August 1st 2013 – it is here. I can retire from nursing at the state funded mental hospital with 25 years of service…and I didn’t. My co-workers and I have talked about retiring for 25 years. It is here and I am looking at it in the face.
It is funny when you’re standing looking at it in the eyes, it looks different than it did back in the beginning. Wonder what changed? What makes it look so different?
I have spent half of my 47 years under that roof and with a group of people that I see only at work but they are like family. It is true that when people retire you lose contact with those you have seen every day for years. There is a nice comfortable feeling knowing there is nothing holding me there but time and space.
I have walked the halls more aware as this date was approaching, thinking I would be running and jumping down the halls ready for the last hour to go bursting out those doors to the next chapter of my life. Except as I walk down each hall I have memories and stories around each corner.
Not all memories or stories are filled with good endings – actually lots of sad stories and sad people with broken lives who leaned on the staff as their family, we pulled them in and accepted them. There was just as many staff that also needed to lean in and find comfort.
The Stories of other people’s lives…. changed mine.
The brokenness that crumbled so many softened mine.
The tears that were shed …the medications that were passed
The parties we had to celebrate the holidays….the deaths we mourned staff and clients
The angry words and explosive behaviors, and demon filled souls that walked the halls looking for a way out.
The smiles of hurting … the human touch that sparks another person … the quick forgiveness of staff towards the angry mentally ill.
Why does this date look different…because I am different. The bitterness I carried 25 years ago was lost along the way and comforted by someone who had many more problems than mine.
When I walk the halls and someone stops me to tell me their story…I listen…I hear them…I see them and they know.
I shared a giggle with a 50 year old lady this week that made me smile many times today. She told me she still liked #Pepsi Cola…and she remembered that I would go down each shift I worked and get a Pepsi and give her a small cup to swallow medication with. It was the only way she would take it…she got a sip of #Pepsi which was her favorite and in return she began to get better. She says it was the Pepsi and I say it was the medication. We laughed and agreed it took them both to heal her.
A gentleman passes me in the lunch room and stops…”Hey aren’t you Angie?” …Yes I am…”Do you remember me? We used to sit and talk during the movies after medication.” ..Yes I do. He smiled..”It is good to see you.” Coming to a mental hospital is scary enough and the familiar face of someone they know helps calm the anxiety of the visit.
Mrs Angie… I drew a picture for you…. Mrs Angie… come look at my painting I am working on…Mrs Angie I earned $20 in my groups this week….Mrs Angie …I get to go home tomorrow…Mrs Angie…I have been drug free for 30 days …Mrs Angie…my daughter came to see me for the first time in a year….Mrs Angie…can I give you a hug…shake your hand….sit by you…Mrs Angie…are you still here? How long has it been?
25 years I say … it has been 25 years.
I am not ready just yet. Call me crazy, I don’t mind I am sure we all have been at one time or another. For now…I am staying until I know without a shadow of a doubt it is time to move on.
The sound of the screams coming down the hall or from the locked rooms…the buzzer that sounds when someone is in a crisis…the shuffle of feet in slippers … the smell of stale hospital…the juggle of keys locking and unlocking doors, the mumbles of someone who is not thinking clearly the bizarre conversations of aliens, space ships and wires in their heads. It is all normal for the abnormal.
Until then … I am a nurse
Learn about more stories like these in “The Nurses Voice”