Tag: nursing

A Gnome-Like Creature Has Not Told Me The Name of This Emotion.

I was sitting in my ward round meeting at *Heron Unit. Scattered around the room were a psychiatrist, occupational therapist, doctor, teacher, a nurse and a secretary whom patients indirectly referred to as ‘skinny cow’. Because she was… Skinny… And we didn’t know much more.

Last week I chose to only speak French at ward round. The week before I brought an elephant finger puppet to confer with. The amount that the professionals listened to patients in ward round was debatable, therefore all patients either humoured it or were fearful of it. This week I’m just tired. It’s 4pm on a Wednesday and I am in my pyjamas. At 4pm of any day I am in my pyjamas. I sleep all day and do mindless and isolating tasks all night until the time just tumble-tails into a non-descriptive blur. I eat the same thing every day and am afraid to leave my room.

“How has your week been?” The psychiatrist asks. He doesn’t read the letter I have handed him explaining exactly how my week has been. My voice feels shrivelled and the usual silence spreads as I feel the heavy weight of being psychoanalysed.

“Erm… It’s been… Okay.” I respond in an unintentionally vague manner as I turn my guide dog’s ear the right way round.

“Okay?” He asks. He gestures for me to elaborate.

“The black hole in my chest is back.” I exhale.

“What do you mean? You feel sadness?” He probes.

“I’m not sure. It’s just a big black hole of nothing in my chest.”

This is the way I describe feelings because to me emotions are never stand-alone words. They are so much more. They make your body feel and function differently and change how you perceive the world around you. They are the most powerful things in your universe. Plus asking me to summarise how my whole body and mind feel with just one word seems silly because I, like most other humans, have not been followed around by a small gnome-like creature holding a placard to tell me which emotion I am feeling every five minutes. Therefore- how does anyone know which word fits what feeling? My perception and experience of ‘sad’ might be at the other end of the spectrum to somebody else’s experience of the three letters.

Hence the big black hole. The big black hole that sucks up my life and leaves me rigid. Other descriptions I have given include: ‘frozen limbs’, ‘the hot coal instead of a heart’ and the ‘burning arms’. I got by in such meetings by just continuing to elaborate on my descriptions until eventually the psychiatrist stuck the described emotion into a pigeon hole with a name and kept it there.

I was shown this picture recently and it made me smile. It is a representation of temperature in the body on feeling certain emotions. Note how ‘Depression’ is cold limbs and literally a big black space spanning across the torso. I guess my description wasn’t too far out.

Feelings aren’t words. They are novels.
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To Anyone Considering Working with Mentally Ill Young People

Dear Doctor, Psychiatrist, Occupational Therapist, Nurse, Manager, Health Care Assistant. Or the soon-to-be any of the above.

So you want to work with young people with mental health problems? Or maybe you already do. Welcome to the wonderful world of child and adolescent mental health services.

You are likely to be, or have been, met by a group of young people. Some of whom will be kind and nice to you and some of whom will not. But don’t rule any of them out just yet. Because even the nicest, kindest and friendliest person on this ward will have days where their illness gets in the way of being just that. Mental illness blocks the light and makes pleasantries difficult sometimes. If you are boasting that your experience is all based upon having survived being a teenager yourself- stop. We are ‘average teenagers’ minus the ability to ‘get it together’. We are average teenagers with acute and chronic illness that -were it anywhere else in the body- would lead to hospital tubes and wires. Today the young people are ignoring you, but please don’t take it personally. They aren’t ignoring you- they’re trying to ignore the demons you can’t see. Some illnesses can’t be helped by tubes and wires.

You’re going to work long hours with, I won’t lie, people who will sometimes wish you didn’t bother. You’re an OT pushing a new group, a psychiatrist cutting a medication, a nurse saying no to leave and a HCA pushing dinner. You will be sworn at. You will be insulted. But we need you to keep trying because you can bet that of any group of kids we are the ones who have seen it all. Collectively we’ve had abusers, attackers, family issues, health issues- the works. And if nothing else we have stand alone mental health issues that have bulldozed our lives for a bit. Don’t expect to be told you are doing a good job everyday- but aim to be told you’ve done a good job when your patient goes their own way. You can’t cure us all but you can help us open the box, rearrange the pieces and fill in the gaps.

I wouldn’t fancy your chances in a debate. Especially over issues like suicide. We need you to keep us safe until we can do it for ourselves. One day at a time. If you say something wrong, apologise. If you’re going ‘tough love’ on us don’t be mad when we return it. We’re unreasonable, unlogical and sometimes painfully understanding. It’s you we need to annoy us but not hurt us. Our illnesses are consuming. We need to know that when we shout you will still be back in the morning. We need you to tell us that you are going to do your damnedest to make it okay. If you can’t do this, then you’re in the wrong job. 

… So… Are you in or out?