Life can bring absolutely terrible circumstances to our peaceful lives. A sudden phone call bearing grave news. A nauseatingly bad diagnosis. Financial anxiety. Self-doubt. An irreparable mistake. Guilt.
Stressors compound upon one another, and the psychological toll builds. In my office I am visited daily by a torrent of fears, heartaches, and tears from the pained faces of men, women, and children. I think the general state of the world and our acute, extraordinary economic hardships have amplified the occasional woeful visits into the norm.
I do my best to help, emptying my shallow pockets of whatever empathy, counseling, and medication I can find. Sometimes I can help, but for some the burdens are too great. And when the stressors in my own life abound it becomes even more difficult to take on others’ despair, although a more genuine sympathy rises.
Yet in our supposedly mundane lives, going through times of great adversity, the Heroic emerges. People fight cancer. People fight misery. People persevere in the face of ruin. Bruised and tattered and self-aware they cope with incredible pain, or pass honorably having so endured.
I sometimes wonder if I should write one-word prescriptions instead of, or in addition to, medicines to stabilize a tempestuous mood. Should I dispense “citalopram 20 mg 1 tab po qd #30” with my right hand, and “Courage” with my left?
In tense moments of my own life I often resort to focusing on one-word manifestos. I meditate on the heroic qualities of literary characters, family members, patients I’ve seen walking the plank before me. I try to drown out the internal anxious dialogue with a mantra-like ohm.
Bravery. Resilience. Strength. Beauty. Courage. Hope. Faith. Endurance. Light.
Perhaps these most powerful assemblages of letters deserve a mystical place on prescriptions, helping to conjure walls of stone in the besieged minds of those who meditate upon them?
And here’s one word to describe this blog post: Compassion.
This was lovely, thank you.
Oh, Dr. Charles… how I wish I could have a one-word prescription sometimes. I’m sure it would move me to tears to find it hidden underneath the pile.
I can see the compassionate physician now, scribbling out the names of all the little pills I need to make life tolerable. He’d stop and say, “and here’s a little something extra just for you,” and write the word “peace” on his pad. He’d tear it off and hand it to me, putting his other hand on my shoulder as he escorted me from the office.
Determination. Tranquillity. Confidence. I could use a prescription like that… It makes me think of the post-it movement, where folks jot positive messages and leave them in public places. It’s amazing how much a word can help.
It’s a nice thought, but some people wouldn’t understand. They’d take offense. I saw an exchange like that after I’d given birth to my second child. There was a woman in the other bed who was having a hard time comforting her baby. The doctor told her she just needed to be gentle and patient. He wasn’t critisizing her at all, but that’s how she took it. Believe me, she ranted about it for hours after he left the room with anyone who’d listen and those of us who didn’t want too.
You sent shivers down my spine with this one, Dr. Charles!
Soooo very true.
I’d like to add that I wish I could write other one word scripts such as: run, play, swim, dance….There are many times that I think my patient would benefit much more from a good romp in the park versus a mood stabilizer…
Charles, your pockets may seem shallow some days, but you’ve managed to pull so much out of them in the years I’ve been reading.
Once, when I was very near death (my parents had been told to say their goodbyes), the thing that I swear made all the difference was simply a hand on my forehead and a few short, kind words from a visibly shaken ANP. I know her pockets were ever so shallow that day, and yet what she had was enough for a dying girl. It may not be, certainly, what saved my life… But it was something I needed nevertheless.
So, if I may be so bold, my prescription for you: Belief.
You have so very much to offer. Your patients are lucky to have you.
Dear Dr. Charles,
I posted this entry on my facebook group, “Compassion in Healthcare-The Heart of Healing.” Your words always bring me comfort! Your patients are blessed with your gentleness.
That was a beautiful post.