We called him Dr. Julius, he was our family physician for life.

He delivered my mother’s six babies, watched us grow, made house calls. He attended every family celebration, baptisms to weddings.

He also authorized ECT treatments, saw Mom through severe depression and psychiatric hospitalization in the 1950’s.

Dad had seen the mental health “industry” at its worst with his own father. But, he trusted Dr. Julius.

So when I ran into trouble just before my 21st birthday, I knew who I had to see. I was student teaching at the time, spending weekends in my family home.

They saw the change in me.

I was stressed, overworked, sleep-deprived, most likely manic. My father was especially alarmed, he saw it in my eyes.

Dr. J. spent about 30 minutes with me that day, listened to my concerns, smiled a lot, talked me down.

Before I left, he reached behind his desk to a series of clear containers. He gave me the small green ones, about 30 of them, telling me to take one or two a day with meals, to relax.

He didn’t call them tranquilizers. I did.

green pills on green background

There was no Rx to fill, no warning of side effects, no refills. I realized much later what he was doing.

He gave me a placebo. And a message of positivity.

He believed I could handle whatever was going on in my life with a sugar pill, and a vote of confidence.

Somehow, it worked.

I went back to my teaching assignment with renewed energy and hope. I got through the final weeks; ending that semester at the top of my class.

I never really got the chance to thank Dr. Julius.

Almost two decades later, I would be seeking another form of medication.

(To be continued….)










This entry was posted in Depression, Education, Family, Mental Health and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Placebo

  1. Victo Dolore says:

    Gah!!!!! You left me hanging!!!!! Such a good start. 🙂

  2. What a wonderful doctor he sounds. 🙂

  3. LaVagabonde says:

    Sounds like a good one. It was a different time, then, wasn’t it.

  4. So much stress for a 21 year old. Glad you made it through those days and had a wise doctor to help you. ❤
    Diana xo

  5. I loved our family doctor too. I was so bummed when Dr. Kidirka (spelling?) retired.

  6. I have heard of doctors doing this. He sounds like a decent human being which is a great quality in a doctor.

  7. Amazing. What more can I say? I think that kind of wonderful intervention can happen when a doctor knows a family so well. You were lucky.

  8. wow I really like this an am waiting now patiently…..

  9. You are keeping us hangin’ Van!

  10. Pingback: Placebo. The Follow Up. | vanbytheriver

  11. markbialczak says:

    You did what you had to do, Van, and the doc had his important part. Nice.

  12. olganm says:

    I’m a psychiatrist and worked with patients chronically ill at quite a few hospitals and I remember getting a patient from another hospital who had prescribed placebo pills (he knew them not to be active medication but they still help). I’ve seen patients prescribed such tiny amounts of medication that the placebo effect must have been bigger than the actual effect of the meds. These days it’s all down to evidence-based medicine, and not that much emphasis placed on knowing your own patients, but there is evidence that placebo works, among other reasons for the ones you mention. Thanks for sharing…

  13. Soul Gifts says:

    What a very wise man he was 🙂

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