“Do you have someone you can love unconditionally?”
Is one of the questions we ask our patients when talking about support systems. Most people pause for a bit and say no, some say yes. Those who say yes are the luckiest of all. I find it interesting that we ask if the pt has someone THEY can love unconditionally, as opposed to someone who loves THEM unconditionally.
These patients may not be able to answer if there is someone for them to give all their love to, but I have seen so much unconditional love from families. The wife of one of my patients told me she married her husband even though she knew he might have a mental illness, because he was “a nice sweet guy and that’s all I wanted, whether other people liked his little quirks or not.”
I have met a young husband who works from home t9 care for his wife who is no longer able to care for herself, and to care for his baby daughter. He has stayed home all day every day for the past 5 years, and knows there is no chance of his wife getting better. But he loves her, and came to visit her in the hospital on the first day of her stay, even though this is probably the first day in ages where he hasn’t had to take care of his wife and daughter while working.
One of my other patients mostly sat in the geri chair on the millieu all day long, and interacted when you spoke to him but only in 1-2 words and broken sentences. When his wife came during visiting hours, this patient was smiling away. She held his hand, stroked his hair, and did everything she could to pull him into the conversation with the other patients. I learned so much about him that evening than I did even interviewing him.
I think this last example alludes to why a therapeutic relationship is so important- a person has to feel like you care for them and aren’t just doing your job when treating him or her.
But anyway, I feel lucky to be able to see such unconditional love- I am learning its meaning and how to show it in my life.