Lessons my patients taught me during Covid-19

Hands coming together

Lessons my patients taught me during Covid-19

 

Hands coming together

 

Since I’m starting my own private practice, I had my last day of seeing patients at my prior job a few weeks ago.  If you ever wondered, yes, your psychiatrist does feel sad at saying goodbye, and yes, your psychiatrist will miss you.

I am filled with such gratitude to my patients for sharing their lives with me.  It is a true privilege and honor to be granted that most sacred opportunity.  And in gratitude, I wanted to share the great wisdom that my patients taught me during the time of Covid-19 pandemic.

Resilience can be cultivated.

My patient taught me that no matter the challenge, even when facing post-partum depression, PTSD, or suicidal thoughts, there is this sliver of sheer will that somehow pokes its head out in the times of even the greatest despair.  There have been a few times when I can’t fall asleep worrying about a patient, and at the following visit, their smile greets me and brings a warmth that I would have never expected.

How did that happen?  From what my patients tell me, sometimes it’s as simple as the way the light shines through the window that catches their eye, or the way a flowering weed looks peeking between two stones.  Something shifts their perspective, and helps them move forward.  But it was their willingness to be open that shift, and their resilience that allowed that to happen.

What I took away from this?  Open my eyes to the wonder around me and let that fill my cup to build my resilience.

Compassion is everywhere.

Every one of my patient was worried about someone else.  I had to counsel so many not to compare their situation to someone else’s.

  • My depressed patients were worried about their Black neighbors.
  • My married patients with postpartum depression were concerned about single moms trying to take care of newborns on their own.
  • My patients with panic disorder were upset about those who had lost their jobs.
  • And the list goes on…

 

Even when they were struggling themselves, the ability to witness the plight of others, care for them, and demonstrate compassion towards others was so humbling.

Lesson learned?  Be grateful for what I have and do what I can for others.

Getting help works.

Therapy, medications, stress reduction, mindfulness, meditation.  They can all work to help people feel better.  But so does prayer, dirty humor, and occasional glass(es) of wine, or K-drama bingeing marathons.  I will fully acknowledge that I may not have the scientific articles to substantiate that last sentence.

Takeaway?  Put in the time to take care of myself, no matter what that looks like.

Life doesn’t stop.

Even though we are living in a time of unprecedented uncertainty, my patients taught me that life doesn’t stop.  First dates are still happening, babies are still being born, affairs are still being had, love is still blooming, school tests are still happening, and work metrics still have to be attained.  Just because the external environment is off kilter, our life rhythms are still happening.

Main point? Get over myself.  I don’t have to constantly be responding to external events.  Go back to the basics of living my life.

 

There are so many other lessons I’ve learned from my patients, these are just a few.

Much gratitude to all of them.

 

 

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