It's an amazing, unexplainable, but universal rule. The people that have everything want even more. The people that have nothing are thankful for any scrap of kindness that's thrown their way.
I encounter someone just about once a shift that is absolutely livid about something that is totally insane. I am the type of person that cannot simply tell these people to just get lost. I've tried. I say to my co-workers all the time that it's what I want them to do. But secretly, even more, because of some totally insane defect in my personality or malformation in some part of my brain, I really just want to make them happy. But people like this never are. They expect the world, and I can't give it to them. They feel it's owed to them. I really can't wrap my head around it, because I don't really feel as if I'm owed anything. So when the inevitable happens, and my efforts are still not enough, I get discouraged. I feel bad. I know it's not my fault, but my crazy, pathological people pleasing perfectionism still overpowers me with feelings that if I could only be better, or express myself more effectively, or if I worked harder, that I could make these people happy. I've come to terms with the fact that this is nuts and I'm aware enough of it to see it in perspective. I can help them, but they won't let themselves be helped.
Then there are the other types of people. The people that I actually, really, truly, can't help. I took care of a lady the other night whose circumstances were so horrible that I actually felt physical pain watching her. I was fighting back tears every time she looked me in the eye. I was looking right into her, and I saw a desperate battle of pain and suffering beyond the worst nightmares any of us could ever dream up. She was dying. She knew she was dying, and she was watching herself in horror as her body deteriorated and turned against her for absolutely no reason. I wanted to give her everything. I tried so hard. There was nothing I could do for her. I begged doctors for medicine and I doted on her as much as I could but it was all for nothing. Nothing on earth could treat that kind of pain. I couldn't help her.
Finally, as she apologized for the hundredth time for me having to take care of her in this state she had absolutely no say in, I could hold my tears back no longer. I did my best to hide them as I grabbed her hand. "Please don't apologize to me", I begged her. "Please. You can't help any of this. You didn't do this. You are why I'm here. I want to help you. That's why I do what I do. Please don't say sorry for asking. It's okay, I promise." She nodded and thanked me. I sat down and cried discretely while I charted. It was a full load that day, and I was already feeling bad that I hadn't done enough for her when her father came out before she went upstairs to thank me for all I'd done. At this point I couldn't even try to keep the tears hidden. He was taken aback and apologized. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you cry, but we've been in so my hospitals over the past few years and you have just been so attentive, and not everyone is kind like you and we're thankful." I hugged both of them and told them goodbye and I went back to work.
I know I'll think about them constantly for weeks and this will probably be one of the moments in my nursing career that I will remember forever. I've been in a funk for a while, thinking about people like this and the ungrateful types, and how unfair it is that some people have everything and they don't even know, while people like this have to suffer so terribly. I think sometimes that maybe if I devoted my career to people like this that things would be better for me. But the more I'm exposed to this, the more I realize I emotionally cannot handle it. I can shake the douches off, but things like this really do creep inside of me and cause me an incredible amount of sadness to the degree that it's probably really unhealthy. I talked about hospice for a while, but I really think I'm in the right place. I'm here, fighting through the bullshit with a smile on my face, trying desperately to hold on to my compassion when I'm occasionally faced with the reason why I do. Perfect, no, but perhaps a little bit better for me than putting myself in the line of completely merciless emotional devastation and exhaustion every day. I really want to help people like this. But I fear after a while there would be no more pieces of myself to give.