I believe Dr. Holland truly opens the door to her innermost thoughts of her time at Bellevue CPEP. She loves being a psychiatrist and that is plain in her writing. If you are interested in the underbelly of mental illness in one of the United States' biggest cities this is an excellent book to read. You will however, ...more I found this book to be mostly enjoyable. I don't have an enormous interest in mental health alone, but instead how it is deeply rooted in our public health systems.
I believe Dr. Holland truly opens the door to her innermost thoughts of her time at Bellevue CPEP. She loves being a psychiatrist and that is plain in her writing. If you are interested in the underbelly of mental illness in one of the United States' biggest cities this is an excellent book to read. You will however, need to be able to go along with some of her quick rundowns of patients symptoms. She often gets caught up in writing like a physician giving report out to another physician. If you've spent no time in the medical world, it may be difficult to follow in places.
In fact for me, she spends almost too much time going on about the details and mechanics of her job and not enough time on specific cases and or her own personal life outside of the quick tidbits pertaining to the story. She does however, spend a lot of time discussing her treatment of her patients and how her personal struggles play into how she acts and reacts to them. In this sense it is almost like reading her play-by-play with her psychotherapist. Unfortunately, I found this to be a little boring.
At the beginning I did not really like Dr. Holland. Her (writing) voice just rubbed me the wrong way. In many ways she's coarse and unrefined. She drills and plays with her patients to get the info she wants/needs. I know that this is a common thing to do in mental health, but reading it in such an exposed way sort of bothered me at first.
As her memoir went on, I warmed to her personality a bit, though I am relatively sure I would never want to A. be a patient of hers (for more than the reason I would have to be insane) and B. befriend her. Even by the end of the book when she has softened, I don't think I'd like her in person. That being said, I do not want to detract from all the good work she has done at Bellevue and am thankful that someone wants to do that job
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itpdx, August 25, 2009 (view all comments by itpdx)
A very interesting memoir. Dr. Holland describes her nine years as the psychiatrist in charge of Bellevue's Psychiatric ER on weekend nights--the funny, the crazy, the lying, the scary, the touching patients. How her armor slowly started to wear thin. I can't imagine wanting to deal with the mentally ill as they come in in ambulances, police vehicles and under their own power. And being under time and space pressure to figure what is wrong and what should be done with them. Are they a danger to themselves or others?
Julie explains why I have difficulty dealing with the homeless mentally ill on our streets. "... in our culture, the mentally ill are demonized and shunned. They are ostracized and marginalized as a by-product of our primal fear of going crazy ourselves."
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"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"In this disjointed memoir, Holland describes her nine-year odyssey as a doctor on the night shift at New York City's Bellevue hospital, a name that has become synonymous with insanity. Holland met a bewildering assortment of drunks, sociopaths, schizophrenics and homeless people malingering in hope of a warm place to crash. As the physician in charge of the psychiatric emergency room, the hard-boiled Holland acted as gatekeeper, deciding who would be sent upstairs to the psych ward, to Central Booking or back to the streets. The book also covers Holland's personal life from her student days as a wannabe rock star to her psychotherapy sessions, her sexual escapades and her marriage and birth of her children. Holland captures the rhythms and routines of the E.R. with its unbearable suffering, petty jealousies and gallows humor. She is less successful at maintaining any kind of narrative continuity. Chapters generally run only a couple of pages and often depict random anecdotes that most likely sound better than they read. (Oct.) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
For nine eventful years, Dr. Holland was the weekend physician in charge of Bellevue Hospital's psychiatric emergency room. In an absorbing memoir, Holland recounts stories from her vast case files that are alternately terrifying, tragically comic, and profoundly moving.
Julie Holland thought she knew what crazy was.
Then she came to Bellevue.
New York Citys Bellevue Hospital, the oldest public hospital in the United States, has a tradition of “serving the underserved” that dates back to 1736. For nine eventful years, Dr. Holland was the weekend physician in charge of Bellevues psychiatric emergency room, a one-woman front line charged with assessing and treating some of the citys most vulnerable and troubled citizens, its forgotten and forsaken—and its criminally insane. Deciding who gets locked up and who gets talked down would be an awesome responsibility for most people. For Julie Holland, it was just another day at the office.
In an absorbing memoir laced with humor, Holland provides an unvarnished look at life in the psych ER, recounting stories from her vast case files that are alternately terrifying, tragically comic, and profoundly moving: the serial killer, the naked man barking like a dog in Times Square, the schizophrenic begging for an injection of club soda to quiet the voices in his head, the subway conductor who watched a young woman pushed into the path of his train. As Holland comes to understand, the degree to which someone can lose his or her mind is infinite, and each patients pain leaves a mark on her as well—as does the cancer battle of a fellow doctor who is both her best friend and her most trusted mentor.
Writing with uncommon candor about her life both inside and outside the hospital—her professional struggles, personal relationships, and the therapy sessions that help her crack the hard shell shes formed to keep the pain at bay—Holland supplies not only a page-turner with all the fast-paced immediacy of a TV medical drama but also a fascinating glimpse into the inner lives of doctors who struggle to maintain perspective in a world where sanity is in the eye of the beholder.
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