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I don’t mean in spiritual, philosophical, or political matters. I think I’m pretty well grounded in all those things, and Lord knows, I have pretty firm beliefs about them too. I was lucky to be raised in a family of smart people with strong opinions, a healthy sense of right and wrong, and a commitment to raising its children to be civilized and caring adults.
Years ago, I never tired of asking anyone who would sit still long enough some variation on the following question: Suppose you had to choose between having a strong and alert mind but with severe physical limitations (e.g., wheelchair-bound), or a perfectly healthy body and yet be as dumb as a bag of nails. Which would you choose? There was no right or wrong answer as far as I was concerned, though my own preference was for mental acuity. I simply wanted to hear the preferences and thoughts of people I found interesting.
That particular thought exercise loomed large in the mind when I sat down with my neurologist recently, having undergone a series of tests (cognitive, brain EEG, brain MRI, etc.) in the preceding weeks to determine, A) whether or not the mental fog I was occasionally experiencing was real, and B) whether there was a physical cause. “Mr. Carter, you had a stroke,” the doctor said as matter of factly as if he were announcing the Dow Jones daily closing numbers. Well, that was bracing.
Dr. Anna Fels recently saw a patient who had an interesting method of self-medication. The psychiatrist wrote up the experience in the New York Times:
We talked for a long time about why she had come to see me. Then, as is my practice with a new patient, I asked what, if any, psychiatric medications and nonprescription, psychoactive substances — legal or illegal — she had used. Her answer was a new one for me. She stated that she chewed approximately 40 pieces of nicotine gum per day and had done so for well over a decade.