He knocks on the door, eyes trained on the floor

He says he doesn’t know what he is here for

He is restless and anxious. He can’t even stay seated.

“I don’t know what I did,” he says. “This is no way to be treated.”

He is still quite young, not much older than me

He isn’t that tall, maybe just five-foot-three

His eyes are dark brown, just like my mother’s

In strangers’ eyes, he might even be my brother

I look at his file, at his history and meds

He should be admitted, but we’re short on beds

I make sure I have tissues, there’s water within reach

He clears his throat twice, and then starts to speak

He speaks of his childhood, of the things he has known

He speaks of new problems, now that he is grown

With every new word, I feel my heart beat faster

How could a life turn into such a disaster?

What do some people do right, and others do wrong?

What lets me be a doctor, while his future is gone?

But while all these thoughts fly fast through my head

He is still speaking, and says, “I wish I was dead.”

My heart cracks in pieces. There are tears in my eyes.

But he’s still in the room, so I know I can’t cry

What’s the matter with me? I have to be strong!

I can’t start crying with every case that goes wrong!

I can’t go through this heartbreak again and again

But I feel all their pain: when will it end?

I don’t want to go through this every single night!

They tell me I’ll lose it, but is that really right?

Every patient matters; I don’t want to lose touch

With the kindness and compassion which matter so much

But with every new patient comes another new storm

The tear ducts start queuing, and my feelings all swarm

One day I know he’ll be just another man

With a sobering story I’ve heard time and again

But I’m not there yet, so I’ll cry for them all

Until my heart has constructed an impenetrable wall

But it’s not yet finished, there’s too many seams

And while I’m in Empathy Overload, there’s no help for me


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