Saturday, December 13, 2008

We Wear the Badges - We Are Trauma Junkies

I was talking with my co-worker tongiht about an acute psych place he used to work - we didn't get to talk about it much but he mentioned getting strangled to the point of passing out and having his nose broken. I wanted to say (but had to get the butter out for a client, I am at work) oh, I don't work in acute settings anymore because . . . insert injury story. Instead I said, "so, you a crisis junky?" "Oh yeah," he replied smiling.

Nurse Bob at SubAcute used to tell me that people who worked there or at the psych hospital (people like him and at the time, me) were crisis junkies. We loved the drama, the trauma, the action. And I DID. I LOVED it. The reason I struggle with this job is that it's relaxed. I can read or play cards with the guys. I don't get the level of therapeutic conversations I want or need (for billing), but it is cool. I like busy. I like fast paced and stress. Why???

Because then you prove something. You can take on the worst. You can handle the hardest kids or clients and you can kick ass. That's right and you have war stories to prove it. And then you're expected to just take it and come back for more.

I could not come back. My badges became nightmares. And this made me feel like a fialure. I used to work with new staff who would all but panic when the kids would blow out. I would console them and listen to their tears and fears and I would tell them a few things. First I would tell them their strengths and then I would tell them that it is okay if they don't choose to work there - that it doesn't make them less in anyway but probably more normal than all of us who chose to. I wanted to give them permission to opt out without feeling like they failed - something my boss refused to give me when I got put in a choke hold my first week in residential in LA. I mean I used discretion with these conversations, but nonetheless I remember telling people that they didn't have to be like me.

And what was, "like me" like? Someone with what we jokingly called the SubAcute Swagger. Cocky and confident. Sure I cried and bled and yelled when I got home and swore I would quit a dozen times - but I loved the kids, I loved seeing the best in the worst situations and I loved the drama. Not that I ever liked restraints - because I didn't - or ever thought they should be anything other than a last resort -and I didn't enjoy the sadness of their lives, but the chaos? Yeah, totally my thing.

But now what? I don't want to be around violence. I am scared of it. Even here - well before I get here - I have these moments of fear. Which is unwarranted.

Anyhow, the point was I was just thinking about how we play this game - those in this field - and it's like, "who can take the worst beating and still be there the next day?" It's ridiculous but, honestly, I miss being able to do it. Besides in a job like that there is comraderie like nothing else. At least little civilian work that I can think of where someone has to have your back. And there we always did.

Just the truth. My badges are getting rusty, but I hope not to get any more.

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About Me

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Portland, OR, United States
I am a daughter, sister, friend, wife, counselor and colleague. I am a work in progress. There may be some pieces out of place and things might be messy, but it's okay. I would rather accept that I am still unfinished than think that this is it. You can find my comments on faith and spirituality on my blog: And my comments and anecdotes on life at:

Books That Matter. Well, some of the many that matter.

  • Magical Shrinking: Stumbling Through Bipolar Disorder, Chris Wells
  • Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen
  • An Abudance of Katherines, John Green
  • Dave Pelzer
  • Franny & Zooey, J.D. Salinger
  • I Was Told There'd Be Cake, Sloane Crosley
  • The Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris
  • The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are, Daniel J. Siegel