Infinite Victories: How did you get into psychiatry?
Dr. Lorenzo Araujo: I’ve been a psychiatrist for approximately 35 years. The last 10 years have been with the VA, taking care of Veterans. I knew I was going to be a psychiatrist by the time I entered medical school. I was initially an art student. I went to school for acting in the Dominican Republic. I was drawn to painting, sculptures, and languages. Coming from the countryside, my family did not approve of these for a career. They wanted me to have a traditional career. When they pushed me to be a doctor, the only kind of doctor I believe I could do was a psychiatrist. In my country, psychiatrists had a more liberal attitude, more of a social involvement. I knew if I’m not going to be an artist, I could be a psychiatrist.
Infinite Victories: What’s something challenging about being a psychiatrist?
Dr. Araujo: Coming from the feelings of being an artist, the most challenging part has been the style of living. As an artist, I was set to go travelling, to be abroad, to be in different places all the time. As a psychiatrist or physician, you have to be in one place. You have to be in an office every day. You have to learn to do the same thing every day. That was not my life plan originally. On the other hand, seeing different aspects of humanity has become rewarding and I enjoy getting to work with and understand both healthy and sick persons. I have the opportunity to see people at different levels of their conditions, to do psychotherapy with them. Underneath those presenting with different or difficult behaviors are very sophisticated human beings with deep sensitivities and capacities for multidimensional emotions. It’s an extremely rewarding field of work.
Infinite Victories: Two years ago, you lost one of your children, Laura Araujo, to a murderer. Burying one’s child defies the sequence of life events that we expect to happen. What has it been like for you to live with this tragedy? (For readers: One of Dr. Lorenzo Araujo’s children, Laura Araujo, was only 23 years old when she was beaten and strangled by a resident in the building she had just moved into.)
Dr. Araujo: Being a physician for 35 years and helping people to deal with and calm their pains, I felt it was kind of a test. I’ve been helping others for this many years and giving them consolation or ideas on how to deal with their pain and now if I collapse on my own, was I being truthful with others? Was I a fake, a charlatan? I was telling people I did not feel, so this test brought me to a simplified place, to take a spoon of my own remedy, to take the remedy I’ve been telling others to take for many years in the moments of pain and sorrow. In a way, I’ve been trained in pain, to face the unexpected reality of the pain from the death of my child, her memory, her disappearance.
I wrote a collection of poems to help me deal with Laura’s murder. I dedicated this book of poems to both Laura and her murderer. When I think of her dying, of course it’s natural and risky for me to get distracted, distracted in the way of feeling that I want revenge, punishment, menacing, etc. It has been the greatest challenge to not to fall into the trap of wishing for those things on my daughter’s murderer or to have any feelings that are very common to appear, to emerge in this type of situation. It has been my path to hold, in terms of maintaining, and not deviating from what we belief are natural in life. This affords me the responsibility to maintain emotions in its shape and to follow the commitment for love, serenity, and acceptance.
Infinite Victories: What kinds of things do you hope for?
Dr. Araujo: Growing up religious and as a Christian, what I conceptualized was talking with Laura and talking with Jesus. With Jesus, I’d tell him, if you offered me the opportunity to ask you for one wish, to bring her back to life, it would not be asked. I would not ask him to bring her back to life. I would ask him to leave her exactly where she is. What I wish I could ask Jesus is to help her murderer, to change him. My most fantastic wish will be that the murderer had her heart placed in his chest. That would be his punishment, to feel what she used to feel and that he deeds the things she had wanted to do and now cannot. Ultimately, I wish him not be jailed, but on the contrary, that he becomes a dove, fly freely in the air. I wouldn’t ask for anything else.