I was chided by my patient for making fun of baldness (which I wasn’t.)
“Someday you’ll lose all your hair, and be drooling, and laughed at. How would you like that?”
Sort of taken aback, I kind of raised an eyebrow and began walking away.
“That is, if you even get to be old…” she mutters behind me.
Over the long weekend I was yelled at by no fewer than 4 different patients.
“Just leave me the fuck alone!”
“You stole my face and tried to kill my son,”
“You tried to shoot me. Don’t even try to walk by me!”
I just keep a straight face, let it roll off, and get on with what I was doing. It’s a difficult job, but I deal with delusions, mood swings, psychosis. And every one of those patients eventually apologized to me.
“I’m sorry if I was rude before,”
“I don’t hate you, you’re really nice, you just shouldn’t have stolen my face, it’s not very nice.”
“Please forgive me. I was just scared and confused, but you’re a sweet girl,” that was followed by an attempt to kiss my hand.
And every time I smile and say, “of course. No worries. Everyone has a hard morning sometimes. I know you didn’t mean it. We’re still good!” Which earns a smile back.
There are a thousand hard times, and viscious words, and violent actions we deal with at work from out patients. But that’s why they are there, because they need someone to take the time and not run away or give up on them. And its after a horrendous Thursday, and a terrible Friday, and a hard Saturday, and a decent Sunday, that you have an awesome Monday. You’re tired and sore and you’re not sure how pained your smile looks, but you keep on going. It’s the victories of getting the mute patient to say a few words to you. It’s getting the angry, isolating patient to creep out and take a shower, and find he actually feels pretty good and notice him chatting with another patient, out of his room for the first time in days. It’s getting the manic teenager to take a nap, and wake hours later and see the difference in her mood and hear her say, “thank you.” It’s suggesting a patient try not napping today and seeing if it helps her sleep through the night, and having her dubiously say, “okay,” but then a couple hours later having her excitedly say, “hey, this staying awake isn’t as hard as I thought it would be!”
I give 100% for those 8 hours a day for those moments. I do it to see my angry, my scared, my confused, my lonely, and my troubled patients Smile. To see that moment, brief as it may be, that the realization comes across their eyes, that for as huge and crowded and cruel this world is, there is someone who cares about what happens to them.