Mental Health Q & A

Me: …and do you have children?
Patient: through rape?
Me: ohhh…
Patient: …two.

I haven’t done my mental health rotation but it appears to be creeping, along with tissue boxes, into every clinic so far. Its not just the mental health of the patients I need to read up on. I need to do more mental health study so I can sort myself out after just listening to the patients.

I can be empathetic at the time, keep the conversation going, say the right thing, blah blah blah and go home feeling okay. But a few days later I snap because the toaster is full of crumbs or the washing machine will only wash on ‘hot’…and find myself in a total mess over it.

When really I’m not pissed off about crumbs at all. I’m pissed off that the lovely 74 year old lady who detailed her rape, child abuse, unsuccessful marriages and car accidents to me a few days ago, had to get such a shit lot in life. I’m pissed off that the kid I wrote up for a case study on pneumonia had a file three inches thick with incident reports about being beaten by her uncle and drunken parents with an iron bar. WTF. It pisses me off. I want to do something about it. It’s unfair. Its shit. So I kick the stupid washing machine.

I’m interested to know WHY when people tell you intensely sad things there is a 48-72 hour lag time until the weight of what they’ve said starts to drag and seep into your day, pervading everything. Until you can’t even make toast.

I hear compartmentalising is the done thing. Does anyone have tricks on how to DO that, exactly?


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2 Responses to “Mental Health Q & A”

  1. *C Says:

    You know it’s easier to discuss parathyroid glands and rhinos than consider mental health issues…

    But anyway, I wonder when you know if you’ve got the balance right? When the most horrible things don’t touch you anymore? When you can’t remember the last time you cried?

    I don’t know about the time lag in emotions – I haven’t had that experience yet. Maybe I’m doing wrong? I don’t know if it’s the wrong thing to do, but I think of the patients as stories. I’m interested in the story, but I’m not the author of the tale.

    Perhaps that only works so far… hmmm. A palliative care doctor I really admire mentioned he catches up with a friend who works in a different but equally stressful job each fortnight. They’ve made a ritual of these de-brief sessions to help them put things in perspective and allow them to enjoy their personal lives. I like that idea; I just need to find the right person. I don’t think partners are that person either. I know mine doesn’t like me detailing the ins and outs of people’s problems. He finds it upsetting and that doesn’t help me!

    • C Says:

      I think the debrief sessions sound good. It seems a much more structured and polite way than my current method of bailing up other med students in locker room for a few minutes at a time. You’re right…My partner likewise is not that person, either. He doesn’t want to know. Doesn’t need to know.

      Blogs are good for venting in lieu of a formal debrief 🙂

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