I started to touch on this point last week in my post about honoring vulnerability. And we’ve had some great discussions about the issue of vulnerability and health over the past few weeks in #MedPsych chat (check out the transcripts here). And there have been comments made during this entire year of the #MedPsych chat that have led to this topic.
Being healthy (in body and mind) doesn’t equal being superhuman.
I think that if I said that to the average person on the street, they would agree with me. But, the truth is, we kind of expect superhuman–from ourselves, from our patients/clients, and from our healthcare providers.
- We expect that we will never fall ill.
- We expect that we will perfectly manage our chronic health conditions.
- We expect that we will always communicate our needs well.
- We expect that we will intuitively choose healthy habits.
- We expect that we will never need to restart our healthy choices.
- We expect that clients will keep appointments, even when their lives are in chaos.
- We expect that patients can make behavior changes, even without education and support.
- We expect that clients and patients can communicate their needs on our timeline.
- We expect that our healthcare providers will be completely up to date on current research.
- We expect that our healthcare providers will start all appointments on time.
- We expect that our healthcare providers will take as much time with us as we need.
- We expect that our healthcare providers will be able to connect empathetically with us as fellow human beings.
- We expect that our healthcare providers will have good enough boundaries not to burden us with their struggles.
And that’s just a tiny sampling of the expectations that we have–for ourselves and for our healthcare providers–when it comes to health. Laid out like that, it becomes pretty easy to understand why we often feel blamed and judged in healthcare, on all sides of the treatment equation.
It seems clear to me that all of these threads: countering stigma, honoring vulnerability, and acknowledging human-ness are essential components of building a healthcare system that truly honors and integrates support for whole people (body, brain, relationships).
I think one area to start changing our expectations is in our training systems. We need systems where students who set healthy boundaries are respected, not judged. We need training systems where mistakes are treated as opportunities to learn, not moments of public shaming (or a rush to risk management). We need training that give us permission and tools to consider our work as part of an integrated system, not isolated silos of expertise.
And sometimes, we just need to pause, and honor the fact that being human is a process of learning and relearning, of connecting, of struggling–a process, not a destination.