Counting every phantom found

I’ve just found a sublime track by singer songwriter William Fitzsimmons riffing on the antiquated diagnosis of psychasthenia and its treatment with brain surgery. Unexpectedly, it’s quite beautiful.

The song is called Psychasthenia, a reference to old-fashioned diagnosis of the same name that was the first description of what we would now call OCD.

I suspect, however, that the song is actually a laconic commentary on a modern case of OCD as it mentions psychosurgery, recently a current treatment option once more, alongside an oblique reference to treatment with SSRI drugs.

These medications alter the serotonin system and are usually the first treatment option for the condition.

The song seems to put the listener in the place of someone looking for relief from severe OCD while referencing psychasthenia as a way of underlining how our treatments still reflect the early days of psychiatry.

With an alter robe
I have stumbled knife to lobe
In compulsion drown
Counting every phantom found

Cut me open please
Cut me open please

With a bridge I’ve killed
I will serotonin fill
To a fear resigned
Quiet room I hope I find

If this sounds like reading a great deal into what are actually quite abstract lyrics it’s worth noting that Fitzsimmons left his original career as a psychotherapist in an acute psychiatric ward to pursue music full time.

Link to audio of Psychasthenia on YouTube

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