My second day on the psych ward was in a word, catastrophic. I went in, unprepared, my guard down, never suspecting I would be punched in the gut (figuratively). There has been only one other time in my life that I have had that feeling; it’s an all consuming defeat that devours your soul. I went home more emotionally exhausted than I have in a long, long time.
I should begin by saying that my family has a pretty clear history of mental illness and addiction. My mother would probably argue that point to her grave but then again, crazy people don’t know they’re crazy, do they?
(Love you, Mom!)
I have a lot of sensitivities to certain things because of this family history and that one day, I happened to be working with patients who shared the same sensitivities, with one key differentiating feature: they were admitted into a hospital and I wasn’t. They eerily reflected the past and damningly presented the potential future. I wasn’t prepared. I related too deeply, too fast, without the proper armor and I just crumbled. I had to leave the floor to get a hold of myself.
My instructor the next week asked to speak with me privately. I thought she was going to berate me for my unprofessional behavior the previous week but surprisingly, she praised me. She said if it was up to her she would pass me in the course right now because what they are trying to teach students in terms of how to care/speak to mental health patients is a skill I “obviously already possess.” It felt good to hear that. I asked if I could speak with more schizophrenic patients because I can’t relate to them in any capacity, therefore it’s easier to maintain my composure. Also, their minds are fascinating.
She agreed. I haven’t looked back since.