Bedside manner

A woman had to see the cardiologist. The first thing he said to her was that she had to give up smoking. So she did, just like that: it was her health, she knew she had to, she did. She saw him again a month later, and expected a little stroking: did you? Oh well done, that is difficult, congratulations, it will make you feel so much better etc. Instead he said, “You’re far too fat. You need to lose a stone”. She left the room wanting nothing so much as a fag and a creamcake.

I saw one unsympathetic specialist, and could not bear to see him again, though I needed what he only could prescribe. I went private.

I find that if people tell me their woes, and I show my respect and sympathy, they feel better for it. I feel as if I am a wire, earthing distress. I can generally shed any distress I feel from the story quite quickly, though in the case of a schizophrenic woman it took two hours, and I had to talk to a friend to do it. She told me things which were true- she had problems at work, then got sacked; or clearly false- there was a radio transmitter in her head, which transmitted her thoughts to the Government; but it was the things which were in between, not clearly either, that most messed with my head.

And I have heard people who seem to have a bottomless pit of distress, and can pour it out to me yet have an infinite amount more. I feel ill after, and feel I have given no benefit. It is the sense that I give a benefit that makes the experience worthwhile for me.

6 thoughts on “Bedside manner

  1. I have an old friend who spent much of her life working as a counsellor, a listener and I once asked her how she dealt with the awful things she heard (this was after I’d absorbed some terrible stories).
    “Well,” she said. “While I was working, I debriefed by talking to my supervisor. Now I am retired I tell it all to my angel.”
    It can be very hard to deal with the distress if you are an empath; I will often manifest symptoms of another’s illness later. I have to ask myself all the time, is this pain mine or am I bearing it for another.
    Not easy.


  2. You have hit on the nub of several problems here.

    What is healthy? What is healthy earthing of distress? I think I need to go away and think about TV programmes I have seen about lightning: what we know and what we don’t know.

    Electricity flows – I recall watching a recently broadcast TV documentary on this too (by Mr Al Khalili). Like a river, it (or its flow) has volume and force and speed… I can never remember how this matches up with voltage, wattage, ampage, etc.

    In the same documentary a history of AC/DC … not just a slangy term, also a metaphor for energy exchange…

    In my BSL learning last night, in class: huge relief for me that this tutor knows what she is doing to prepare us for the conversation exam. [14 months ago I just had to run out on my level 2 conversation exam with a previous tutor – and I am still scared of my repeated failings in turn-taking].

    She, my new tutor, sits us all down in a line of pairs and gets us to practice exchange of minimal nuggets of info. She signs to me, in reply to my query, that it is fine for me to adopt different modes of exchange in the exam: genuine enquiry and serious dialogue (NB to myself: that dia means “through or between” and is not just 2x mono!) can be interspersed with playfulness and teasing, reassurance, puzzlement, confusion, delight in the moment…

    Thanks for the extra insights and connectedness your blog has given me, Claire F!


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