As I was working temporarily at an acute psychosis unit, my contract has now been prolonged in another unit. It’s still psychosis, but not acute, this time I’m working with a chronically ill population -the true, essential schizophrenics. People who have long forgotten, denied and ignored social norms. They are the most beautiful and honestly existent people I have ever met in my life. Since they have been rejected so profusely by society, they too have turned their backs on everything resembling social convention. They chew their clothes, eat paper or cough inelegantly and without shame. But they will also never fake appreciation. Ever. When they say ‘thank you’, they say it while looking you straight into the eye, with such intensity and sincerity that your heart fucking beats into overdrive. It’s amazing.
The battle I’m up against isn’t trying to fix them -they are absolutely and irrevocably perfect. It’s the team. I’ve only been there for a week, so I cannot judge them truly. Nor do I want to, I’m absolutely convinced each and every one of them has an amazing potential burning inside their hearts. But they have forgotten what the core of working with schizophrenics entails, which is to love them. These are all people who’ve washed ashore from a sea who beat them up so badly that they are gasping for air. What they crave and what might soothe their suffering, is to be treated like equals instead of as sick individuals, is to be included instead of pushed out, is to be held in the palm of someone’s proverbial hand.
The team has fallen apart due to many changes (physical -they moved- and ethical -new psychologist- on top of which many left and new nurses started), mourning over what once was and no more resilience from within a safe team to affront the sometimes difficult to handle patients. They have lost the fundamental trust between nurses that makes for efficient care. Communication isn’t free, nor positive, and so the result is that briefings are gruff and thus ineffective.
How I’ll go about it, I don’t know, but I see what the problems are and I won’t stand there and do nothing. The only thing I care about, is the well being of our patients. This requirement is not being met as things are now, so I have a strong motivator to reach my goal. And I’m thoroughly convinced my colleagues want the same thing. They just don’t know how to change anything because they’ve been right smack in the middle of it for so long. My contract won’t end until May, but even after that I’ll stay if I can help it. I was born to do this, and there has to be some kind of reason I ended up in that unit.
I am a piece of work. I was almost unsalvageable for years, even I had stopped believing anything good could come of me. The fight I put up with myself, the world and life itself is visible on my entire body. Tattoos of terrible creatures, mythical symbols, and scars. Everywhere. Legs, arms, shoulders, belly. A patient asked me what that was, on my arm. Stupidly, I looked at my watch, hoping she’d let it go or something would save me out of this situation. But she persisted; no, below, there.
I fell out of a tree.
It was out before I knew it. I lied to her face, because she’s sick and couldn’t handle the truth. Which is the wrongest, most hypocritical thing to say in the world. It’s what the psychiatric consensus in Europe is, though, and I got startled by how much of it seems to have seeped in for me to say that. Me. The ex-patient. How have I been so corrupted? How have I not felt this process happening?
I wish I could apologize to her. Tell her that the scars aren’t important anymore, and she shouldn’t worry about me; I’m here for you, there’s no need to elaborate on my past. But I’m afraid to lose my job if I “out” myself as an ex-patient, even though all I ever waddled through was a heavy, thick depression. I failed her, but I won’t do that again. Never.
Hiding such important parts of yourself, is a continuous struggle. It’s like lying to yourself, to make it less bad that you’re lying to everyone around you. Though I have no shame about my arms, and though I know it wouldn’t bother the patient population in the least. I know, because I’m them. I’m them, and I’m the nurses, I’m both sides. Who wouldn’t want a caregiver who’s been as low as them, when they feel small and humiliated? Who wouldn’t want the one beacon of hope they have, to have been in their shoes? Isn’t that the most beautiful promise laid out in front of them for their own future? You will survive this, and you will become someone elses rock.
But I’m a coward. I’m afraid for my job. So I silently went to the store and bought more long sleeved t-shirts.
There are six more hours left for me to sleep. But these are hard times for the people under my care, and I’m struggling to enjoy the merry season. Thank goodness I have to work these days, and I have the immense opportunity to do something meaningful for them to the best of my ability.
Some of them (most of them, which makes me happy) get to go home, and be with family. As crappy a family as it often is, it is one. But a very small group, two or three people, have nowhere to go. They remain within the brick walls of the institution, nursed, looked after, but harshly rejected by society. I’ve had to cancel all Christmas invitations, because I’m working, but in doing so I realized what luxury I’m blessed with that I have a family who wanted me present. And what a privilege that really is.
Though I feel equally privileged to spend these times with the lonely ones, the ones that nobody sees fit to be loved. There is an amazing feel to making a difference, and they are the ones giving me that gift. How to thank them for that is a mystery to me, but I’m sure I’ll find a way. They deserve to know. They deserve to hear that even caregivers cannot live without them.
Psychiatric care is the strangest, weirdest symbiosis of people. The division between nurse and patient vanishes, the one-directional path of the exchange blends in with the mutual and purest form of respect for one another. There is no difference between you and I, you are a human being with hopes and dreams and I want to hear them (it remains unclear and irrelevant if nurse or patient is talking here).
I guess my Christmas will indeed be very, very merry.
Click it. It’s the sound of crickets chirping, without any manipulation or enhancement. It’s just slowed down.
