Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness in his book Wherever You Go, There You Are, as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally“. The concept of mindfulness has increasingly spread to popular culture here in the West, and more health magazines are incorporating articles of mindful living to help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
Through my experience as a technician, I have found that mindful listening has changed how I interact with patients. People carry around stories of their lives and experiences that have collectively shaped who they are today. No one knows their story better than they do. Only Patient X truly understands what it is like for them to fight depression each day. I do not understand how difficult it is for Patient Y to concentrate on studying while battling depression. And I never will begin to understand, unless I listen.
A difficult aspect of depression that I have noticed is that many feel compelled to wear a mask because others will not understand their depression. It is my hope to create a safe space where patients feel free to share their story and not wear a mask. Even if I cannot understand exactly what each person is going through, simply listening can be incredibly empowering. It is a way of validating their subjective experiences and traveling this journey with them.
I have been greatly humbled by this experience as a technician because I have learned that the relationships that develop between technician and patient are undeniably a two-way street. I have the opportunity to speak into another’s life, and I have the honor to listen and let others impact me with their stories. A time where this occurred was when I was discussing a book with Patient X, and they gave their profound outlook on a comment I had said. This patient didn’t know it at the time, but I carried their comment with me for the rest of that day. They had given me such incredible insight into my own life that I had never considered before. The irony of that transaction made me smile and I realized that I have so much to learn from these patients’ stories. And with those experiences come stories of strength, stories of hardship, and the willpower it took to keep moving. I am amazed each day that patients have the motivation to come in for treatment with the hope that their depression will lift. Each patient brings such strength and inspiration each time they walk through the door.