Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve...

Yesterday I drove across California in a storm. It was a harrowing experience and I darn near turned the car around and went home. But I didn't. Had to get to work. We've had a couple of ten inch rain storms this December. Yesterday's storm had winds gusting to the mid 50's. As I was driving, the rain went sideways, the roadway was wet and the wind treated the car like a sail. I crept along with my usual cautious driving style. Folks around me seemed to think that a bit of wind shouldn't stop them from driving 70 or 80 miles an hour. Are they braver than me? Or just plain stupid?

I vote for stupid.

The older I get the more intolerant I am becoming of stupidity. Humans have been writing things down for five thousand years, yet, the average American hasn't read one book this year. And things just seem to be getting worse. Not much hope for the bipedal hairless ones. Watch one episode of Jersey Shore or Swamp People and you'll certainly concur that as a culture, we admire Snooky more than Einstein.

And so I worked tonight. Christmas Eve. Over the last twenty years I've spent as many holidays on psychiatric units as I've spent with friends and family. The five years I spent working on Adolescent Units were the worst. Kids acted out all night. When somebody is acting in a dangerous manner sometimes you have to take control of the situation and have a "take down". If you watch those shows on television about prisons, you will see examples of such procedures. On mental health units, these sorts of procedures are done without the body armor and helmets. No, it's scrubs and street clothes. It is one of the reasons why we psychiatric nurses and mental health workers have the highest injury rate of any profession. We are only armed with needles. Holidays on Adolescent Units were filled with such violent events. Takedowns. Restraints. Emergency medications. I'd go home bruised and battered.

Working with adults is easier on the holidays. Adults get more sad than angry. Many have lost the expectation that they will have a visitor or a phone call and don't act out in anger when they don't feel like anybody gives a rip about them. In fact, Christmas on a psychiatric unit can be pleasant experiences for those who are poor, lonely and sad. Tonight was easy---so we made popcorn and watched It's a Wonderful Life.

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