Soul Mining

“Well, you didn’t wake up this morning cause you didn’t go to bed
You were watching the whites of your eyes turn red”

It’s been a slow rise here. Winter hasn’t relented and I’ve inextricably tied the impervious arctic cold to my deep depression. I haven’t been this bleak in years and wonder why I’m letting it go on so long? Have I found comfort or habit in this misery? I like to think I’ve got a better handle on life than devolving to that level of existence.

I don’t write about how bad things are when I’m feeling low so I am emerging. I have a really unhealthy habit of isolating myself when I’m depressed. It’s difficult to write about. I don’t want to be a depressed person.

I don’t kid myself for a minute that I’m having the worst time this winter. With a wider view, I see I am indeed very fortunate with a wonderful, supportive and understanding family and good friends. We can heat our house and put food in our mouths and my overflowing bureau and closet are testimony to a bad habit that I think retail therapy can cheer me up.

I have a well-paying job close to home, part time which should be ideal. I don’t like to write about my job for a number of reasons. Ethically I’m obliged to protect the privacy of those I care for. Personally I don’t really like to write about being a nurse. It’s not who I am, it’s what I do. I prefer to leave it at work if possible.

There are times it’s impossible to compartmentalized what goes on in one place, to not have it overflow into other aspects of my life and affect everything.

The floor I work on specializes (if you want to call it that–it’s really more of a wretched combination) in med/geri/psych/substance abuse so emotions can escalate for patients who are really sick, uncomfortable, confused and/or detoxing. The patients can be violent toward staff which has been my increasing concern mainly because I don’t want to get hurt at work but also because I want to work in a safe environment. I work with an unbelievable group of nurses, aides, case managers, social workers, doctors and psych liaison. Together everyone does a fantastic job managing these complicated people.

Unfortunately the comfort I felt doing my job unravelled. I had a patient who flipped on me. I didn’t expect it and wasn’t prepared for it. I had an idea that he had a bad temper because it was reported that he’d “lost it” with the psychiatrist and the evening nurse the day before. He was pleasant and cooperative with me, maybe a little too eager to be “a good patient” (it was what he said he wanted to be). On my second day with him, I went into his room to tell him I needed to medicate him before his lunch. A moment later I was backed against the wall being called things most foul and disgusting with his fist about a foot from my face. There were two other patients in the room–one was sleeping and the other was deaf and needed 2 people to walk him to the bathroom so my back-up was severely limited. What disturbed me so much was this guy was very calm in his rage. He wasn’t waving his fist, his arm was raised and ready. Every in-service I’d ever been to about de-escalating anger and protective, non-threatening positioning was useless to me at that point. I was trapped against the wall, he blocked the door and he was getting more and more furious. It wasn’t an irrational rant that could wind down, he was calculating and thoughtful, his profanity-laced tirade was something he thought about and decided on act on when he got the chance. Physical violence seemed inevitable. When his fist started moving closer, I asked him, “What are you going to do?” He dropped his fist at the question and I left the room.

He was immediately discharged and I had security escort him out. My co-workers knew he’d flipped on me and were supportive. I went to work the next day (it was the weekend) and marched through it like a robot.

I haven’t been able to shake this off. It stirred up the past and I’ve lost confidence. I kept thinking, “What did I do wrong?” and have backtracked that day to the point that I showed up for work with him in my assignment. It wasn’t me, he is a really bad person who commits acts of extreme violence on people who are physically weaker than him. Unfortunately, he has medical problems put him in the hospital when he drinks. It’s a bad mix. If he’s the kind of creep that I think he is, he probably won’t come back to my hospital unless he’s lugged in by an ambulance. I hope his name is red-flagged in “the system” as a someone who is violent toward staff but I don’t have much confidence in there. I regret ever getting into this job.

I need to leave all that at work. Bottom line: although it was bad, the worst didn’t happen. There are so many good things in my life that far outweigh this unfortunate episode but I’ve been carrying it around. I hate how it dredged up some really awful feelings that won’t go away.

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About EF Sweetman

bees, baseball, beverly, ma, culture, manners, society, writing
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8 Responses to Soul Mining

  1. egills says:

    What an awful situation to have been in! I’m not surprised your confidence has been shattered. I can’t help thinking that if you had done something wrong / dealt with it in a worst way he would never have backed down. You managed to get out of a really tricky situation without being physically hurt ( mentally yes but no real damage ) and for that you have to be proud of.
    I really do feel for people like you, I mean the people you work with are ungrateful, damaged, scared and you have to deal with it all – probably knowing that you’ll see them again shortly in the same state or worse, if they’re lucky.
    Sending you the biggest hugs ever.
    ( We have snowdrops about so I can see the promise of the end of the winter coming soon.. it’s a joyous thing to see.. everywhere is slowly coming back to life ).

