If you continue without changing your settings, we’ll assume you’re happy to receive all cookies from the BMA website. Find out more about cookies
When you visit any web site, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. This information might be about you, your preferences or your device and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to. The information does not usually directly identify you, but it can give you a more personalised web experience.
Because we respect your right to privacy, you can choose not to allow some types of cookies. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings. However, blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer.
These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems. They are usually only set in response to actions made by you which amount to a request for services, such as setting your privacy preferences, logging in or filling in forms.
You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not then work. These cookies do not store any personally identifiable information.
These cookies are required
These cookies allow us to know which pages are the most and least popular and see how visitors move around the site. All information we collect is anonymous unless you actively provide personal information to us.
If you do not allow these cookies we will not know when you have visited our site, and will not be able to monitor its performance.
These cookies allow a website to remember choices you make (such as your user name, language or the region you're in) and tailor the website to provide enhanced features and content for you.
For example, they can be used to remember certain log-in details, changes you've made to text size, font and other parts of pages that you can customise. They may also be used to provide services you've asked for such as watching a video or commenting on a blog. These cookies may be used to ensure that all our services and communications are relevant to you. The information these cookies collect cannot track your browsing activity on other websites.
Without these cookies, a website cannot remember choices you've previously made or personalise your browsing experience meaning you would have to reset these for every visit. In addition, some functionality may not be available if this category is switched off.
Our websites sometimes integrate with other companies’ sites. For example, we integrate with social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, to make it easier for you to share what you have read. These sites place their own cookies on your browser as a result of us including their icons and ‘like’ or ‘share’ buttons on our sites.
?It takes the patient some time to speak after sitting down and, miraculously, I manage not to interrogate her. She is shaking, close to tears. ‘It’s so embarrassing — I feel so stupid.’
Murmuring something that is meant to be comforting and encouraging, and to imply that there is little that GPs don’t hear from patients, I wonder if she has encountered unwise sexual contact, a possible infection, an unwanted pregnancy, or perhaps something as common and as troubling as haemorrhoids.
Finally she says: ‘I’ve been crying at work and at home.’ She checks for my reaction. It has been happening for the past couple of months and no, work is not the problem. She is an accountant — at the stage equivalent to a GP registrar. She likes the work, has good reports, and will be taking professional exams soon.
And home? Married for 18 months, describes her husband as ‘just lovely’, sex is a delight, they have a lot of friends. So...?
‘Well, this is the embarrassing thing.’
She pauses again. ‘Please don’t think me stupid but I cry about, well, the world. Just such awful things.’
And it’s not that she worries about the end of the world or the prospect of the breakdown of civilisation or that kind of thing. She is actually avoiding watching the news for fear of seeing another report about suffering in Syria or central Africa or even the streets of Innercitysville, because she knows it will keep her awake at night.
Would she call herself a religious person? No, never could really cope with any of that. I grasp at another structure of meaning and ask whether she has any interest in politics. ‘No, not really...’ she tails off. Nor is she in any campaign or group devoted to justice or change or humanitarian help. She seems to be raw, exposed now, in her 20s, to other people’s suffering without protection from any of the age-old webs of meaning or activity most of us use to stop ourselves being burned and immobilised by it.
This is not depression. She is very sad but very active and engaged in her life: and in any case she is absolutely right that the appropriate response of a human being to the situations she mentions is horror.
So you might ask whether her existential concerns are really the NHS’s problem. I think they are. In the past she might have been to see a priest or a family member, but she has actually summoned up the courage to see the GP about her feelings. I don’t apply the sticking plaster of activism. I don’t suggest any one of a thousand campaigns she might join. Would she like to see the practice counsellor? She is incredulous that this opportunity is available, but accepts, in tears.
It is a start.
What would you have done? Use the comments box below
Flora Tristan is an inner-city GP. She writes under a pseudonym
'Mourning and weeping in this vale of tears!' No LES, DES, QP, QOF, NICE guidance or even a patient.co.uk leaflet on that one! Probably best to refer that one to local medical director as we may have a new illness. We live in a secular world. Six sessions with the counsellor seems a little inadequate!
The counsellor seems like a good starting point for her to work out how she can build a coping mechanism for dealing with the ills of the world.
Activism as a sticking plaster? Maybe. Being part of something she feels strongly about to help bring about change could be a positive.
It's good to hear that when she did turn to someone, they listened.
Evolution has made us capable of accepting personal tragedy but the electronic age has made us aware of world suffering. We're not built for it. Time for a serious news withdrawal. I would advise her to avoid all news media, to concentrate on herself her family and friends and to enjoy life to the full.
As I read this I cry. I've been crying since yesterday over what is happening to the Syrian people and their children. My work colleagues no longer steak out loud about what's in the news as they know it will upset me. I stopped reading paper on train. I switch radio off in car when sad story comes on but sometimes it's too late and I'm left distraught and can't stop thinking about it. I have a lovely life, husband, little boy. I'm almost relieved to hear I'm not alone as I know it's not depression but something else. I don't know what help I need but maybe start with minimising Facebook/Internet/news.
Just like this lady and Dee (author of the above comment), this describes me completely. Obviously, the current refugee crisis, but also any type of report about people, particularly children, suffering unspeakable terror and pain.. I only just broke down crying after accidentally watching a video that reported about pedophiles and the torture of children during satanic rituals. My mind starts imagining things and I cannot stop crying. It's the feeling of powerlessness, the wish to prevent such things but knowing I can't.. The realisation of how evil people can be. I definitely found that becoming a mum has made me a lot more sensitive to the pain in the world. Activism is a way forward. Also really being with those feelings and not running away from them, ie meditation.. Glad I am not the only one struggling with this. After all, it also reaffirms my belief in the humanity of people...
Oh Linda and Dee, yes, yes I am going through this as well. It's late at night, I'm im bed beside a wonderful,sleeping husband, my beautiful infant is safe in his room and I'm desperately searching the internet to put a word to this. This uncontrollable sobbing when I read or hear the news. My emotions have reached new peaks and lows since becoming a mom as well, I know that's normal. But these real life stories of horror and suffering and injustice are breaking my soul. Anything to do with children just sets me off for days. I've tried avoiding news sources but I feel like I am obligated to be aware and recognize the tragedies. I agree, Simon Price, we're not built for this.
Has anyone figured out how to deal with this yet? The world keeps me up at night. I can't read most of the stories in the news or social media for fear I'll see something I won't be able to get out of my mind for months. Is there a name for this? Anything?
This is me all over, even to point of of being awake all night thinking of all the horrid, sad things that happen that I have no control over! I get so upset my husband thinks I'm crazy and does his best to understand but I really need some advice about trying to put it to the back of mind, it's starting to effect my day to day life and I'm not sure where to turn, I think a G.P would just send me on my way without taking it as seriously as I feel, thanks for reading xx