In my time as a psychiatric nurse practitioner I’ve had people react to me in many different ways. I often say people either love me or hate me. There’s not much of an in between. But that’s wrong; I am learning the in between exists.
There’s a gray area where some people live where they just don’t understand me and are scared to hope that I might be real.
It’s taken me some time to recognize this particular response to me as it presents as hate some times. Often times. I’ve had clients scream at me, “BUT WHY ARE YOU BEING SO NICE?! I FUCKED UP!” I’ve had clients say, “BUT WHY DO YOU CARE?! YOU AREN’T MY RELATIVE SO WHY DO YOU FUCKING CARE?”
It surprised me the first couple times. Why would I not care? Why would I be in the profession I’m in if I didn’t give a shit?
I’ve reflected a lot about this particular reaction to me.
Clients that stick with me; who have been with me through divorces, marriages, bearing children, gender changes, sexual orientation changes, sobriety and relapses, and any other major life event you can think of…these clients know that I’ve got their back. They may hate me sometimes. When I’m not doing what they want me to do and I may push them in ways they don’t want to be pushed. But I’m there for them through it all.
I tell clients I don’t get mad at them, I just try and understand where they are struggling and why and work through it with them. And it’s really true. It takes too much energy and would require taking things very personally if I was to get upset with clients and sort of counterproductive to my role.
A client who recently questioned why I cared about them with skepticism said it must be because I have to care because it’s my job because I have to care about everyone who walks through the door. I immediately shook my head no. I do not keep every one who walks through my door. I do not take on everyone who calls. And certainly not everyone keeps me.
It has to be a good fit on both sides. We don’t necessarily have to like each other but we have to have respect for one another and we have to feel safe with one another. I’ve discharged people who threatened me or who were too acute for a private practice. And people have discharged themselves when they don’t get what they want or need from me.
But my peeps, my clients and my patients, yes I care about them. I don’t know any other way to be. I don’t know how to sit with some one and hear their story and try and partner with them to move forward and not feel something toward them. Empathy. Compassion. Because it is from those clients who I learn the most. The clients who take steps forward when the world pushes them back; they are the people who inspire me. They are the stars to see, to feel, to experience, and to be witness to that brings me joy like nothing else.
I saw a client recently and we got in really deep about something and they teared up, and we had this moment, and I’m like you just got therapized. But it’s not just them it’s me who learns from them. Me who learns that it took almost two years to get a tear from them to watch them progress toward feeling the hard mushy feelings.
I care about people because I couldn’t sit in the chair I sit in and not care.
I trained with an APRN who was amazing. She taught me tremendous amounts about everything but mostly she taught me how to see patients as people. She said she did half hour follow-ups instead of the standard fifteen minutes a psychiatrist does because, “Ya know. I like to talk to my people.” I agree with her. I like talking to my people. I like to know them, and although caring about each and every one makes me vulnerable it’s also what makes me good.
It makes people trust me because they know I am prescribing to them in a way that I would prescribe and treat my own family member.
To wonder why some one would care hurts me. Because it means that person has been wounded. Deeply.
Why the fuck do you care?
My answer is because I can. Because I do. Because I see you and you are worthy of being cared about. My question back would be why are you scared of being cared about?
Stop the stigma.