Patients in psychiatric hospitals ask questions, a lot of questions, as they should. With most of their possessions having been taken away from them, and with the door to the ward being locked, they want to know what’s going on. I don’t blame them.
The most common question, of course, is “when can I get out of this place?”.
At other times they will get personal and ask questions about me, my life. Obviously, I need to use judgment as to what to share. But I think the question I have enjoyed most is “Dr. Guterson, do you ever wear anything different than a black shirt?”
And then there is another common question that comes my way from time to time and the dialogue goes something like this:
“Dr. Guterson, I hope you don’t mind my asking but what are those strings hanging out there on the side of your pants?”
“No problem at all, thanks for asking.
It says in the Bible that a Jewish man should wear a four cornered garment and attach strings to each of the four corners. These strings are called tzitzits.”
“Yeah, it is sort of strange. But think of it this way: I’m wearing this holy garment that‘s right here, on me, surrounding me, all the time. And so it’s a great physical reminder that there’s a G-d or a Higher Power or whatever you want to call it above us. I can’t say that it always works that way for me, but I try.”
“Wow, that is the coolest thing I ever heard. Where can I get one of those?