I Understand

A nurse called me last weekend to check up on me after I was discharged from hospital.  The phone call got off to a particularly bad start because the organizatiin he works for had consulted with a doctor I had made it perfectly clear I did not trust and would not work with anymore.  It only got worse when he asked me how I was.  I was pretty honest, at the time I was in a lot of emotional pain and was frustrated with the whole system that was supposed to help me.  I did not see much hope in ever receiving help or of ever feeling better.  He said, “I understand.”
I know I get agitated when I am frustrated, but I think no matter what mood I was in, this would not have been received well.  I said, “Oh, you have been in anguish and not been listened to at all by supposed caregivers?”  He said, “No, but I can understand.”  That is when I called bullshit.  He admitted he had never been in a situation even remotely like mine.  There is no way he could understand.  He has never had to live in fear of what he might do to himself but looking forward to the relief it might bring at the same time.  I am a pretty smart person (despite what some of these caregivers think, you can be intelligent and diagnosed with a mental illness) and I know I could never come close to understanding this without living it.  
For me, it would have been much better for him to say he understood what I was saying or that it sounded painful or something instead of pretending he knew what it was like to be me.  I have a lot of respect for people who share their lived experiences with mental illness.  Some of those stories really resonate with me and sometimes it is nice to know you aren’t the only one.  I have zero respect for someone assuming they understand what it feels like.  If he would have told me he had lived with mental illness and had gone through these dark moments, I would have accepted that he truly understands.  No one’s experiences are going to be just like mine, but it possible to come to a close understanding of others struggles if you have struggled in similar ways.  

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