CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - Columnist Diagnosed With SAD-LS -(Not Expected to Recover)


By Jack Cawthon

Ah, spring. The chirp of the birds, the smell of new mowed grass, trees budding out, warmth in the air…I hate it! I hate it! I hate it!

It's all in the changes. I get used to one season, then a different one is thrown at me. The need to adjust is constant. People like me are considered reactionaries, as a liberal boss once called me, but now that I'm a liberal the label is hardly accurate and much too late for my job approval rating.

I have heard for some time about the mental depression of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. I have always made a practice of self-medication to avoid the outrageous fees charged by those who attend medical school for a major portion of their lives and then expect outlandish compensation for all those missed years of lesser endeavors.

But as my condition has persisted for so long, I decided to seek help and hang the cost. Let Medicare pick up the tab!

As I live within a student party's beer bottle throw of the state's largest mental institution there are excellent attendant facilities with it overshadowed only by its football team.

The world-famous psychiatrist Dr. Lazlo Nervebaum had gained my attention with his extensive work with a former coach suffering from delusions of grandeur. The doctor, however, had given up in frustration claiming that medical science could be of little help, that only as many as five losing seasons in a row might cure the affliction, which even then might end with a run for Congress.

When I called Nervebaum's office a snippy receptionist told me that the good doctor wasn't accepting patients, that he was spending full time working up grant proposals to obtain his fair share of the Obama stimulus money.

But about 15 minutes later my phone rang and it was Nervebaum himself, sounding excited. He said he had been reading for years the stuff I write (one never knows his readership!) and if anyone ever needed expert attention, I certainly did.

To make a long story short, I received extensive testing by the famous Dr. Nervebaum. He did determine that I was most vocationally suited as an oil and gas well tender, rather alarming after all the years choosing, or, in my case, falling, into journalism. But he told me to cheer up as he had found that well tenders have a significantly higher IQ than those in journalism. (Decide for yourself after the current pig flu reports.)

He was pleased with my interpretation of the ink blot test where I had identified one large blob as either Peter Sellers in a wheelchair as Dr. Strangelove as he appeared in the movie some years ago about loving "The Bomb," or as Dick Cheney also in a wheelchair. The doctor considered this a brilliant stroke for higher insights.

When all the tests were completed and I was told the diagnosis, a chill came over me. I had SAD all right, but with complications of LS. Please doctor, I cried, what is this LS? He said I had a common but chronic West Virginia affliction; the LS stood for Legislative Syndrome.

Nervebaum had found this trait in many of the state's residents each spring shortly after the legislature adjourned around March or April. After a short remission it appeared again when special sessions were called.

The only cure, the doctor said with a shake of his head, could not come from medical science but through the voting booth and in his opinion this seemed impossible as he felt that there was an inherited gene of masochism yet to be discovered in the state's citizens. (He assumed, as many others have, that we are all related.) He told me the best he could do for me was to prescribe two aspirins and continue his hope that Don Blankenship of Massey Coal would provide money for further research.

Not surprisingly, I had discovered my own symptoms in Big Puf residents. While visiting the home of a distant relative—most of my relatives keep a distance from me—I found that little Erma Pufenberger (not her real name as I promised to protect her identity) had been waking up at night after terrible dreams screaming that "the bad men from Charleston" were coming take away her Barbie dolls.

Her mother told me that the Barbies were Erma's most prized possessions, that she had hoped to grow up looking like Barbie, find her Ken, and move to Pennsylvania to live happily ever after. Ah, the fantasies of youth, thinking that one can live happily ever after in Pennsylvania!

Erma was observed by her mother burying her Barbies, carefully wrapped in plastic, in a corner of the garden. The little girl had come down with SAD-LS, I felt certain.

I had noticed that there were no ramp odors drifting from the doorways of Big Puf houses and that the big ramp dinner annually sponsored by the Holy Rattlers church had been cancelled.

When I found Burvil chewing on a mint, I asked him what was happening. He looked at me as if I were crazy (Dr. Nervebaum doesn't like this term) and said hadn't I heard that the legislature was going to test everyone for drugs who received The Check. They weren't going to nail anyone in Big Puf with ramps in their system if it could be helped! As The Check is certainly well spread in Big Puf, I could understand the panic.

I decided I could only learn more about legislative matters by talking with Bobby Gene Bubba, Big Puf's big delegate, all 350 pounds of him.

I found Bobby Gene seated at his kitchen table with a large plate of Tudor's Biscuit World biscuits and a big tub of gravy. (I love this stuff and feel disappointed that it is the one fast food we don't have in Morgantown. If Mr. Craigo, or a member of the legislature is listening, get with it up here!)

Bobby Gene must have seen the hungry look on my face. I was hoping he would offer to share, but he hastily explained that he was only able to bring back three dozen biscuits from Charleston before his greedy colleagues grabbed them up.

He explained to me that his biggest disappointment in the past session had been the failure to pass legislation dealing with the state's obesity problems. I think that was what he said, as he was talking with his mouth full.

I had found Dr. Nervebaum's diagnosed disease in full flower, or maybe full of flour. I decided to go home, take the two aspirins, go to bed and pull the covers over my head until winter, as Governor Manchin had called for a special session.

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