Few things are as simple as they may seem, and sometimes it takes a team to see the big picture. The tale of three blind men and the elephant represents this reality. The story goes that the blind man holding onto the leg of the elephant declared that the object in question was a tree. Another, holding onto the trunk, was convinced that the elephant was a very large snake. The third, holding onto the elephant’s ear, was sure that it was a giant leaf structure. All of the descriptions were applicable, but far from the big picture.
Another way of saying this is attributed to the great psychologist, Abraham Maslow, who said that if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Diagnosis of a problem or an illness is often a confusing set of theories until someone sees the big picture and understands how all the pieces are a part of the whole. Collaboration can be the key in putting the picture together.
Mental/emotional illness can be one of the more difficult subjects for diagnosis. The interplay between mind and body is profound. In somatization, for example, physical symptoms may have no apparent physical cause but may cause real distress and dysfunction just the same. Fatigue, low energy, and loss of body weight must be thoroughly investigated by a physician, but may also be the expression of an underlying state of depression. Our digestive systems may present numerous troubling symptoms that may be of clinical origin but also may be manifestations of emotional stress. In the best of worlds, it sometimes takes a team to sift out the pieces of physical and emotional distress.
The collaboration team may consist of family members, a pastor, coach, colleagues, a psychotherapist, as well as the primary care physician and specialists to see the big picture. During this past week I have learned, of an older person who is finally getting compassionate care for dementia after much misunderstanding and multiple troubling symptoms. It is important to advocate for ourselves and others, no matter how long it may seem to take, to get the big picture.