After that last uplifting little story, I figure I better write Part Two of “Why I Am Not A Psychiatrist”. It’s always important to have a good laugh after a good cry! So back to my Adventures in Psychiatry.
As I mentioned before, my psychiatry rotation was at the VA Hospital. My attending physician was a very experienced senior psychiatrist who truly believed in the axiom “Know Thyself!” And therefore he had a way of helping us students toward that end. Back in those days, it was common during a psychiatric evaluation to administer a test called the MMPI, which stands for the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. As I recall, the test took several hours to take and was quite maddening—the questions were repeated over and over, as if to “catch” the test taker in a lie. It was not a fun test to take, say, like an IQ test where you arrange difficult little triangles into a square box, or a “what should you be when you grow up” test (I was strongly encouraged by that one to do musical theater, or to become an opera singer, which is quite hilarious if you’ve ever heard me sing!). No, this was a long BORING test which had no apparent purpose. And yet, my psychiatry attending decided that ALL of his medical students were going to take the MMPI, after which we would sit around and discuss the results of our newly discovered personalities.
The day came, and there we were—six medical students, a couple of interns, a resident, and the attending. We were handed sheets of paper with our names, on which there were scores for several different categories, which were then pictorially demonstrated by a connect- the -dots graph. Each test taker was given scores for basic personality traits, such as empathy, obsessive compulsivity, narcicism, obstinacy, and, of all things, paranoia. So I am looking at my scores and I am bobbing along quite nicely at the fiftieth percentile for each of the 8 or 9 different traits, thinking “nice, I am NORMAL!”. But wait….at the very end of the list there is the category paranoia and my graph takes off like a helicopter, I mean STRAIGHT UP UP AND OVER the 100 percent line. What was this? WHAT WAS THIS??? I had a moment of panic, and then I settled…turned to my attending and said, “Look at THIS! Paranoid? I’m NOT paranoid! You must have graded mine wrong!”
All eyes turned to me, and the little sniggles of laughter welled up into great big guffaws. I would venture to say a few folks in the room actually wet their pants, judging by the tears of laughter in their eyes.
Okay, so I’m paranoid. But let me tell you, I also won the Award for Student Excellence in Psychiatry. And I never took another personality test, ever!