What what what am I doing?


Standing by myself in the dark chilly fog at 5:20 this morning with fields on three sides was kind of novel, sort of like being in the beginning of a horror movie, but it’ll be less fun when it’s freezing cold. Heck, it’ll be less fun tomorrow morning when I have to do it again- it’s the kind of experience that’s only fun once, and not even really then. I don’t have any choice though, since no one in my clinical group lives near me to carpool. On one hand I’m sure it’s somehow building character, but on the other I kind of hate myself for waiting so long to get a license and then not buying a car. The hospital is literally four miles away, it would take fifteen minutes to drive there, but because past-Caroline didn’t feel like learning to drive present-Caroline has to drag herself out of bed at 5:00 to get to clinical.

I started my psych rotation this morning, and while I think I’ll like it, and it’ll be more exciting than boring old med/surg nursing it opened my eyes to some misconceptions I’ve been holding. Part of me has sometimes wondered if being in a psych ward is actually all that bad. I’ve seen Cuckoo’s Nest, and Girl, Interrupted, and I’ve read the eating disorder books and blogs, but I always kind of thought it would be a relaxing escape- you read, you nap, you talk about your feelings- it sounded a little like being at Smith, but without all the pesky classes and assignments. I’ve also wondered about my mental health from time to time, and wondered if there might be something a little wrong with me (just in a navel-gazing way, I’ve never thought there was anything seriously wrong, but I also thought of psych wards as spas, so I was clearly at least a little out of touch with reality). As it turns out, I was wrong, and while the nursing staff at my hospital is nothing like Nurse Ratched, it isn’t the pleasant place I imagined. The patients do get to read, nap, and talk about their feelings, but they’re also really sick, and I feel guilty for ever thinking that it might be fun to be held in a place against my will because people think I might be a danger to myself or others. Psych wards aren’t vacations.

I’ve sort of wondered if I might be interested in some psych nursing after school (I was a psych major in Undergrad), but I have a long way to go, since it’s very different from other kinds of nursing. There’s less mess (so far, don’t hold me to that), but it isn’t a walk in the park by any means. I shadowed a nurse today, and she spent the entire shift putting out fires (not literally, thank goodness). I sometimes struggled to connect with non-psych patients, but the ones on my new floor present a whole new slew of challenges. Facial expressions are very important, and patience is crucial. I’m already worried that my patients will hurt my feelings, which shouldn’t happen, and can’t impact how I treat them, but feels slightly inevitable knowing how thin-skinned I can be. I’m excited though, and I already adore my instructor (she’s the opposite of my previous instructor. Just based on first impressions I think psych nurses are more touchy-feely than their med/surg counterparts).

This waking up early thing is for the birds- it’s barely after 6:00 and I’m already thinking about bed. Today took a lot out of me- I had leftovers from last night’s dinner waiting for me in the fridge, but instead I treated myself to junky Chinese food, hard cider (I can’t tell if hard cider is acceptable or shameful, but I love it. It’s like juice that gives you a buzz!), and zombies. I also broke my streak of eating dinner at a table. I’ll start again tomorrow (probably), but some meals are made to be eaten in more casual settings, and Chinese food straight from the carton is a perfect example.


About turntowardsthesun

I'm a 23 year old Smith College grad, living in Buffalo, NY, and trying to figure out my life. I love to cook, and craft, and work out, and this blog follows my adventures while I do all of those things and more. Enjoy!

One response »

  1. Yeah, the reality of mental illness is really awful. Regular old sick is one thing– you can understand that what you are seeing is a pathological condition, and you can even get a handle on the cause a lot of the time. Crazy ain’t like that, and you can understand a little why the mentally ill are, and have always been, feared and shunned. It is hard to understand why they are like that, or how they got that way, and it is easy to fall into the notion that exposure might make you that way too. On top of that there is the sense that the mentally ill are unpredictable– because their behavior patterns do not correspond with what we expect we don’t know what to expect, and that is pretty scary too. (The patents feel that way too, a lot of the time, and that just makes it worse.) Psych wards are the most terrifying places I’ve ever, ever been to, and I’ve been to some terrifying places.

    On the plus side, the professionals who deal with the mentally ill are usually insightful and calm, and they have one less thing in their world to frighten them. When laypeople see a schizophrenic on the street we tend to give them a wide berth, for the reasons I’ve described. Mental health pros has the insight to be sympathetic and cool with it.

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