Mirrored Sympathy

Dear Reader,

So, since I started writing here I think I have become a lot more sympathetic to people’s problems. I’ve learnt that regardless of the size of the problem to the outside, that problem could be devastating to the individual and because of that its impossible to judge how something can affect someone. We all react to things differently.

Let me tell you a little story….

Today was my day off of work, yesterday I did a 9 hour work shift. It was exhausting and stressful. So today I wanted to stay in bed a bit longer, well. stay in bed all day. I was woken at 9am by banging, lots of banging that I thought may be coming from the attic above my room. Turns out it was next door. The banging went on pretty much all morning.

I stayed in bed anyway, even though it was frustrating me. I had a doctors appointment today but it wasn’t until 3:50pm. As it got to 2:45 I decided to get up and eat. then at 3:30 I set off for the doctors. I got there at 3:40, I knew I was early and I expected to wait.

I saw my doctor call in his next patient, I assumed I was next. I wasn’t. My doctor called me in at 4:20 Which was fine, I know what it’s like being in a job where people yell at you for things taking time so when I walked in and he apologised for being late I told him not to worry.

He asked if it was my usual monthly review time and I said yes.

I told him that both of my feet are now hurting, which I assume is because I’m walking funny and putting more pressure on my left foot. I told him it wasn’t getting worse but also not better so I was just going to leave it for now. Personally I think I need to fix one problem at a time, and as painful as my foot is, it’s not my priority. My head is way worse than my inability to walk. We talked a bit about the steroid injection I can have in my foot again, about how it’s very painful when It’s performed but afterwards it could really help. He told me again that he understood the pain as he too experiences Plantar Fascitis, not as often as me, but he understands.

And then I cried because I told him about my Nan, which I hadn’t done yet. I have had two appointments since her death but I just couldn’t get it out before. I told him that she was my second grandparent this year to die and he genuinely looked upset, he said it was terrible and he was sorry and gave me a tissue. I told him how she was ok and then three weeks later she was unable to speak or even breathe on her own. He told me he was sorry again. Then he told me that a few years ago two of his grandparents had died within two weeks of each other and that it was awful. He said people grieve in their own way and that I shouldn’t feel guilty for being upset and he was right I agreed with him.

We decided to stick with 100mg of Sertraline. A lot has happened and he said he didn’t want to increase it right now because it needed time to settle when I had time for things to settle in my head.

He put my Beconase nose spray on to a repeat prescription, he gave me 6 months of the contraceptive pill. but only one month of Sertraline, he said he wanted to see me in a month because the weather is getting colder and this is when things start to get harder for people. And then he said something that made me feel awkward “myself included” My doctor has told me before about his problems with hayfever, his problems with plantar fascitis, how doctors in the surgery suffer from depression and I am not alone. But today was the first time he flat out told me that he was one of the doctors who suffers.

I’m assuming from what he said he has SAD, if things affect him more in the colder weather it seems likely. But I feel bad, I reacted badly and didn’t really say anything, just kind of sat in silence. because I was shocked and struggle with expressing sympathy. But I do feel bad for him and I understand how he feels as he understands how I feel.

I guess, some people will read this and think it’s terrible that my doctor told me these things, I dont feel like he unloaded on me but well, I guess technically he kind of did. I feel that actually he showed me that he is human. To be a doctor you have to be able to give a level of sympathy to people that I am not sure I can comprehend. I could never be a doctor.

What I appreciated the most about this appointment was that recently a few times when I have talked about my problems with people they have tried to one up me. My mum and one of my good friends are the worst at that. Yesterday I told my friend something I hadn’t told anyone. Her response? “You wanna talk about mental breakdowns? well this happened to me” and that was it, what I said had become irrelevant and I spent the evening being hypocritically angry at the fact she had stopped taking her medication. I have gone off track. My doctor did something that really means a lot to me, it’s something that I wish more people would understand and would do when someone tells them something that has upset them. or, maybe it’s just something I need. He said “that’s terrible.” after I told him about my Nan, and that’s what I need sometimes, justification that how I feel is ok, not that someone else is having a worse time than me. I just need someone to say “You know what Elephant? That’s fucking shit.” and maybe the swearing would help. because you know what. It is fucking shit.

As Always,

The Elephant in the Room

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5 thoughts on “Mirrored Sympathy

  1. There are certainly respectful and disrespectful ways of sharing. I think that your doctor did so very respectfully. He acknowledged your concerns and shared his own. He did not diminish your experience, nor did he place any responsibility on you for his experience. It was a perfectly human-to-human moment.

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  2. While I do think your doctor crossed some lines as far as the doctor-patient relationship, it seems he did it for the right reasons and that it may have actually been helpful for you. As long as it does not become something regular, I think it’s alright. Seeing our doctors as human beings who can really understand our struggles sometimes makes a big difference.

    As for the friend you mentioned, yeesh, talk about toxic! I don’t understand people who have to make a competition out of who has it worse. It’s always been a deeply held belief of mine that no one suffers any more or less, we all just suffer differently.

    Sending you strength as you continue to deal with things in your life that really do fucking suck. A lot. xo

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  3. I don’t know whether or not your doctor crossed some sort of line, but I thank him for it. Those of us who are brave enough to address our mental illnesses deserve to be reassured that what we feel is a human experience, not some weird defect.

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  4. I agree with Ruby Tuesday. Obviously in that instance that exchange was very therapeutic and that’s awesome! And don’t beat yourself up about not sympathizing with him as you thought you should. Sometimes discomfort leads us to believe we have to say something right away. Because of my awkwardness I’ve lead myself to believe that its better to say nothing at all until I find the right thing to do or say to avoid accidentally saying something insensitive. And if I absolutely have to say something… I tell the truth which is “I’m sorry, I don’t know what to say”. I hope you’ve had a good week. Many hugs…

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