As many of you know, when I am not raising the kids or writing articles, I am the office manager for an up and coming Psychiatry office. While there, I pretty much do everything and keep things running on an even keel. If the phone rings, I answer it. If there is a problem with the bank, I deal with it. If one needs an appointment, I search the calendar and get them signed up. If a patient is down and low I often come out from around my desk and give a hug or offer chocolate candy.
All in all, I am busy most days hating insurance companies, running/breaking different equipment, and listening to stories. I like to tell stories and in my (many) years of teaching I listened to students tell their stories or act out their stories. In my capacity as office manager of an up and coming Psychiatry office I believe one of my greatest tasks is listening to stories.
When someone calls they are usually at some level of distress – or they wouldn’t be calling an up and coming Psychiatrist office now would they? – and they often need to explain why they don’t really need to come but they really need to come but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are crazy or anything like that but they do need pills and their family doctor thought that they should come and see us but they really don’t need us but can they get in as soon as possible. Whew! Take a Breath!
Parents call. Spouses call. Friends call. Nurses call. Therapists call. Patients call. Each call represents a story waiting to be heard. A person with a unique look on life. A person with a unique way of responding to pressures and words and gestures of others. A person who has a story like no other. Oh, sure, some stories can run parallel for a bit, but each story is totally unique because WE ARE ALL totally unique.
Some people have an easier time getting along with others. Some people have an easier time of letting go. Some people have been abused. Some have been abusers. Some have guilt. Some have anger. Some are anxious. Some are depressed. Some no longer want to be here. Some do not want to get out of their house. Some have funny/happy stories. Some have sad stories. All are worth listening to.
This is not National Suicide Prevention Week or National Psychotic Week or National Go to Your Shrink Week, but I don’t really need “A National Week” to talk about how much we need to listen to others. Really listen to their stories. Most folks want to share the “why” of what they do and who they are. For example: Why am I sort of crazy? Easy. I have eight kids and my chin hair is getting darker and stiffer. Why do I write? I can’t NOT write. It is what I do. It helps me explain myself to myself.
Instead of questioning individuals perhaps we need to question bigger systems. Why is mental health still a taboo subject in some areas? What are religious and educational organizations doing to help? Why do many insurance carriers DIS-clude mental health in their medical coverage? Why is Mental Health an entire separate branch for most medical insurance carriers? I call to get coverages and I hear, “Oh, that’s mental health. You have to call a different number.” It is like mental health is some undefined “other” that must be treated separately and put over to the side.
I am here to tell you that everyone – EVERYONE – I meet has a mental health problem of some kind. Church goers come to see us. Educators come to see us. Nurses, bankers, physical therapists, accountants, IT geniuses, lawyers, and CEO’s come to see us. Cashiers, clerks, drivers, stay-at-home moms, teenagers, young children, and work-too-much moms all come to see us. Their stories are fascinating and sad and courageous and wonderful and horrible and just like all other stories out there, waiting to be heard.
Sure, some people need a little medication to help them conquer their stories. Some need time in a safe place dedicated to helping them. Some need understanding for the choices they make in their lives. Some don’t need medication, but just want to be heard, to explain themselves out loud. Some come because they want to, and others come because they are being forced to.
Perhaps in the future, we can all learn to listen more, judge less, be happy for others, and be content that we are who we are: A unique person with a unique story.