Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Success or Failure?

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on March 21, 2012

Socializing and meeting new people is always stimulating, but being a psychotherapist/psychiatrist/psychoanalyst, meeting new people can sometimes cause startle and deep reflection. “Oh, Shirah Vollmer, I know you, you treated me and my wife twenty years ago,” Raul says, causing me to startle. ” Did I help?” I ask, slightly scared of the answer, but curious at the same time. “Well, that depends on who you ask,” Raul says. “My wife thought you were brutal, but I really appreciated your courage to tell her that she was part of the problem. She did not want to hear that, so we did not come back, but I have always appreciated you for that.” Raul says, as another person enters into our conversation. I realize instantly that I cannot continue this dialogue. There is still patient/doctor confidentiality, even though Raul brought it up in a public setting. I am left to wondering if Raul is still married to that wife. What exactly did I say to her? Would I have said that now that I have twenty-two years of experience? Raul was happy to meet me, but at the same time, his affect was rather flat. He did not seem as frustrated as I was that the conversation got side-tracked. A Los Angeles experience, I say to myself. We live in a big city where chance encounters are grist for great stories, except my stories are private, left to my fictionalizing them on these posts. I want to think that in twenty-two years of working with people that my tact and timing has improved; that I have grown in my incisiveness. How much of that thought is wishful thinking and how much of that is a reasonable response to the seasoning that occurs with time? I am not sure. I have no closure, only interesting and mesmerizing thoughts.

2 Responses to “Success or Failure?”

  1. Shelly said

    How come you didn’t recognize Raul if you treated him? I’ve met my gynecologist several times and each time when we’re reintroduced he says that we’ve never met–for obvious reasons he doesn’t recognize my face (ha ha ha). I understand you must be curious what has happened to Raul and his wife over the past 22 years, if you have helped him and his relationship wife his wife, etc…That must indeed be tricky for you to meet your patients in social settings and then never knowing if you should acknowledge them or not or let them lead conversations with you. Your posts are most interesting. I think a good non-fiction book is called for. I’d be the first to but it!!!! (I want an autographed copy.)

    • I do recognize most of the folks who have walked into my office, so I imagine that when people change their hair, or their clothing style, I might get confused.

      Yes, seeing patients in social situations is challenging, but usually it works out fine, as we seem to communicate nonverbally the shared awkwardness of the situation.

      Oh, I am so glad that you find my stories captivating. I joke to myself that I will print out my blog as a book, and then I will have “published” a book. As with so many things, technology has changed the accessibility for writing books, so maybe that is indeed in my future. We will see. Thanks for the support.

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