How to take rejection well
“DON’T take it personally.” That was the best take-home message for me from a full-day seminar on Clinical Controversies.
The psychiatrist who gave this advice was speaking about the treatment of patients with borderline personality disorder. To paraphrase him, the patient may succeed in driving you nuts during a 15-minute consultation, but think of how hard it is for such a person to live with themselves 24 /7.
I’ve expanded the recommendation; I find this approach most helpful in dealing with patients who seek my help reluctantly.
They attend the surgery after failed treatment following their normal pathway of care. I learn of previous visits to the naturopath, chiropractor, physiotherapist, acupuncturist and massage therapist.
The patient has tried Pilates and has a personal trainer. After two years on their health quest, they succumb to the entreaties of their personal trainer to attend a GP.
You are the absolute last resort. The concept of visiting a doctor has become so foreign that only one out of six allied health professionals is aware of the option. And it is totally beyond the imagination of any patient. The de-medicalisation of medical problems is one of the government’s greatest achievements in its health care strategy.
Another area where I am applying the “Don’t Take It Personally” philosophy is in dealing with bureaucratic forms. I was attempting to renew my medical registration. Although there was an on-line option, I’m really an old-fashioned girl at heart. So I reached for my pen. But I didn’t get past the first column before I was thwarted. The name on the document was “Null Pamela Rachootin.”
There were warnings on the form about changing information. If anything other than one’s contact details needed amending, one had to download the appropriate PDF file from the website. I tried phoning for help but was put on hold interminably and eventually gave up. Forced to go to the website, I could not find any information about changing one’s name.
Now maybe if the new name had been more appealing, I would have accepted it. If it were something like Fabo Pamela Rachootin, I could live with it. But “Null” had negative connotations, as though I had been pushed by a government authority into the void – again.
I toyed with submitting the paper document with my new identity anyway. But one was required to sign it, swearing that all of the information was correct. My life would forevermore be officially regarded as Null.
Before the big decision, I trialled my new name on a few patients. They just laughed at me. It’s one thing to be ignored by patients, but quite another to be laughed at. Fortunately I remembered the speaker from the seminar. He had given me a way to reclaim my dignity: “Don’t take it personally.”