Holding Hands Makes the Heart Melt
by Angela Brooks
After all the years in nursing the single and most simple gesture can still melt my heart like a stick of butter. I realize I have a different view of mental illness that some can’t understand.
Watching someone struggle with mental illness takes an understanding of the recovery process that only a mental nurse really gets. Forgiveness and understanding is learned in time that what a patient is saying today may not be what they really mean deep down to you as a person.
The cursing, hollering out, throwing furniture and demeaning comments maybe rude and sound really rough at the time of an acting out event. However, it doesn’t last long.
The opportunity to see someone in a rage and have better days is the true reward.
As I passed through a hallway of people who are unpredictable I see a staff member trying to encourage a older gentleman to go to his groups activity. He starts walking then hesitates. I stop to offer extra support for the staff and throw my hand up in the air and give a wave motion “come on let’s go to group I will walk with you.”
Our eyes met and his feet start shuffling my direction, he reached his hand out to grab mine. With no expression on his face, drool in the corner of his lip and a styrofoam cup with a bag of Cheetos crunched into his fist of his right hand. He grabbed my hand. I don’t usually hold hands with my patients as a routine but there was something about this time I allowed him to hang on as we shuffled down the hall. I had six people with me that I was giving a tour, I got to the end of the hallway thinking he would keep moving with the other staff and go on to his group. I said ” keep going I will see you over there in a few minutes.” he walked over to the closest couch and sat down. He was going to wait.
I smiled at the group I was with and said, “Our plans just changed, let’s just go with it.” it was a great teaching opportunity and I used it.
I walked over to the patient and held out my hand smiled “Let’s go” He mumbled, “alright” we shuffled on. As we got to the door where his groups were he said “Come with me to group.” I thanked him for the offer but declined. With his Cheetos, styrofoam cup still crunched in his right hand he turned and walked with the other staff. I watched him shuffle down the hall, smiling, I could still feel his older soft skin in my hand. The same hand that has struck out at staff in his younger years. I don’t melt to often but as he has aged he has good days that you enjoy when they happen.
Passing the through the groups hallway the elevator doors open and out popped a smiling middle aged lady who has been in a locked down environment for over a month due to her acting out behavior. She was smiling from ear to ear as she pointed to me “There Is my girl!” she hooked her arm into mine and said “Come on I want to show you something.” she reached over on the rewards table and she had earned $25 in play money to shop in the rewards store. I was as proud as she was for having earned her privileges to come to the Friday shopping day. I ask, “What are you going to buy?” She grinned, “Come on let’s go shop! I am buying.”
Once again I looked at my group and smiled, “I will be right back”
Arm and arm we walked down the hall chatting about how well she has done and how far she has come. No delusional statements, no bizarre behavior we giggle like two girls shopping in (Norstorum ) instead it was $1.00 items that meant so much more.
Amazing how the touch of another humans hand can change the whole mood of the day. Not once but twice In less than 30 minutes, I was melted like butter. The same returned to both of them as I reached back as they reached out. They are not their illness, it is just part of who they are. All mentally ill are more than their disease.
Make a difference for someone else with something that cost nothing and means so much.
For more stories like these find them in the book “The Nurses Voice“