Which makes me wonder if there’s a biological component to beauty. And if there is, how much more is written in our DNA that we don’t know about? Is singing, dancing and loving one another something that is written in our very essence? Are they things that transcend the material world? Is there really a border, where material stops and spiritual starts?
When I was little, I would very often read (and re-read) a book called Faeries, by Brian Froud and Alan Lee. The drawings in it were my escape, I dreamed about the beautiful idea of there being a world within our own. They explain how the world of faeries starts where there is a thick blanket of fog over a meadow, and that the ephemeral boundary between the two worlds is a well designed concept by the faerie Kingdom. Needless to say, whenever I saw fog, I raced into it. I never met or saw anything, much to my disappointment.
The point is; we seem to like to clearly appoint lines and borders and ends. Probably because our minds are too limited to encompass the incredible infinity of life. We’re all one big life, endless, connected and the result of each other. The bear eats the salmon, and once the bear dies he is food for a tree.
What if all the information of our personalities isn’t in our DNA, but in our molecules? What if even molecules move and change in a way that isn’t random, but exactly there to make love and kindness possible in our brains? The same molecule that was once part of a tyrannosaurus rex could now be in my brain, doing its work, making my brain more complete. I am not separate from the past, nor from the future. The things I am composed of, will always be here. Even if the entire universe collapses, the infinitely small little things I am put together with, will still be here.
We’re not even separate from each other. There’s air between us, molecule after molecule of it. If all we could see was molecules, we would all just be one gigantic mass of tiny particles. None bigger than the other, and none more important than the next.
People, especially ex-boyfriends, who were by default older than me, always told me living on your own is hard, it’s stressful and draining. According to them, so was work. Although I can’t deny being mildly preoccupied with my job, because I want to do it well, they are all whiny little girls. It’s a fucking breeze and it’s awesome. Why do people lie like that? Why do people always try to con you or guilttrip you? Wait not people, men. Do they not have anything real to throw into the fight, while simultaneously lacking the confidence to admit they’re wrong? It is so annoying to find out all this years after having been totally brainwashed by some idiot.
Wednesday night frustrations.
That is all.
NOT for anyone who doesn’t like brutal European techno.
This music somewhat translates the feelings of unrest that seem to have decided they’re a part of me. There’s a lot of anger, a lot. I have recently given up on attempting to find out where it comes from, because it is now completely ingrained in my existence. Resisting or taming it is futile, and where it might come from is irrelevant when the option to just accept it, is right there in front of me.
The furious energy in me defines me and what I’m capable of. It’s a dangerous thing, probably feels like ‘playing with fire’ to more serene individuals. But, to be honest, serene people make me nervous because I am sensitive to contrasting elements and unspoken cues. I’m terribly aware of the aimless bullet I can be, and exactly that awareness surrenders my common sense to the unpredictable forces who are fueled by fear or confusion. The biggest part of the day for me consists of trying to make sense of how people say the words they tell me (the words are barely of any significance to me) and figuring out exactly what they want and need from me, to then try and return what they’ve asked for as accurately as I can. It’s a black hole for my energy, of course, but the benefits are unmistakeable.
I have a rare gift of picking up on things. I know what mood people are in, before they have consciously paid attention to it. I see relationships between people like physical things floating in between them. The confusion comes in when I respond to the mood, instead of what people intend to or think they put out. It must be fiercely unsettling when you become angry about something, but want to hide it, only to stumble upon a person in the room who has seen every muscle movement in your face and clearly absorbed the tension you tried so hard to minimize. I get confronted with a lot of misunderstanding, because I respond inaccurately to moods, instead of respecting what they are saying as what they wish for.
To be honest, although I curse this side of me, it’s also what enables me to be quite productive when most are overcome. When everyone is tense, aggressive and unpredictable, is when I can truly use the years of parentification and volatile emotional support I’ve grown up in. It’s only when everything crumbles that I can be rock solid with little effort. When things are quiet and calm, it takes everything I’ve got to keep it together, because there is too much time for me to pay attention to the millions of thoughts a minute that flash through my skull. And my coping skills for those are no more elaborate than a toddler’s.
I guess I’m exactly where I need to be, work wise.
[Note: I'm just thinking out loud. Some of these descriptions are probably incomplete and/or wrong. Please see title of blog if unsure.]
Every passing day I wonder what I’m doing here. Psychiatric nurse, what does that even mean? Supposedly, psychiatry is the ‘medicine of the soul’, fairly interpretative translation from Greek. It implies being sick, with a diagnosable illness that is inherently bad for you and should be solved. All of us working in healthcare are contributing to this very notion.
Cancer is bad, it needs to be removed. Accepting your illne- what!? No treatment??
You must be mad. Accepting your fate and your death in this way, what is wrong with you. Gently and humbly letting nature take its course is a preposterous idea. Let us HELP YOU.
Perfection implies static boredom. Imperfection implies mutation.
The stagnation has already started. By systematically choosing the flawless, by our intolerance for the flaw, we are committing massive suicide. The sick, the ill, the crazy, they will save us.For now, the way the world is, the way society works, all I can do is cherish them and keep them alive. I serve them. I’m the biggest fool of them all, but I recognize my kings.