Wednesday, 6 March 2013

"You Don't Understand"

I will start by saying that I abhor that statement.  Not because it's untrue, but because of what it implies about the person you are speaking to.  That they are too naive to grasp what you are going through, unable to listen to what you have to say or offer any legitimate opinion about it.  I used to say this a lot when I was first a mother (ahh, the good old days)- I had an argument with my little sister at one point about it- and I can say I genuinely apologize.

I should know better.  I am a nurse.  I talk to and comfort people all day long who are in situations that are beyond anything that I've ever experienced.  Transplant patients?  PARENTS of transplant patients?  This is who I talk to every day. 

I don't understand what they are going through.  How could I?  And my sister didn't understand what I was going through with two little kids and a full-time job.  How could she?  Understanding isn't everything.  Empathy is.  I have heard from friends and family a few times that they are hesitant to talk about their problems around me anymore because they seem like nothing compared to what our family is going through.  Bull pucky.  Yes, problems are all relative, that is true, but that is of no importance to me.  If I love and care about someone, I want to know about their problems, I want to talk to them.  For God's sake, I remember some of the stuff I used to get upset about- it does seem minor now (bad hair day, fat day?)- people listened to me anyway.  The gravity of my issue wasn't the point- the support was.  I am well aware that although our family's problems are significant, they are not earth shattering in the grand scheme of things- my children are safe, we have a roof over our heads, we have jobs.  I guess I would hesitate before talking to a cancer patient about my boys for this reason- but you know what?  I worked with cancer patients for quite a while, and they want to talk about something else besides cancer!  Same goes for my transplant patients.  How many inquiries about my personal life do I demure to answer on a daily basis with my patients? MANY. Everyone wants to think about someone else's problems at times- if nothing else, it takes their minds off their own.  I'm no different.

I have wonderful relationships with 95% of my patients.  We joke, we laugh, they cry, I listen, and I love it.  I feel that I am very responsive to my patients' needs.  So when I got an angry voice mail today saying "you don't understand, stop judging me".......on and on....I almost fell out of my chair.  I had bent over backwards for this person- worked my butt off to help them obtain services that would not normally be available.  Now it turned out that this person thought I wasn't returning their calls when I was- I was calling their old phone number, they had changed it without mentioning it to me.  Easily cleared up.  But it left me shaken for some reason.  "You don't understand."   I don't claim to understand, but I am committed to helping in any way that I reasonably can, and judgement does not and cannot come with this territory.  That goes for my friends and family too. 

 I know that those of you who are so supportive of us share this same view.  I get that you don't fully understand- how could you?  I hope you never, ever do!  But your empathy is priceless to our family, and I love each and every one of you so much for being there. 

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