...the Journal

The Guest
Refrigerator Door

The new magnets are from Jeri's refrigerator. Jeri's fridge has some unusual stuff attached to it.

More of Curious George

* NEW *

Someone suggested I add a discussion board, so I have.

If you have anything to discuss, go to this link. Feel free to start a new discussion on anything.


I'm a Stranger Here Myself

Bill Bryson

I enjoyed his Australia book so much, I decided to try the one about this country.


Battersea Park Road
to Enlightenment

(this is a book I picked up in London)


Dharma and Greg

That's it for today!


13 June 2001

I transcribe psychiatric evaluations. Many times these are done to determine an inmateís fitness to stand trial. But sometimes itís to test the mental status of a new client who is being examined for the purpose of prescribing the right medication or determining the direction of therapy.

After taking the patientís history, which involves information on the patientís parents and siblings, his or her developmental history (was the patient a full term normal delivery? a breech birth? etc.). There is the educational history, the occupational history, the marital history, and a list of habits (alcohol? cigarettes? drugs?)

The end of the report is always a mental status examination. Does the patient know who is the current president and vice president? Can he/she name the governor? (It always amuses me how many patients cannot name the Governor of California, whose last name is Davis--the name of the city in which these mental status examinations are taking place!)

Then the patient is asked to interpret a few proverbs ("when the cat's away, the mice will play," "a rolling stone gathers no moss," and "people who live in glass houses shouldnít throw stones.") and to spell "world" backwards.

And then comes the dreaded "serial 7s." The patient is asked to start at 100 and subtract 7s, in sequence: 93, 86, 79, 72, 65, 58, 51, 44, 37, 30, 23, 16. 9, 2. Some patients subtract serials 7s "rapidly and accurately," others "slowly, but accurately." Some have difficulty on the #íth step, some can do them only by counting.

I hate serial 7s.

I hate them because there isnít a single report I type when I donít find myself mentally attempting to subtract serial 7s myself, only to realize that I canít do it. I can do it with pencil and paper, or--even more embarrassing--counting on my fingers. I canít do it mentally, either "rapidly and accurately," or "slowly and accurately." I can add serial 7s, but they never ask that.

When I began typing psychological reports a few years ago, it was somehow very comforting to me. I have gone my entire life thinking that I was just plain stupid because I canít do math. Oh I can add, subtract and multiply all right if I have to, but I have no head for numbers at all. There is no innate sense of how to figure out a problem. I managed to get through school and all those math tests by dumb luck--lucky guesses a lot of the time. With "word problems," I often would pull a number out of a hat and then try to prove it. The number had absolutely no basis in any logic whatsoever. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didnít.

My inability to do math is particularly embarrassing with a bookkeeper mother, an engineer husband and a daughter who used to belong to a club called Cosine Alpha, for kids who loved to work with math.

Itís been one of my deep dark secrets. Not only does math intimidate me, it scares me to admit that though people seem to think Iím a fairly intelligent person, I canít do math.

I remember when I was in high school and preparing to apply to colleges. The school I attended was primarily designed to prepare young women to be secretaries and had only recently become a college prep school. They offered minimal math courses. I had taken Algebra I, but I also needed Algebra II in order to apply to UC Berkeley and it was a course which was not offered in this small school.

And so dear Sister Benedicta took me on as her private student. Every day after school, I would meet Sister B. in the laundry room with my book and my paper and pencil and she would go over some information with me and then leave me to work on problems. I still remember how frustrating it was. She despaired of my ever learning logarithms (and to this day I couldnít give you a definition, much less have a clue what to do with a logarithm if I found one).

But when I began to type psychological reports--the guy I type for gives me his psychological testing reports, not his psychotherapy reports--I learned that there are various forms of brain dysfunctions and that the fact that I canít do math is not really necessarily a function of my intelligence, but simply that my brain just has some sort of defect where the "math gene" should have grown.

It doesnít make me feel any less embarrassed about my failings in the area of mathematics, but it was somewhat comforting to discover that there was probably a good reason for it. Maybe my body was turned the wrong way the day that particular gene was forming. For whatever reason, that part of my brain just doesnít work as well as, say, the creative writing area works.

Today I had an appointment with the psychiatrist for whom I work. My therapist thought it wouldnít hurt to have him check me out and decide if antidepressants were a good idea (we decided I was doing quite well, thank you, and antidepressants werenít warranted--but it was good to at least have had checked out). I was a mess all day thinking about the upcoming examination.

I couldnít figure out why. I mean, Iíve worked for this guy for 20 years, so itís not like meeting a stranger. Not only that, but weíve also been friends with him and his wife for all this time and our kids were in school together, and so he pretty much knows almost everything about my life anyway. It wasnít that I felt Iíd be uncomfortable talking to him.

But then I figured out what it was. It was he damn serial 7s. I was terrified that heíd give me his mental status examination and Iíd have to admit that I couldnít do the damn serial 7s. I even studied for the damn test! I had a crib sheet and I memorized the sequence. I have a good memory. I just canít subtract numbers.

When I got to his house and was waiting, I tried runing through serial 7s again and had forgotten what Iíd been studying. Swell. Now I was going to have to let him know what a stupid ignoramus I am. I felt like I was back in school again, awaiting an examination. Forget all the personal stuff we would be talking about. I was just nervous because I knew that at the end Iíd have to subtract 7 from 100 and I couldnít get past 93 without using my fingers.

But we chatted for an hour and in the end, there was no mental status examination. All that angst for nothing.

Please donít talk to me about Train A leaving the station and ask me what time it will pass Train B. It might push me over the edge.

One Year Ago:
It's OK--I'm with the Band

(this was one of my favorite entries last year)

Some pictures from this journal
can be found at
Club Photo

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Created 6/12/01 by Bev Sykes