This is part of the Medical Humanities Series on Op-Med, which showcases creative work by our members. Do you have a poem, short story, creative nonfiction or visual art piece related to medicine that you’d like to share with the community? Send it to us here.
What was your inspiration? Did other creative works, if any, influence your creation of this piece?
This song was written with Princess (a pseudonym), an elderly patient on our long-term psychiatry unit. She is a treatment-resistant schizophrenic with a heart for ballads, God, and cowboys. As a component of her delusional thinking, Princess wakes up every day expecting country singer George Strait to elope with her in the evening, and every day that doesn’t happen. Despite this, she sees her life not as a tragedy, but a triumph of hope and creativity.
How long have you been doing this activity? What got you started?
I’ve been writing poetry, short stories, and music since my 7th grade teacher told me I was allowed to have fun with writing. The arts illuminated my interest in mental health before I even knew that psychiatry was a field of medicine.
Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your involvement in or views on arts in medicine?
I believe the humanities belong in medicine to show us how many different kinds of meaning one can pursue in life, even when certain paths are closed off to us as a result of malady. I have found this a useful perspective both personally and for my patients struggling to find purpose despite their mental or physical illness.
Why did you choose this medium? What interests you about it?
Princess sang “These Loving Arms” a cappella during a Thanksgiving event, and it brought me to tears to hear her mellifluous voice echoing alone around the auditorium like the somber notes from a French horn. I took down the lyrics and with Princess’s permission, wrote a harmony, and asked a close friend to practice singing over my guitar-playing. We recorded it and showed it to Princess, after which she said in her bright way, “and you know I have other songs, too!”
How does this submission relate to your medical practice?
It’s likely that on any given day, Princess has more to teach me about resilience than I have to teach her, even as we may have more to teach her about her illness and its treatments. It may be buried under the superficial tragedy of her psychosis, but deep down there is abiding love. When my own realities become difficult to bear, I take shelter in the reality of hope that Princess has cultivated so well through her art.
Dr. Anand Jayanti is a PGY-2 psychiatry resident working in Tyler, TX. He has interests in narrative medicine, psychotherapy, and understanding mental health through art.
Patient's lyrics and story shared with permission. Vocals by Sree Konda.