Both the entry’s title and the words in the picture above are things my techs have said jokingly about one of our now regular patients. It makes me angry when I hear those things. The man has severe bipolar disorder, for which he just recently started getting treatment. Whenever he calls the pharmacy, he is manic and very anxious. His phone calls can last for a long time, especially if he is worried about one of his medications. It seems like I’m the only one in the pharmacy who doesn’t mind speaking with him, though. The rambling does not bother me like it does with everyone else. In fact, I feel very bad for him. He didn’t ask for the problems he has. I am sure if he could hit a button and get rid of them, he would without hesitation. His rambling is not intentional, nor is he deliberately trying to annoy or irritate others. He is simply trying to ask questions that he, as a patient, has a right to have answered. The saddest part of it all is that he knows people don’t like when he calls–that they dread hearing his voice. Except me.
So, things have gotten to the point where he will only speak to me. Though it’s nice that he trusts me, he shouldn’t have to rely on one person to answer simple questions, such as whether his prescription is ready for pick up. I can’t understand why people get so frustrated with him. Yes, he rambles. He rambles a lot. But, all you have to do is just let him talk. I continue doing other things while I’m on the phone with him because I know most of what he’s saying is repetitive or just him thinking out loud. But, if his rambling to me for a few minutes can quiet his racing thoughts for a bit, that’s great. I don’t let it interfere with the rest of my duties more than it has to. Neither should my other techs or the other pharmacists who work there. He knows he rambles, and so he only calls on the weekends or after 6 PM on weeknights. He knows he has a problem, and he does his best to keep it from taking up our time. I couldn’t ask for anything more from this guy. He’s as good as patients come. It’s sad to me that no one else thinks so.
I think part of the problem is that other people write him off as “crazy”. They figure they’re allowed to be annoyed with him. They probably also figure he has little grip on reality. I HATE the social stigma on mental disorders. People like this man suffer every day because the people who are supposed to help them don’t. It’s not that they purposely don’t help; it’s that they write things off as part of the patients’ disorders, even when they’re not. A schizophrenic with a UTI should still be treated the same as “sane” people with UTIs. Yes, there are emotional and knowledge barriers many times, especially with the more severely mentally ill. But, you do your best to overcome them with the patient together–as a team. You don’t ignore the barrier because of the diagnosis code in their chart. If you can build a trusting relationship with your patients (“crazy” or not), you will overcome barriers much easier than if you just tell them what to do. If you can empathize with them, they will notice and appreciate it many times. Now, this isn’t fool proof. There are always people who will ignore your advice. There are always people that will be nasty. But, more often than not, being kind or empathetic leads to kindness and gratitude in return. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
Going back to my original story, the man called today, and I was happy to hear that he sounded much less anxious than I have ever heard him . Still a bit edgy and talking fast, but markedly better than before. I hope the pattern continues for him. I know he wants to be more level and even-toned. Maybe, someday, he will be what society deems “normal”. I couldn’t help but smile when I got off the phone with him. =)
Image courtesy of http://i37.photobucket.com/albums/e55/maanika/talking.jpg