Occasionally I bring gifts for Sadie to my appointments. While the first one, a handmade chainmaille bracelet, was objectively the best, the most meaningful thing I’ve ever given her wasn’t a gift at all. A few weeks ago I wanted to commit to stopping my negative actions of nicotine gum and self-harm, so I handed over all the gum and blades for disposal.
Today I’m at work alone for the 2nd day in a row. I got called to do the one task I truly dread. The task itself didn’t turn out that badly, but when I arrived at the patient’s room a nurse gestured for me to wait outside, because a doctor was speaking with the patient. I couldn’t help overhearing the patient begging for more pain medication and being refused.
When the doctor finally left and I was free to go in I wished I didn’t have to. I didn’t want to speak to this unhappy patient. When I went in, he kept asking me to ask the doctor to give him pain medication and I felt terrible as I lied and said I would ask.
I left the room shaken. When I told my employment specialist I wanted to seek work in the health care industry I didn’t foresee the reality of doing so. I regularly have to restock cadaver bags on the supply carts. I’ve started mornings off by watching a gurney with a human-shaped sheet roll past on the way to the morgue (where I’ve thankfully never had to follow). I have to check IV pump numbers in ICU rooms each day, hoping the patient is asleep and has no visitors so I can silently slip in and out.
Usually I don’t have to hold a conversation with a patient. Sometimes they ask for their table to be pushed closer or their thermostat adjusted, which I’m able to do for them. Sometimes I have to go to the nurse’s station and pass a request along. Recently in ICU I was trying to slip quickly out of the room when the patient said, “Please don’t leave me!” I wasn’t sure what to do or say. She was 91 and haltingly asked if she could have breakfast. I told her I’d go ask the nurse and hurried out of the room.
A lot of times I leave kicking myself over the things I could have said. I once asked a patient, who was holding a room service menu, if he was finding anything good for lunch. He said he’d been looking at the menu for half an hour. The rest of the day I told myself I was a total failure for not offering advice on the best food choices.
Today was my first time talking to a patient who was truly suffering and I have to say I didn’t do a very good job of it. A friend told me that what I’ve been through probably makes me more compassionate than others, but what good does that do when I don’t have the confidence to show it? Every time I talk to a patient I am terrified I’ll get in trouble for saying the wrong thing.
After leaving this patient’s room this morning, I wished I had those blades back. I could have easily gotten another one, and the bandages to clean up after the fact. I thought about calling the on-call therapist, but couldn’t guarantee I’d be available when s/he returned my call, so I used my Riding the Wave skill, and also Turning the Mind. I was able to stop myself from acting because I don’t want Sadie to think I’m intentionally backsliding.
I also used Crisis Survival Network, contacting a couple of friends and relatives, and the first response I got made me angry. It was about how everyone’s job is stressful and stress is good for me. How is it supposed to help me to tell me, in lengthier words, to just suck it up? I considered the on-call therapist again, and again I decided to work through it on my own.
Guess who I ran into in the elevator a few hours later? The on-call therapist. We rode silently down to the ground floor and as we parted ways I realized I could have asked if he had a minute to talk. I mean, that’s what he’s there for, right?