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"Doc, I'm God"

“Doc, I’m God” Joe was 30 years old. He had been diagnosed with Schizophrenia at the age of 19. For the past eleven years, due to good psychiatric treatment and a supportive family, Joe had been doing well. Until now. Someone had called the police. There was noise, lots of it, at a cemetery. A man had trespassed there in the middle of the night. Crying, yelling, talking nonsensically. Digging up a burial plot. The police took him to the psychiatric hospital and he was admitted. I met Joe the next day. Our first words went something like this: “Hello, I’m Dr. Guterson; nice to meet you. What’s your name?”

"God” “Tell me why you’re here.” Joe started crying. He said that his big brother Frank was all he had left in the world. And Frank died. “Yes, Doc, he died, why did he have to die. And I wasn’t able to go to the funeral, my family wouldn’t let me, because they say I have Schizophrenia, but Frank and I used to play videos and sing and ride the bus all day together and Frank took me to baseball games and bought me ice cream and hotdogs, and doc , I miss him so much, and they kept me away from the funeral and I can bring Frank back , yes I can. I know I can, Doc. I’ve got this power. I’m God”. Joe was weeping now. I looked right at Joe. He was real; he was earnest. So sure of who he was: God, with godlike powers. Adoring of his big brother. And heart broken. So - I’m the psychiatrist - what should I do? Joe’s not hurting anyone, nor himself. He’s been stable for eleven years. He’s loving his brother, grieving his brother, wants to revive his brother. He thinks he’s God - so? So what? Joe says he’s God! Is it my place to “fix” his presenting symptoms? The days went on and I got to know Joe more and more. Before long, I could see that I was in the presence of someone with unshakable honesty, innocence, joy, and love. A palpable soul. And I was humbled. I then found myself wishing that I could have some of what Joe has - and then realized that we all do. We have a soul, a spark, a yearning for transcendence , an inner voice. It is the essence of who we are. The problem is that we get distracted. But not Joe. The days went on, and Joe slowly accepted that digging up a cemetery was not a good idea. We talked more about his brother. We cried and laughed together. Me the psychiatrist, and Joe as God. I never challenged him on his name, never tried to convince him otherwise. Sometimes it seems best to just let things be.

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