tissue please

I had one of the most impacting clinical experiences today. I've been trucking along through nursing school; I've seen a lot of things but today topped the charts. I'm currently in my Psych rotation which gives nursing a whole new meaning. For the past 8 months, the physical part of patient care has been embedded into our brains; getting vital signs first thing, washing your hands until they're so dry that lotion doesn't help, bed baths, change linens, give meds, give injections, create incredible care plans, blah blah blah. Beginning this Psych rotation was a difficult transition for me. I had to take myself out of the task-oriented mindset and transpire into an emotional-oriented mindset. Our rotations are quick, only lasting five weeks, so adjustments must be made pronto. My first week was okay. I was in an assisted living facility. I didn't feel like I really made a difference because I basically was assigned to make sure all the beds were made and that the floor had been swept. I thought, "really? I'm here for this?" I was only there for three days so I got over the, "oh my goodness I'm not doing anything" attitude quickly. Week two was in a hospice facility. Again, surprisingly, it didn't impact me. I think it didn't because the only patient I was assigned to was in preparation for discharge to a nursing home facility. So, the whole point of hospice is providing comfort at the end-stage of life right? I didn't get to do that so I was a little bummed out. Then week three arrives---mental hospital! The first two days were just scary. I was placed on a crisis unit which consists of patients with severe mood disorders such as bipolar, schizophrenia, paranoia, and suicidal/homicidal thoughts. The typical explanation of these disorders in everyday society is pretty mediocre and that really bothers me. These individuals are truly suffering and need help. My assigned patient was an older gentleman suffering from a mood disorder. We had really good conversation. He is so stinkin' smart! He's all about "going green" so we were able to talk about all kinds of environmental things for about an hour. He's an educated man with a bachelor's degree in engineering, married 52 years, and completely brilliant. He reminded me of Russell Crowe in "A Beautiful Mind". As we were wrapping up our conversation I thought he was improving until he looked at me and said, "I'm going to hypnotize you and turn you into a bunny rabbit!". Scary. Every individual on that unit was a picture of a sad situation. I witnessed plenty of random outbursts, someone trying to escape, hearing someone crow like a rooster, fights, got a few marriage proposals, inappropriate gestures/comments, and some really funny patient to patient conversations.

When I arrived this morning, I thought, "I'd really like to go over to the adolescent unit". So, I asked my instructor if I could attend their group therapy session instead of going to my unit. She agreed that it would be okay and so off I went. I had heard so many great things from students that had previously attended so I was super-stoked. The majority of the kids are within the age range of 13-17 so with my girlish looks, short stature, and laid-back attitude...I fit right in. I talked with a few of them before we went into therapy which was interesting. In their common area, the walls are composed entirely of dry-erase boards with creativity scattered. Poetry, thoughts, and song lyrics were dispersed among these walls so it was right up my alley. The time for group therapy was among us and I was so eager to listen but I honestly did not think it would impact me as much as it did. Keep in mind that most of these kids are here for depression accompanied by suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, and sexual assault. The purpose for group therapy is so they can discuss their stories and struggles with one another and receive advice not only from a therapist but also from each other. It is real. They talk about every intimate detail of their situation or struggle. The first hour was pretty basic, discussing their goals/feelings for the day. The second hour blew me away.

A young girl began discussing her painful past. She was really short with her answers and I could tell that she was hiding something she was just dying to get out. Her every inner-being was just screaming. She lost her mother recently and used suicidal thoughts as a coping mechanism. But there was something deeper behind the suicidal thoughts; something far beyond physical death. One of her peers instigated and said, "Why don't you tell them what you told me last night? You always cry at night about it but you never share it with the group". Immediately I thought how it's so easy to express our feelings when we're alone, at night, when no one is around but eventually someone is going to notice it. Truth comes out. This poor girl broke down and admitted she had been sexually assaulted numerous times over the last year and had never told anyone, not even her mother. It was such a breakthrough moment. Then her peer, who's also been through the same thing but is recovering greatly, said, "You have to let it go. It's not your fault."....then this brought me to tears, "What you think you are is who you are". D.A.N.G. This girl is 16 years old and realizes this already. I was so proud of her for saying that! I wanted to get up and give all of them hugs, cry with them, and tell them how incredibly beautiful they all are...but I couldn't because I'm not "allowed to". As a student and an observer, I can't show any emotion nor can I speak during these sessions. That was so difficult! I was balling my eyes out at how amazing some of these kids are and my friend looked at me and said, "You're not allowed to cry". I responded with, "Screw the rules".

"What you think you are is who you are"--The girl who said this made me so proud. She's come a long way and is so intelligent and mature. I guess you'd have to be if you want to survive any hardship. I wanted so badly to tell each one of them how much they're worth not only to me, but to Jesus. He thinks they're all beautiful and they are all worthy of something better than what they are giving themselves. So, What defines you? What have you created in your head that makes you think you are a certain way or not good enough? Do you idolize something that you rely on for your identity? What makes you, you?

The emotion and rawness of this observation brought forth many emotions personally. Overcoming insecurity is a constant struggle but is my struggle really significant compared to theirs? No, it's really not in my eyes. It put a lot in perspective for me and I learned it all from a teenager. When I left the house this morning my main concern was worrying that my khaki pants made my booty look too wide and then Jesus smacked me with a, "Look at their stories, be thankful my love". And so today, I am thankful. I have so many positives in my life and enable me to overcome the negative. So, I challenge you to rethink whatever situation you're in and realize the strength you have within yourself to overcome it.

I leave you with this: Good works and religion don't atone for sin (Isa 64:6), and no sinner has it within his power to change his own heart (Jer. 13:23). We can make cosmetic changes, but that doesn't remove us from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of light. Only God can do that (1 Pet 2:9). Only the same "God who commanded light to shine out of the darkness" has the power to "shine in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor 4:6). Have faith. Make changes. Be better than who you are because chances are, you're not reaching your full potential. And if you're a parent, tell your kids how incredible they are--boost them up; tell your daughter how beautiful she is and tell your son that you respect him! Create an accepting environment.

Today was the jammity-jam!

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One Response to “tissue please”
  1. Autumn says:

    You are beautiful!!! I am so proud of you, and what God is doing in your life. Thank you for being such a great friend!!!

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