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Why My Cardiologist’s Reminder to 'Stay Hydrated' Brought Me to Tears

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Usually when someone says “drink plenty of water”  or anything along those lines — I pretty much roll my eyes. I mean come on, it’s common sense, right? So why did I cry in my truck after I left my cardiologist, just because he said “it’s important for you to stay hydrated.”

Why did that bring me to tears?

I see my cardiologist every six months, and he’s one of the best physicians (and people) I have ever known. He truly cares about his patients — both their physical health and their mental wellbeing. He is one of the few people in the world I just naturally let my guard down around. I trust him, and I listen to him when he tells me what I need to do, because I know he cares. As I was about to leave he told me to “stay hydrated,” and I did in fact roll my eyes and laugh, telling him “yeah, yeah.” But by the time I got to my truck I was in tears.

You see, for someone with depression it’s not always easy or even intuitive to do the “simple” things to take care of yourself.

I have intermittent episodes of passing out or near passing out, and I suspect he felt like it might have been dehydration. Sure, it could be that the meds I take are dehydrating, or just that my heart condition benefits from hydration…but that’s not what it was about.

He knows me. He knows I put on a brave face, and conceal my depression even at its darkest. He never wrote off my physical symptoms because of my mental health, and as a result he found problems that I have which could be managed — giving me a monumentally better quality of life.

He knows me — and he knows I struggle in silence. He knows that I might spend an entire day laying on the couch, praying for the will to live another day. It’s easy in those times to become oblivious to your body’s natural cues of hunger or thirst. When you’re using all your strength to push away thoughts of suicide — you might not be focused on much else.

When he said “it’s important for you to stay hydrated” there was concern in his eyes, and care in his voice. As is if, for a moment, he was speaking as a compassionate friend rather than a clinical physician. And it was that honest, gentle, caring feeling that brought me to tears. It was a reminder that even though I play the tough girl part most of the time, letting my guard down means letting people in who just might turn out to be life-changers.

People with depression want to be understood, they want to be supported, they want to be cared about like anyone else. So often physicians who don’t specialize in mental health will see a diagnoses such as depression or anxiety (and medications for it), and they will immediately dismiss the patient as being “crazy.” Finding a doctor who is not only good at what they do, but has a heart of caring for their patients is rare and priceless.

So as I sit here making a point to take frequent sips of my Starburst flavored water, I am quietly thankful for his concern, because depression doesn’t always make it easy to do the simple things  and sometimes a gentle reminder is all you need to take that step towards being the healthiest you can.

Getty image by Klaus Vedfelt

Originally published: July 11, 2022
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