Talking the Finer Points of Brain Science and Pandas

John McManamy Health Guide
  • You may remember that last week I was wondering whether I might be sleeping on the couch for the next ten years. To recap events:

    Wednesday afternoon - My wife Sophy and I disembark from AMTRAK at Union Station in Washington DC. A NAMI gala function is taking place that night. We are guests of HealthCentral, which hosts this blog at BipolarConnect. We check into our hotel and have a short nap. I wake up and unzip my travel bag to put on my suit. The pants aren't there. All I have is the jeans I'm wearing and a pair of Dockers.

    I rush out the hotel in a panic, cursing my stupidity, hail a cab and instruct the driver to take me to the 24-hour black pants store. There's a Lord and Taylor's seven miles away, he tells me. Good enough.
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    Then another thought occurs to me and I call Sophy on my cell. Are my pants at the bottom of the travel bag? I ask. In other words, had they slipped off the hanger in transit?

    A brief silence, then the words: "I'm holding them in my hand."

    I'm not an idiot after all, only an idiot for assuming I was an idiot.

    Wednesday evening - We arrive at the function. Sophy is looking spectacular in her new gown, but this is outside her comfort zone. The setting inside is palatial and rather intimidating to someone not used to these affairs. I see Kay Jamison hovering by herself. "Let's go," I tell Sophy. I've met Dr Jamison a number of times, once for an interview and other times at conferences. I introduce Sophy and we make small talk. Then it's time to circulate.

    Shmooze schmooze here. Shmooze schmooze there.

    Then it's time to sit down. We head to the HealthCentral table. Bill Allman, who recruited me to HealthCentral, is very welcoming. He invites Sophy to be seated alongside him. Good move. The two of them read James Joyce for fun, and soon they're happily yakking away on literature maybe three other people in the world understand.

    The conversation I'm having is much easier to follow. I'm seated next to a psychiatrist from Johns Hopkins and we're talking the fine points of brain science. From my perspective, cytokine pathways are a piece of cake compared to Finnegan's Wake. What I love about this psychiatrist is he takes an active interest in what I'm doing. I appreciate this, not because of my ego, but because here is a psychiatrist who acutally listens. Psychiatrists who listen - I love these guys.

    After the meal, Judy Collins sings Amazing Grace. Sophy by now is at ease and in her element. A bit more shmooze shmooze and we're out the door. We hail a cab and have the driver give us a tour of the monuments and memorials, which look magical lit up at night.
    Then back to the hotel. Time to exhale.

    Thursday morning - Sophy is like a little kid on Christmas. We're going to see the pandas at the zoo. One of her screen names is PandaGirl. We share a bed at home with five stuffed pandas.

    Our tickets entitle is to a viewing at the new enclosure before the mobs descend on the place. Only a few others are there, and the three pandas put on a show for us. You think kittens are cute, these pandas can give kitties some master classes in cute. Mommy, daddy, little baby panda. These guys would melt Saddam Hussein's heart. Sophy is right in her element. She is ready to sign up as a zoo volunteer, notwithstanding the rather long commute from central New Jersey.

  • Later, we restrict ourselves to buying only three stuffed pandas to go with the two complementary pandas we received as part of our panda package deal.
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    Thursday evening - We meet up at a restaurant with a Washington buddy, her husband, and their friend. All of us except the husband have bipolar. Sophy sets the tone by showing off her brand new fluffy panda evening bag. We're in for a delightful evening.

    The eternal question - So will I be sleeping with the pandas? That is, in my own bed, with my wife and ten stuffed pandas and our cat? Or will I be sleeping on the couch for the next ten years?

    I have to head out to Chicago for a conference and some speaking engagements. Sophy is headed back to New Jersey. Will my panda points still be redeemable when I get back a week hence? Or will I return home to find the locks changed? What do I know? I'm just a clueless husband.

Published On: October 27, 2006