Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The stain of suffering

Those of us who have accepted the responsibility and privilege of being health care providers, whether in the medical or mental health fields, know all too well how heavy human pain can often be and how demoralized it can leaves us.

I was in such a dark place myself a few weeks back. Hour after hour, patient after patient the human suffering seeped deep into my mind leaving a dark stain. Like the mythical Sysifus hauling the boulder up the hill only to watch  it roll right back down, I watched the despair leave the eyes of one patient to only come back in the face of another.

By late afternoon, my emotional spine was pent too and my mind was traveling a very treacherous and spiraling down road. Am I really making any difference? Can I really hope to defeat this monster called depression or anxiety or existential angst? Am I good enough? And so it went, down the hill.

It was at this point, as if by some cosmic providence, that a woman walked into my waiting room. She seemed very familiar but I could not retrieve her name from my by now tortured brain. Dr. Urban, she said, I am Kathy. You may not remember me, I saw you about 10 years ago. I have wanted for such a long time to come by and tell you that you saved my life! I am happily remarried now and my kids are in college. I just wanted to say THANKS.

Thank you, Kathy. Thank you for rescuing Sysifus, for setting me back on course. Thank you for reminding me that my words have power. Maybe I can not kill the monster, but every fight I win against him does count, a lot.

And in case I haven’t said it to my own doctors emphatically enough: Thank you, for being there whenever I needed you.