A thought struck me when reading an excellent post on Warmsocks' blog. The vast majority of responses to my recent posts on doctor/patient relations have been positive. Yet a vocal minority of people have read what I wrote in a negative light - that I am somehow projecting my doctor arrogance into those posts and am patronizing people with chronic illness. Warmsocks' interpretation of my posts was that I was asking people with chronic disease to act like normal patients and pay attention to whether or not they were part of the problem. This is relationship 101; when there is a dysfunctional relationship, it happens because there are two people involved. The times that I have really messed up in relationships have been largely due to the fact that I ignored my own pathological behavior and assumed the other person was the one who needed to change. My experience teaches me that there are usually equal parts of pathology on both sides of the equation. My job is to heed the serenity prayer:
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
As I was thinking about this, I saw a very striking parallel between what has transpired on this blog over the past few days and the subject of doctor/patient relations. The people who are regular readers of this blog, those who know how I think (and are not totally terrified) will read my words with a level of understanding that new readers can't have. They have a much larger experience with my personality, my writing style, and my overall attitude, and so can read me without misinterpreting what I am saying. They know me, and so don't have to wonder as much what I mean.
The same thing is true with doctors and patients. If you build a relationship that is non-adversarial, it will make listening a lot easier. This definitely applies from the doctors perspective; docs need to listen to their patients, get to know them, and understand their perspective to be able to give good care. When I see a patient for the first time, I have to guess as to what certain things mean. The quality of the guess is dependent on my skill with listening and the patient's skill at explaining themself. As time goes by, however, I can understand them much better through experience. It is key that I do this based on what I know about the patient. I have to have a relationship with them - a real relationship. I have to know them.
The same thing goes for patients. Going to the doctor is as much about building relationship as it is about receiving care. The jerky docs out there are not going to be willing to accept relationship, while the sensitive docs will listen and open up much better. But still, it is very important to figure out who it is that is sitting across the room. It is important to put down agendas as much as is possible (I do realize it's not always possible), and to build relationship. You need to know your doctor.
So, to those who are new to this blog I say, read other stuff. You will understand me much better if you don't base your conclusions on a single post. I will continue to listen and try to figure out if I am communicating badly (which is my responsibility as a writer) and correct where needed. That is the benefit of social media - that people give me immediate feedback as to how good of a job I have done at communicating.
To those who have stuck with me and read regularly: thanks. I thrive on that relationship as a writer. I write to be read and write to be understood. It's nice to be known.