    • sweetman says:

      Thank you so much, I so appreciate your kind words, you have no idea how much they help. I am definitely feeling better about the whole thing which is why I’m writing about it. I love that your snowdrops are coming out! There’s hope for spring around here too–it’s sunny and above 40 F! Hugs back across the pond to you, Eileen!

  2. TheIdiotSpeaketh says:

    My Dear Friend, you did nothing wrong! This man was going to vent his anger on SOMEONE that day, if not you, then someone else. Someone else might not have handled the situation so calmly and there might have been actual physical violence. I can see where this scary encounter, on top of your deep depression, and being burned out at work would have really got you down. I am so sorry you are struggling so bad right now. As you know, I have been there myself….often. You will come out of this! Focus your attention on the great support of your family and friends, your blog friends, and all the good, positive things in your life…..and you will slowly begin to climb out of the depression that you are trapped in. I know the economy is terrible and jobs are scarce, but are there any other nursing opportunities close to home that you may be able to switch to? Some specialty that gets you back into caring for patients who will remind you of how great Nursing can often be? Just a thought. Hang in there my friend. Spring is just around the corner. Baseball will be back. You can get out and ride some of those 8,000 bikes that you have. You can tend to your killer bee collection, spend time outdoors with the family, get back into your great writing, chase your dogs down the block, do some travelling, etc. Life will get better…..and soon! Keep smiling and fighting your way through this! You can do it! 🙂

    • sweetman says:

      Maaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhk, I knew you’d rally for me and offer hopeful insight and basically toss the life line to reality. Thank you so much for hanging in and for encouraging me, although I’m wondering, where’s the boot?
      I’ll keep on looking for the better things in life–and there are a few right now: the bees are flying and the snow is actually melting. The boys are back in training. And the good people in my life far outweigh the bad. Thank you again my friend.

  3. Seasweetie says:

    Aw, sweetman. I most certainly empathize with your deep indigo blues. I have spent a lot of time there myself in the past few months – some days, it’s been just moving from the bed to the couch in the morning and back again at night, completely isolated from others, except my cyberspace friends. But as spring hints at emerging, so do I. And so will you.

    I agree with id’s suggestion about exploring perhaps another area of specialization, one in which you can still help, but which is more gentle on your spirit. And I am sure you recognize that you are experiencing some PTSD from the attack (which is what it was). I would encourage you to ask a counselor for a little help with this specific incident – someone who works with something like EMDR. Please send me an email if there’s any way I can help.

    • sweetman says:

      Sweetie, I love “indigo blues”, it’s such a beautiful term for a bleak period and I want to thank you for the support.
      Isn’t it funny (sad, not funny) how it was the last thing I wanted to do, reach out, say what I was thinking and yet when I finally did, the support and understanding has been incredible! Such a restorative to my peace of mind! Thank you so much, I am so thankful for you all.
      I go to work tomorrow–ugh. I think it’ll be fine but I will let you know if not.
      I’m deeply grateful for your help and insight.

  4. chlost says:

    In my work, I deal with these people, as well. There is no logic behind their actions.His behavior was absolutely not related to anything you did or did not do. It was the demons within him which set him off, and you were great in your reaction-it de-escalated the situation. You should be proud of that.
    It is understandable that this would have set off the depression, especially if you have had things in your past which have now resurfaced in your memory. I agree (in my humble opinion based solely on my experience, and no formal education in the area) that you are understandably experiencing PTSD.
    Thinking of the positives in life will help, but if it is serious, that is not going to be enough for that disorder. Only you know if this is beyond your ability to manage it.
    All of us are behind you, cheering you on and sending out hugs.
    Take care of yourself.

    • sweetman says:

      Thank you chlost, I’m behind you all the way if these are your clients. It really takes a lot of skill and nerve and attention to the little things to deal successfully and not get drawn into situations that, in hindsight, could have been prevented. I give you a world of credit because I do understand there’s a problem behind all the anger, it just caught me totally unprepared and really shook my confidence.
      I am amazed and so uplifted and how supportive you all have been. It’s a true blessing to be part of such a great group of people. I hope I can return a fraction of what’s come back to me by writing this.

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