The last two days of work at the orphanage have been extremely busy. I conducted counseling sessions with adults and children via an interpreter and when he had to leave I did what I could with non-verbal play therapy with the children. The women and girls who I have met are survivors in the strongest sense. These are the women and children who you do not see on the news. The faces and stories behind the chaos. They have survived being buried by rubble for days, losing everything they own, and the collapse of their city before their eyes. They are facing life head on despite grieving the deaths of their parents, siblings, spouses, children, and friends. In Haiti it is not considered culturally appropriate to talk about your feelings, especially to a stranger who is younger then you. And even if they did, there really is not anyone to talk to because everyone is grieving. It is also not easy for me to do counseling via an interpreter but we clicked in working together right away and despite his own cultural beliefs he seemed to easily “get it”. So truly what I am a part of here is a miracle. I have the privilege of sitting down with women who are willing to tell their story to a young white stranger. They told me that they felt that God was at work in their time with me and one said that she felt like she was being “mothered”. The interpreter seemed shocked that she would say this. I think she was describing to me that she was feeling for the first time like someone else really cared about caring for her. Most of these woman are the only one's working in their large families and they never get the chance to take care of themselves, let alone be taken care of.
I am definitely feeling the extreme responsibility that I take on when I sit down with each individual. When I arrived this morning there were women lined up to see me. We conducted sessions back to back, some with women coping fairly well, others very depressed. After being told that I am a Doctor, a few have come to me wanting medicine but my interpreter has been doing an excellent job of explaining what it is that a psychologist does. They still choose to speak and it does not take long for them to talk about the fear, anxiety, and depression underneath the surface. I remembered that in the US, a large proportion of medical office visits for pain are actually due to mental illness. I think it is the same here, that reporting physical pain to others is an easy excuse to request “my psychology time” (as the nannies are passionately telling my interpreter). The symptoms reported are amazingly similar. Most every adult describes the experience of headaches, rapid heartbeat, physical weakness, memory problems, reoccurring memories from the earthquake, sleep problems, fear and grief. Some of the children still can’t talk about it and cry uncontrollably when the subject comes up at the orphanage. Today when I met with a group of 7 girls ages 5-9 and I asked them to draw a picture of what makes them sad they eventually all drew pictures of houses. Something that should be a source of comfort and security to a child has become the deliverer of death in this country. In the grand scheme of things, what I am doing here feels so simple but so profound.