laugh at your jokes,
and when we move past pleasantry small talk,
let me take on your burdens,
i'll try to do so with caution,
like how gordon bombay
taught us to pass chicken eggs with hockey sticks,
in the first mighty ducks film,
i'll try to receive your passes gracefully,
whether on ice, or on the streets,
or in these clinical encounters,
where i'm now expected to utilize this curiosity,
to determine pathology,
seeking meaning in forced meaning interactions,
at a time of one's worst crisis,
analyzing for a constellation of symptoms,
in the context of an individual,
in an hour long conversation,
making diagnoses and treatment plans,
based on guidelines and evidence,
and experience and knowledge,
and subtleties in language,
take this anguish, make it vanish,
take psychosis and their voices,
and make choices, make them better,
take these letters, about suicide
and what’s inside, and make sense of it,
have them confide, and find a fix,
make it portable enough to fit
inside a pill, make it happen quick,
with no refills, make it happen quick,
then move onto the next one on the list,
and gratitude is not a given,
we're not curing cancer with how we listen,
our treatments take time and they don't always work,
so our patients get asked if their illnesses are real,
while we get asked if we're actually physicians,
we listen to stories of trauma,
and try not to become traumatized,
we have anxious people who have anxiety
about treating those with anxiety,
they ask us to not become addicts
which seems dramatic, until you’re
faced high stakes and no solutions,
and a ladder that leads to you,
where do we climb to?
a yoga class?
they handed out ice cream sandwiches at a wellness day.
they ask us to get therapy
to deal with giving therapy.
we’re the ones who get blamed,
when a battle is lost,
because our battle lines are ill defined,
perceived as figments of mind,
as if somehow the brain is simply
a serotonin boost away from happiness,
norepinephrine getting in the way of true meaning,
dopamine all that separates someone from silence.
we’re not surgeons or cardiologists,
and i’m not a psych apologist,
all i want is just, maybe a handshake?
instead of literally dodging fists?
maybe some routine, instead of chaos
20 hours into 24 hour shift,
maybe some knowledge,
about why we do, what we do,
maybe a thank you,
maybe some gratitude?