Seeing the person not the illness

  1. 10
    "I wonder how many people I've looked at all my life and never seen." John Steinbeck

    A quote I found today that really hit me. I think sometimes we in psychiatry especially need to remember this. The nature of the symptoms affect what the patient says and does, so thus how they are perceived. It can sometimes be hard to separate the person from their illness.

    I spent 8 hours yesterday 1:1 with a patient. Agitated, grandiose, labile,.. One of the worst manic episodes I've seen in awhile. By the time I left I was frustrated and completely drained.

    On the drive home I was thinking about my difficult day and came to some realizations. First of all my day wasn't nearly as bad as his. He never asked for or wanted to be bipolar. He takes his medication and sees his psychiatrist regularly, yet this still happened.

    In our time together I could see glimpses of how he must be when stable. He is intelligent and funny. He loves to see people smile and laugh. At one point in life he was a very successful business man. He knows a lot about animals and nature. I can imagine he is like a giant teddy bear when his symptoms are under control.

    Good reminder to always see the person behind the illness. The symptoms of illness are not what defines the individual.
    Whispera, Meriwhen, DawnJ, and 7 others like this.
  2. 7 Comments so far...

  3. 1
    Very good point , thank you for bringing this point to surface !
    marydc likes this.
  4. 2
    I think all of us in the healthcare field should here these words. It applies to every aspect of patient care. That crazy little old lady who keeps crawling out of bed was healthy and beautiful. They were the belle of the ball. Healthy, Successful, desired, and beloved.

    We need to remember that they weren't born 88 with Alzheimer's.....crawling OOB to drive everyone crazy.

    A great message.! Thank you!
    marydc and VivaLasViejas like this.
  5. 3
    Quote from marydc
    "I wonder how many people I've looked at all my life and never seen." John Steinbeck

    A quote I found today that really hit me. I think sometimes we in psychiatry especially need to remember this. The nature of the symptoms affect what the patient says and does, so thus how they are perceived. It can sometimes be hard to separate the person from their illness.

    I spent 8 hours yesterday 1:1 with a patient. Agitated, grandiose, labile,.. One of the worst manic episodes I've seen in awhile. By the time I left I was frustrated and completely drained.

    On the drive home I was thinking about my difficult day and came to some realizations. First of all my day wasn't nearly as bad as his. He never asked for or wanted to be bipolar. He takes his medication and sees his psychiatrist regularly, yet this still happened.

    In our time together I could see glimpses of how he must be when stable. He is intelligent and funny. He loves to see people smile and laugh. At one point in life he was a very successful business man. He knows a lot about animals and nature. I can imagine he is like a giant teddy bear when his symptoms are under control.

    Good reminder to always see the person behind the illness. The symptoms of illness are not what defines the individual.
    Thank you for this. I hope that if I'm ever in a situation like that of your patient, I have someone like you who understands that NO ONE chooses to be mentally ill, let alone lose control of their symptoms.
    pinkiepieRN, Esme12, and marydc like this.
  6. 4
    I think this is a beautiful sentiment and goes for a lot of people with physical and mental disabilities or illnesses out of their control. You don't judge a baby born with Downs any more than a woman facing postpartum depression or a man with Alzheimer's. At some point in those lives, there was joy, even if we cannot entirely understand it, and it is our job (as people, ourselves) to pass along a little empathy to those we encounter.
    modgoth1, Meriwhen, marydc, and 1 other like this.
  7. 5
    Quote from marydc
    It can sometimes be hard to separate the person from their illness.
    It doesn't help that we (generic) tend to be quick to label people by their illness. It's not the patient with bipolar disorder, it's the Bipolar patient. The Schizophrenic. The Psychotic one. The Anorexic. The Alcoholic. The Addict. The Cutter.

    And--this seems to be the label applied the quickest even if the person doesn't actually have an Axis II diagnosis--the Borderline.

    Many patients are offended or disturbed about such labels because they feel they're being identified not as individuals, but only as the disorder(s) they have. I admit, I've been guilty of doing this at times. But I make a serious effort to focus on the person, and not just on their disorder.
    KelRN215, pinkiepieRN, Esme12, and 2 others like this.
  8. 2
    I have to say I think one of the coolest things about working acute inpt psych is seeing the difference in the pts when they leave vs when they come. I've seen pts come in so depressed and anxious they literally could not get out of bed all the while having rolling panic attacks who have a course of ECT and some med changes and are smiling walking down the halls, hanging out in the dayroom and stopping you in the halls to make some brief small talk. I have seen people so psychotic that they couldn't engage in reality at all smile at you and introduce you to their family as they are walking out the door. I love it. I think my favorite population to work with are the pts with chronic, persistent psychotic disorders. They were my favorite pts when I worked in the community. When you have someone that is so chronically ill they have trouble with social cues and have difficulty conversing or expressing emotions tell you on your last day of work that the agency should double your salary so you wouldn't leave.......that's enough to make ya cry.
    Whispera and marydc like this.
  9. 0
    Quote from TerpGal02
    I have to say I think one of the coolest things about working acute inpt psych is seeing the difference in the pts when they leave vs when they come.
    I agree 100%. It makes all we go through worthwhile.


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