Saturday, March 9, 2013

But We All Still Have It Great.

You know.  Working in the ER sucks and stuff.  I had a total shit, frustrating day- new hospital has finally caught on to my foot dragging and forced me into triage, I had my first night up there since forever, And it still sucks, but it sucked extra tonight.  Andd I'm just about to lose my shit on a couple people here who apparently think I don't notice that they're talking to me like I'm an idiot.
But.  I went home, and got a beer, and I'm going through my blogroll, and I've come to the conclusion that I really just need to shut the hell up.  I've been an intermittent lurker on Learning to Hope- if y'all aren't familiar with Tashi's story, she just lost her husband about 5 months ago to brain cancer. The post I've linked to in particular ripped my heart out even more than everything else because it reminded me so much of my own husband.  Not even just the fact that we're about the same ages, married about the same amount of time, but reading Tashi's story about falling in love with Wash. She expresses so perfectly the feelings that I had at a younger age- I accepted that I would never get married, that I would always be alone- that I was difficult and weird enough that no one would ever understand or tolerate me, and even if that did that I could never tolerate them.  And the feeling of being so pleasantly surprised when someone was actually out there- someone that I not only felt at ease with but someone who was everything missing from me that I wanted to be.  Someone that was my best friend and forever companion that I just take for granted every day, my token partner in all the mundane high points of daily life- going out for tofu noodles, a DVR full of shows we can't watch without each other, making stupid references to things no one else would understand.  And just the thought of losing that, in such a painful and cruel way, knots up my stomach and brings me to tears.
I've read her stories and I've met people in her position and in Wash's position.  I want so badly to have something to say and to contribute to people forced to face such emotional devastation, and I come up with absolutely nothing.  As much as I like to think that I'm tough and resilient, the truth is that I've lived a cushy ass 26 years and there is nothing I can offer any of these brave souls other than the same compassion and platitudes as any other person who hasn't been there.  
The sickest part of it all is how many people hurting just as deeply probably cross my path whom I fail to offer even my inconsequential gestures of kindness. The ER in particular is a unique combination of high volume bullshit and utter chaos that empathy almost has to be cut away sometimes for the sake of effectiveness.  We train ourselves to be so detached that even in the quiet moments, we don't feel as we once would have.   I occasionally find myself really thinking about what it must actually be like to be the one in the bed, or the one freaking out worrying about the person you love more than your own life, or the one who has just lost the world that they know, and I bewail all the people I've been short with, all the people in need that I've had to run out on because someone else needed me.  I beat myself up about the stupid things that cross me, and about all the beautiful things and people I am surrounded by all the time, who I fail to be thankful for, who I fail to tell how much I adore them every single day like I should.  So I go off to shower and to go to bed, swearing that I will remind myself that I never know who among me is living the nightmare, and to try and always be kind. Praying that I'll do better tomorrow. I do this knowing that I will probably fail, probably soon- but it's the only thing I can think to do to start helping.


  1. Amen. Thanks for the reminder...

  2. Welcome to every day I've worked over two decades.

    Whenever I get too whiny myself, the ER usually manages to send along a patient that gets me to shut the hell up, count my blessings, and dive back in to the ocean and drag a few more souls back to shore.

    "I complained to God about having no shoes, until I met a man with no feet" comes to mind. Daily.

    It doesn't mean my bitching wasn't valid, and it doesn't mean that what hurt me wasn't painful. But it gives us - me anyway - 1000 mg of Perspective.

    You can neither stiffle completely nor lead with empathy though, which for nurses, especially in our end of the business, is like a boxer leading with his chin. You'll just end up broken, bitter, and shriveled up in the soul department. I've worked with those nurses, some too lethargic or soul-dead to notice the problem and get the hell out and go on vacation, or sell real estate or groom puppies or whatever. It sucks to be them, their patients, or their co-workers.

    Those of us who're good at what we do - and based on your blog, you're in that league - are only good at this because despite what horrible things we see and deal with, we can focus on doing the things that can make things better for the person, and put the feelings inside us away until later. Our success leaves us open to two things:
    "later" always comes, and no matter how thick the skin, the acid of pain, suffering, and stupidity we wade through eventually leaves some scars;
    and we do so much so well for so many for so long, we occasionally lose track of the fact that we can't fix everything, even with the whole bag of tricks and more good intentions than a busload of Cub scouts or Brownies. So when despite all efforts we still come up short, and that tsunami of postponed emotions boils like a sea in a hurricane, it really sucks to find out we're not magically omnipotent. Well, cheer up. Even Superman had kryptonite.

    And if the day ever comes when you *don't* occasionally think about what it's like to be the person in the bed or the relative watching someone they love suffer or slip away, promise yourself to get the hell out, for awhile or forever. And console yourself knowing that tomorrow, you mighth make new mistakes, but you won't repeat any old ones, and the new ones will be smaller in consequence because you're another day smarter, wiser, and a little bit more humble. We need that. (And sharing it on the blog is never wasted energy either.)

    Stupid, foolish, and arrogant, on the other hand, we can find by the barrel. And we never seem to need to look very far, or search very hard.

  3. You are dealing with all the things that any ER nurse who stays in the ER for any length of time deals with. It doesn't end. You go through phases of feeling OK about working there and hating it. You have to decide if you can get through the hard parts.

  4. instead of doing care plans, i'm reading this awesome blog. like you, i'm an idealist (also, if you haven't tried the myers-briggs personality test--that's pretty accurate too), look like i'm 12, and cuss a lot... except i'm a nursing student. buttt... i feel like if i were in your situation as an RN, i would relate in so many ways in terms of how i would feel. i hope you keep writing! you're hilarious and insightful, and it sounds like you can be really hard on yourself, like me. so from one idealist to another--breathe, woman! and don't let situations and lame people get in the way of what you were put here on earth to do :)