Monday, July 09, 2018

Schwing Schwing Schwing Schwing

(Or is it just shwing?) This refers to Wayne’s World 2, featuring Aerosmith, one of the movies I watched with my mother while visiting Ypsilanti early in June. We also saw Miss Sloane (we both liked it a lot), The Florida Project, Into the Wild (for the second time), Wonder Woman, Nightcrawler, Boyhood, Get Out, Assault on Wall Street, and probably several other movies I’m forgetting. I got caught up on my MSNBC and Rachel Maddow, and enjoyed spending time with my parents and the cat that hangs around their place a lot, Jack. I had lunch with Ginny at Café Zola and with Amy at Seva. My sister came over three times, and I had lunch with my uncle and his wife at Haab’s, in downtown Ypsilanti. As for Wayne’s World 2, that was my mother’s idea. She normally dislikes comedies, but thought it would be good to have some familiarity with a work that is so well-known. I enjoyed it. I appreciated the main characters’ enthusiasm and joie de vivre.

The evening I returned home, I went to the first of six Feldenkrais classes I’m taking through Kaiser. The next day I got my annual performance review at work, which was glowing. My boss’s accompanying remarks were less so. For instance, the written review said my chart notes are great, and provide helpful information to other team members. In person, she said, “Actually, what I don’t like about your chart notes is … ” I thought that was a perfect way of handling it, in that my official review is something I can feel fantastic about, and I also got concrete information about areas where I can improve. (She also said that Jonas, before he left, said I have an “incredible” ability to connect with patients.)

When I went to County Hospital for the first time after being in Michigan, Clementine—looking a bit dazed—told me about no fewer than eight traumatic and/or disturbing incidents that had occurred at or affected the hospital in the prior couple of weeks, including two “gnarly” murders. One of the many ramifications of these things is that security is tighter, which means homeless people are less welcome to sit around in the cafeteria all day, and not at all welcome to sleep in the elevators overnight, as some of them normally do, so besides all the various kinds of misery, there has even been a loss of housing for a small group of people.

It was a fine day of learning for me. One of my fellow chaplains there is extraordinarily insightful. During our brief daily team meeting, we were talking about patients who ask us questions about ourselves. This person said, “I think that a patient who does this is trying to erase herself, so I need to leave a big space in which she can reappear.” That dazzled all of us.

My own learnings of the day:

1) I spent most of the morning, after holding babies, in the more acute psych unit, where I saw just two patients. One of them has problems with demons, and during our rather long talk, she said, “Oh! A demon just came out of me and went into you.” I paused and said, “I didn’t feel any demon come into me. It didn’t come into me. Maybe it dissipated into the air.” The patient said, “No, it came back into me,” and her face twisted in pain.

I happened to mention this to Clementine later, and was glad of that, because it caused me to remember that we’re not supposed to validate delusions. (Nor are we supposed to say, “What?! Are you crazy? There’s no such thing as demons!”) She said it was good that I had denied that the demon had come into me, but when I suggested that maybe it had gone into the air, I was validating the patient’s delusion. She advised me not to engage one way or the other about demons or other delusions, but to listen for the feelings. How does a person full of vengeful demons feel? Probably scared.

(Though Clementine said that once medication makes the demons go away, some patients can actually feel lonely for them, because demons aren’t always in a bad mood.)

2) This same patient asked about my religion and I said I am Buddhist. With non-psych patients, this is almost never a big deal. (I can recall only two patients who made it clear they didn’t like it; one went to work right away trying to convince me to accept Jesus as my savior.) This psych patient reacted favorably at first, but when I ran into her later, she spitefully accused me of stealing a Bible from her, and then said, with near-palpable malevolence, “Just because you’re Buddhist doesn’t mean you have to persecute me!”

From this I concluded it might be wise to be less forthcoming with psych patients.

3) I brought the other psych patient a copy of Our Daily Bread, which has two staples in the binding, and stopped by the front desk to see if they would like to remove the staples, which they did want to do to prevent the recipient or some other patient from removing the staples, straightening them, and using them as weapons. No one at County Hospital had told me to do this; we learned this during CPE. I mentioned this at our chaplain team meeting, and it appeared to be new information for some, so that was a reinforcement of learning for me and maybe something new for others.

4) Finally, in the ED I visited a patient who was handcuffed to her bed, with a police officer stationed outside. That morning, she had been a free woman, and now she was going to jail, and she was upset. I asked what had happened, and at some point, after I’d heard a few details, the police officer interrupted to say he didn’t think we should be discussing it. The patient got indignant and asked why not, but the police officer was quite right; I was chagrined that I hadn’t figured that out myself. I said, “You’re right, we shouldn’t be talking about this.” To the patient I said, “My thinking was that maybe it would make you feel better to say what happened.”

“It did make me feel better!”, said the patient. “I should be able to talk about whatever I want to talk about.”

“Fine,” said the police officer. “You can talk about whatever you want to talk about, but she shouldn’t ask you about it.”

When I left, I thanked the police officer and will not do that ever again. Then I felt kind of paranoid, worried that I’d get in trouble over it, but figured I wouldn’t. (I didn’t.) There’s just too much constantly going on there for everyone to follow up on every detail.

In the evening, Tom, Ann Marie and I went to see the first half of Angels in America at Berkeley Rep, thanks to Ann. Tom took me out beforehand for Thai food, for my birthday. The play was superb. The person playing the part of the angel, the nurse, and one or two other roles was the niece of my friend Carlos who died of a brain tumor in 2013. She is also a playwright, and, as we saw, a splendid actor. I couldn’t take my eyes off her, in part because I was trying to figure out if I could see any resemblance to Carlos, and at moments, I thought I could fleetingly see his face in hers. Lisa Ramirez is her name. I remember Carlos talking about going to see her performances and about how proud he was of her.

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