Sunday, February 27, 2011

cry, baby

did you ever have one of those days (or weeks, or months...) when, if someone looked at you either too kindly or too meanly, you'd burst into tears?  i get lots of tears in my exam rooms.  i think most of us are pretty protective of our deepest emotions, but the exam room is like no other place in the world, a place were all the usual social norms have no meaning, where intimacy is par for the course.  some times i just have to ask, how are you, and the tears come.  sometimes it is not until i ask some probing questions.  you might ask why i ask those questions in the first place.  there is always a reason.  maybe it is a young woman with chest pain, and i must gently encourage her to tell me that she's under tremendous pressure at work and not meeting some ridiculous productivity goal.  or maybe its the proud widow that recently threw caution to the wind and remarried after a brief and passionate courtship and can't bare to tell anyone that her new husband is abusive.  anyway, the tears come and i welcome them.   as they fall they melt the barriers to the therapeutic relationship i strive to build with each and every one of my patients.  and as they fall they always melt my heart.

most of the tears are my patients, but plenty are my own.  how can you tell someone really really bad news and not share in their grief at least in that moment?  or hear about how their messy divorce is affecting their children?  but sometimes i find my eyes welling up when i don't expect it -- someone telling me about how their granddaughter is starting her pediactrics residency - they are so proud of her!  and it's the third time they've told me this but i don't care!  i am so happy for them and for her.  yesterday a woman told me how in caring for her sister, undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer, she finally felt like a sister.  growing up they just didn't have that bond.  this really struck a cord with me, being one of three girls.  my sisters are my best friends.  so of course my eyes immediately filled with tears.  but there was a smile there too.

so go ahead and cry, baby.  i'm a cry baby too!