I have to admit that it’s scary out there sometimes. I wonder how I’ve been able to carve out my niche of tranquility. Cycles being what they are, I’ve sometimes felt more threatened than others and have actually been more threatened at one time than another.
As a community mental health nurse, I’ve had to get permission from drug dealers to enter housing projects to care for my clients. Giving the apartment number was the only way to get in without a gun to my head. HIPPA violation? No. I didn’t provide a diagnosis or discuss a treatment plan. Besides, if we are going to be real about all this, that gang member knew more about my client’s activities of daily living than me.
I’ve taken different measures to deal with the various types of violence I’ve encountered. I’ve taken histories, rereading them only once. Vicarious traumatization is killing to the soul. I’ve thrown myself to the ground during crisis calls allowing the cops with guns and clients with knives to duke it out on their own. I’ve sat on my couch watching late night TV news show exactly where the bullets that flew one centimeter lodged into a wall right above my head earlier that day.
Once I think that I’ve experienced it all another thing happens. This week I was threatened physically and aggressively by a client. I am made of a sampling of human body parts smushed together with a dash of cognition. Sometimes the two are quite divergent. My intuition told me to scram. My thick head told I me that I wasn’t going to be harmed. I left the area when I was directed to do so. Good thing!
But a funny thing happened on the way to this forum. Instead of being afraid at the moment of truth- I felt angry back. I had this overwhelming notion that I could punch the door just as well and that my kicks could be just as slammin’. My humanness, desire for survival and outright rage at being a target for someone else’s misplaced blame and unwarranted expectations ‘got to me.’
What was my remedy? First I allowed others to help me. A couple of co-workers stood between me and my would be assailant. Someone else wrote out incident reports. Another walked me to the train after work. Yet another spoke in almost ‘baby talk’ to me making me feel like I was wrapped in a fluffy pink blanket. Most importantly, a team decided the person wouldn’t be allowed on the premises- ever again.
After I wrote my objective professional recommendations, I took another couple of deep breaths. Since I didn’t have any sage to smudge myself, I took a white tissue and cleansed my energy field with it. I figured at the time that nothing could be more energy absorbent than a tissue. I shared my many levels of feeling with my loved ones. I, lastly, prayed for myself and for the other who so easily struck that nerve within me that I can usually forgets exists, hides and rarely surfaces. I get through these scrapes believing love, compassion and empathy will prevail. I’m usually right.
My nurse self was sitting behind the desk again today. Another day. Another evaluation. Another guy in dire need of detox.
I look forward to your comments or your shared experiences of violence in your work place. Tell us what happened and how you dealt with it.