Depression Marathon Blog

My photo
Diagnosed with depression 19 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Different roles

I had an interesting experience at work yesterday. I was working with a patient who had not progressed through her initial rehab from orthopedic surgery as expected. The patient was a long way behind where she should have been for the type of surgery she had. She had been in the hospital at least twice as long as is typical for her diagnosis. It seemed she had some anxiety and behavioral issues which were holding her back and keeping her from progressing.

Fortunately, we have a team of specialized clinicians at the hospital. This team can assist staff with patients who have anxiety and behavioral issues. Before I arrived, the patient's nurse called for a team member to be present during physical therapy. When I arrived to see the patient, I realized I knew the summoned team member, a nurse, quite well. I said hello, and we went about treating the patient.

But the story here is not about my patient. The story is about the nurse and I. You see, this nurse had been my caregiver several times during the past 12+ years. This nurse previously worked in one of the inpatient psychiatric units I frequented during my battles with depression. It's been several years since I've been in that particular inpatient unit. The last time I saw this nurse, I was actually one of her patients.

I don't have any particular affinity or antagonism for this nurse. She was one of the nurses on the psychiatric unit, and she was my primary nurse the last time I was there. I didn't always like her approach or agree with her opinions, but I could say that about many of the doctors and nurses I came in contact with during my multiple inpatient stays. She was a decent professional.

This nurse, however, had never seen me as a professional. She'd only seen me at my absolute lowest and worst. She knew me as a very sick, non-functional, suicidal, mentally ill person. She experienced my scariest thoughts, my most dysfunctional behaviors, and my darkest hours. I was a "frequent flier" on her unit, and I always came back looking and feeling the same. Who knows what she thought had happened to me.

So it was strange, and kind of rewarding, to work with this nurse professionally yesterday.  I think we did a good job with our mutual patient. The patient made greater progress yesterday than she had in the previous week, and that was the goal of the collaboration. I appreciated that we worked together as professionals, each performing our role, for the benefit of the patient.

Afterward, the nurse and I had a brief moment to chat. She told me about leaving the psychiatric unit and joining the specialized team. I told her about my current employment. We talked about our patients and how much we enjoyed working with them. I was touched that she remembered and asked about Puck. I told her how he passed and described my goofy, Jet. She seemed interested in how I was doing, but she didn't ask. I don't know why, but I appreciated that, too. I began to tell her anyway; I wanted her to know, but our patient needed her then, and we didn't get a chance to chat again.

I'm glad I got the opportunity to collaborate with this nurse. There was something satisfying about our interaction. I got to operate as the person I am, the person beyond the illness. Previous to yesterday, she had never seen that person. She'd only seen the very ill me. That's all she knew. And that's not me.

At this moment, I am a person living with, not suffering from depression. I guess there was something very satisfying about showing that off.


Tina Fariss Barbour said...

I love how you say you are a person living with, not suffering from, depression. That distinction means so much.

That's an incredible experience to have, to work with the same nurse in two very different roles. I'm so glad you are in a place now where your role is as a professional working with her. That speaks so much of how far you've come in recovery!

Fiona said...

Now that I completely understand. Am so glad for you that you had this opportunity. Well done!

Diana said...

Powerful situation and you handled it with such class and dignity!! You are inspiring, thanks for sharing !

Lauren said...

It is so good to hear such a positive story from someone who has been through so much!
I'm starting therapy now and am quite scared that things will never be alright again. Admitting through the problem made it seem so real and insurmountable.

Thank you for sharing your inspiring story with us and giving me hope!

Anonymous said...

You must have been so proud of yourself!!!