It’s a Big Bad World Out There.

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.

Feeling Safe

It was about 6 am, still dark and there I was skulking on a street corner, hunched over by an auto.  A squad car snaked its way down the avenue with its siren off but its red lights flaring. It slowed down when the officer who drove it spotted me at the curb. I could feel his eyes on me for a long moment. I was wearing a dark jacket and pants. He kept going when he spotted my two fluffy dogs- they were engaged in their morning duty. I wondered whether he’d initially thought he’d finally caught the Park Slope groper. He hadn’t. It was me. For a moment, maybe it was the early hour, I thought, well, maybe I am the guilty party. As I said it was just for a moment, but I didn’t like being looked at in that manner at all.

The next morning, I was off from dog duty, and was making my way toward the park for an early run. It was again dark as night. As I walked toward the corner, I saw about eight policemen standing near a man who could easily be taken for the Park Slope groper. I made eye contact with one of the officers and quickly went on my way. It took me a moment to shake off the feeling I had. Was that the groper they surrounded or someone who fit the profile? There are a lot of men in my neighborhood that fit the profile of the groper. That got me to thinking, why was this gentleman actually stopped? Was he on his way to work? My imagination soared. Was he a cook, or was he one of those bicycle delivery guys who risk their lives getting breakfast for the rest of us who barely manage getting ourselves a cup of coffee- the rest of us who don’t look like the artist rendition of the groper.

When I first heard of the assaults in this very quiet neighborhood I was just as frightened as everyone else. I began to feel safer when I saw the added patrol cars driving up and down the blocks- making U turns at the intersections. Then suddenly, I realized that I hadn’t been aware of police presence before because, well, how do I put this diplomatically? There was none. I can argue that since it was a “safe” neighborhood, we didn’t need it. Now it is a given there will be men patrolling on their bicycles or a couple of Guardian Angels will be standing at the corner of the dog park on any given day.

I guess the groper is not going to be wearing a tee shirt that says, “Hello, it’s me!” He will look like the countless other assailants who go around under the guise of normal. He will probably look like me, wearing a dark jacket and pants and he’ll look kind of busy and no one would ever have thought that they were in danger around him. That’s the problem- most criminals don’t look the part. Maybe, like me, they get up in the morning, walk their dogs, drink a cup of coffee and go to work. The difference is that they do a little illegal activity and go about their day, no one the wiser. I do hope if the gentleman that was picked up the other morning is truly innocent that he got to go home and isn’t being held because he “looked the part.” I really can’t wait for this to be over.