Learning to be the Third Person Narrative
June 28, 2022
by Dr. Plastic Picker
It’s been a minute, hasn’t it? When I began blogging I found so much freedom in being able to write into the internet ether. I remember the first November, I was blogging up to sometimes twice a day. It was cathartic and it meant freedom for me. Freedom to vent. Freedom to create. Freedom to be silly. Blogging is also written in the first person narrative. I am a blogger. I am Dr. Plastic Picker. It’s mostly all about me, even this eco-avatar is still me.
And having that “me” time, oddly allowed me to be the third person narrative at work. I stopped talking about myself as much, because I was finally listening to myself when I was blogging and creating. And now during clinic, I listen more attentively. Being the third person narrative at work, has been life-changing.
I was with a mother yesterday in clinic, who I have cared for through three different partners. I have been the stable part of that mother’s life, the person who cares for all of the children’s medical needs in this complex blended family. Sometimes when families are torn apart and then blended and torn apart again, the medical problems get more complex. Referring to specialists, getting more labs, recommending new wellness classes, talking about recipes and vegetables and screen time – we together are only scratching the surface. But over almost a decade, I’ve been there for them. Even when I myself was going through burn-out and just making it as a young mother doctor, I was there for my patients. My patients never suffered. Adding them on when the schedule was already full. Pausing and taking that extra moment to suggest something new on their road to health. And now that I’m better and able to really listen and be the third person narrative, I realize that part of what families really needed was me. They need me to listen and to witness.
So that is what I did yesterday for this mother. I just listened and I finally understood better what was going on in her life and her narrative. The core of what was the cause of the different partners and the severed families. She was understanding herself. The patient in front of me, the toddler, is just beginning to learn her words. And what she says is filled with emotion and tangents and loose associations. It’s coming out garbled. She needs therapy. And it’s a metaphor for how the mother’s narrative came out garbled and in phrases and sentences and actions over the decade that confused me, and didn’t make sense. But the mother is learning the vocabulary and the words. And then she can teach her daughter along with the speech pathologists and the therapist, so that that child can also clearly express herself.
I listened and took the time yesterday. I didn’t think about the green dots that are annoying sometimes, and remind me other patients are waiting. It turned out no one was waiting and I was on time at that part of the day. I can read body language well being a pediatrician for almost 20 years now. She didn’t need a hug. I put my hand lightly on her right shoulder in comfort. I kneeled in front of my little patient and at eye level, thanked her for coming it and waved good-bye with two hands. And during the visit as we went back to forth in a somewhat garbled patient visit, we figured out the next steps. I said sandwiched in between us trying to figure things out together, “I’m proud of you. My general impression is that you are starting to reach out. You are reaching out and forming your support network. You came today and I’m lucky to be part of that network. I’m proud of you for breaking this cycle of abuse. You will end it in this generation.” What a remarkable narrative I witnessed yesterday.