I saw a patient today who came in with heel pain, but as it turns out, that was not the only thing she wanted to discuss. She mentioned how happy she was with herself during the conversation because she was so chatty. This is an unusual comment during a medical examination. As it turns out, she is taking some classes with a psychologist to learn how to be more social, because she suffers from bipolar disorder. She feels that they are working very well and that it is time well spent. She discussed her life a little bit, and it is difficult because she has this mental condition. It seems more difficult for her because people often perceive her lack of social grace as being aloof or that she is dis-interested. Also, on occasion she will have to be hospitalized for several weeks. This, of course, takes her out of the very social circles she wants so desperately to be a part of. It is also very difficult to explain where she has been when she returns. Without a pretty constant struggle, this patient finds it very difficult to continually engage with those she knows, works with, and sometimes even with her family.
The lesson for us here is perhaps that when we meet someone who is not as socially adept as we are or as we would like for them to be, that we might extend them a little grace and compassion. Perhaps they are in a situation like this young lady and are desperately trying to find friends and be accepted. Just a little extra effort on our part when we meet people different from us might really, in both the short term and long term, actually change her life. I have made a commitment since I met this young lady to really try to be more flexible, patient and tolerant of those not exactly like I would like them to be or exactly like the people I’m used to being around. This young lady turns out to be a wonderful person and wants to be loved and appreciated just like all of us. I want to help them just like I would want to be helped if I were them. Maybe someone should come up with a golden rule about that!