Friday, November 30, 2012

thoughts from a Psych nurse

Some of you all know that I am a Psychiatric nurse. have been since 1978.
I started out with a kind of smart ass edge. It was all about the rules and Boundaries. There were the folks on one side of the nurse's station and the ones behind it. Kinda like the patients vs. The staff in a manner of speaking. I am not really proud of this kind of Black and white thinking but I was young and Stupidly Full of myself.
I spent years working on a residential adolescent unit, trying to figure out how to be the best nurse there was. The smartest. The fixer. I was relentless in trying to ferret out the Key to unlock the dark places of the adolescent psyche.
I wasn't particularly interested in the suffering of others, and I confess I wasn't a source of Compassion. I kept my own feelings about my patients safe, behind a stronghold of Pseudo Professionalism: that wore heels and pantyhose and make up and an impenetrable wardrobe of Emotional Steel.
 In 1998,
I went to work in an adolescent sexual offender unit, a residential treatment center, where kids who had sexually harmed others were placed.
I expected to be repelled. Repulsed even. Folks would say to me "How can you do that?"
Like some of the darkness of that place and what went on there to treat them would rub off on me and make me evil, or bad.
It didn't. It didn't make me evil or bad or anything like that.
Working there taught me about having compassion. It taught me about  human suffering. It taught me about the redeeming Power of Love and Forgiveness. It taught me so much more about Hope and Hopelessness then I ever thought I would know.
I gave a lot to that place. 8 years of my life. I did not create a single thing for that time. Didn't paint. Didn't sew. I had no energy to make a single thing.
But in some respects it was making me. recreating me.
I still work in Psychiatry.
I am older now. I see very little difference at times in those who are behind the desk and those who are in front of it. It could easily be me queuing in the line to receive the medication that it is my job to pass out.
I am grateful that it is not.
There are some patients that I connect with and some I just can't. I let someone else connect with the ones I can't. I cry with some of my patients. Some times I can't help it. I feel their sadness fill up my heart, I feel their grief.
I teach them the Metta and hope this is of some help.
That old wall, the old fortification that kept my feelings safely out of touching range is now a big Fat Marshmallow. Instead of growing harder, with age I have grown softer.
 Wiser but Kinder.
and Kinder is best. I think.

9 comments: said...

I know where you`re coming from exactly.I was only an aide,but I could write a book on the residents I cared for.It would make you cry,make you laugh.You never come away from it unscathed.And in the end,you grow more yourself having went through it.
I can`t do my job description anymore & had to take disability.I still think alot of those nights I spent with my extended family.Hugs,phyllis

Debra said...

A beautiful post - dear friend.

Dorthe said...

My dear Robin,
You writing this post I know your life is again so totally filled up, with the pain and suffering of the people, "on the other side of the desk"! I have never been there, not on your side,-nor the other- and I thank my Lord for not having had, to stand "in line" for medication, -meaning a life in "horror" and sometimes often-selfdestruction,- lonelyness, and sorrow.
I know you did,- and does, the very best to help all those souls, -when you was young and strong in mind and heart -and now when you growed more compassionate and lovingly trying to take care,and help the ones you can communicate with,-,- I know how hard a life it must be, and even harder, when your feelings and not "only" your proffecional work as nurce,- is a part of your daily job.
The Robin I know, is a person, in which care, I would trust myself and my most loved ones, as I feel your abbility to show love, to see behind the facade, to feel and to show feelings,- and on top of that to live with a bit of magic, which I believe is very nessesarely , and a wonderful way of also understanding and dealing with so many hard conditions in life.
I love you dear friend. Your Dorthe

Createology said...

Thank you for sharing from your heart. Having read every word I understand the softening you describe. Bless you...

Unknown said...

Aaaahhhh- my kindred spirit friend! There is a fine line between creativity and insanity. Walking that line everyday as you have for years makes you a sculptor of souls. You can keep your soul safe while healing the broken souls in your care. We are forever changed by the people we meet, whether we want it that way or not. Your artwork reflects a peaceful place, a soft spot to land, a world where hurt cannot penetrate. It is a world we all seek- especially those on "the other side of the counter". We need to know this world exists- because you are sooooooooo right in saying- a single event can put anyone on the other side of the counter.

The Moonlit Stitch said...

Just "wow, Robin". ♥Lisa

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Marylinn Kelly said...

If we have unyielding parts, we have to be shown how to bend - that is my experience. I now say of pretty much everything, 'it takes what it takes.' I feel that I am being asked to forget any of the other languages I knew and speak only love, be only about kindness. Every day I learn. I am seventy-two and three-fourths. xo

Nichola said...

Lovely post. I too am a marshmallow <3