Yesteryears of Nursing if these walls could talk

At 4 am as I walk down the same hallway that I have walked up and down thousands of time my mind’s eye begins to think

At 4 am as I walk down the same hallway that I have walked up and down thousands of time my mind’s eye begins to think about the many events that had taken place in the different corners among the faces, nursing staff, and patients.

The seclusion room 

Each place in the hall has an event that took place that reminded me of the good and the bad. The room that is rarely used anymore called the “seclusion room” sits quickly with the door shut and locked. The bare mattress without a sheet or bedspread leans alone against the wall cold and uninviting. The mirror that hangs in the top corner of the room next to the ceiling no longer looks over someone standing on the inside peering out through the peephole in the 4-inch thick wooden door.  When I look at the door, I can hear voices of the past screaming, and cursing. The pounding sounds on the door screams of anger, and confusion, from the illness that captured the person.

The porch

The “back porch”, known as the smoking area that is no longer used for smoking. The conversations that took place over morning coffee watching the sunrise for the day. The sliding of the iron chairs that screech across the concrete floor. Not every morning was quiet – not every cigarette smoked was enjoyed. The porch was a place where fights would begin for those that did not have cigarettes and wanted to smoke, but could not. The porch was a place people met to exchange sexual favors, pills not swallowed, and money for contraband items.

The shower room

When I turned to go back down the hall passing the shower room reminded me of the many patients that used the private time not just to shower and refresh the soul but to place harm on themselves thinking, staff was not looking. The young lady who took the inside of an ink pen and began threading it under her skin, the young lady who ran a full tub of water in the claw feet shaped tub with plans to submerge herself too far. Once again staff watching over her removed her from the tub safely. The tubs are no longer used and the knobs that turn the water on have been removed for safety after one patient successful drown – whether she did it on her own or another patient did the deed for her…no one will ever know.

The TV room

The recreation area or “the TV room” holds lots of laughter and smiles as we sang Christmas carols with churches that came to visit in the holiday season, laughter over the movies watched with popcorn and juices, a place to sit and fill the empty stomachs with three meals a day, a room to listen as the treatment team give their view on a patients treatment and when discharge from the hospital is possible….or not.

Becoming a nurse

When I stepped on these halls for the very first time I was 23 years old. I had my own issues of being freshly divorced, biter at the hand that life had handed me…or that I had dealt myself. Young and wet behind the ears as a nurse I walked like I was six-foot-tall, in reality only 5’7 (and 1/2 don’t forget the half). I was bodybuilding at the time and thought physical strength was all that I needed to work in that environment.  I learned so much from the mentally ill, and now I have more to offer the world than I ever would have without them. I healed along with them – I grew up – I became a nurse that listened with compassion and ability to feel their pain and see the anger on their face.

The Walls

The walls, that holds the memory for thousands of patients and past employees …if they could talk. What would they say? Would they laugh, cry; be angry for the things that happened inside their corners. The strength of the paint, which keeps the walls from talking and fills the cracks. The memories fade fast for some but not the ones that once walked under that roof.

The fear that fills the community with the words “mental illness” – what they do not know is part of their community that lives day to day with mental illness stands right next to them on their jobs, sits by them in churches and drives down the same highways as they do.

Oh yesteryear, where did you go? It seems like only yesterday.

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20 thoughts on “Yesteryears of Nursing if these walls could talk

  1. OLga Hermans says:

    Quite a story of life Angela; I commend you for all you did. I have a sister who is mentaaly ill and took her daughters with her alonside. I have always wondered why? She was a vibrant woman, who seemed to have it all together, so sad to see her the way she is right now. Anyway, your story touched my heart. Thanks!

  2. Kim Garst says:

    Wow! Sent shivers up and down my spine, Angela. The pain that you have witnessed and the grace that you have met it with; AMAZING! Love you, girl!

  3. Sandi Krakowski says:

    I am so so proud of you Angela!!! You have done what so many talk about but rarely step into! It's such an honor to work with you and see you impacting so many lives! Keep up the good work! You are such a blessing to all of us! Step by step…. your dreams are coming true! Because you MADE them happen and have the blessing of God on all you do. 🙂

  4. Carla J Gardiner says:

    Angela you took me right with you on this trip down memory lane. I could feel the loneliness and confusion of the patients. The cockiness of a young woman entering the world of mental illness most do not know. Funny how most of us are that way, until life smacks us around a bit…and then we learn. The nurses entering the field under your watch will never know the hospital in the same way you did, thank goodness. Thanks for sharing such a deep-seated memory from yesteryear.

  5. Elvie Look says:

    Wow – you have seen much of what those walls did. You are an amazing person and I was very happy to have finally met you. Next time I hope we can spend a bit more time together. Hugs.

  6. Sharon O'Day says:

    Angela, I could feel you walking down the halls as you wrote, taking things in as your role at the hospital changes … recognizing that you'll have the memories forever … but that your viewpoint will be changing.  Almost nostalgic!  But keep in mind:  your impact will now be magnified because you will be touching ALL the nurses that are there to help the patients through another day or another night.

  7. Golda Smith says:

    All I can say is WOW. That last paragraph got me. You never know what is going on behind a persons eyes, so it's best not to judge anyone. I admire nurses and teachers for all you do. Thank you for sharing your story.

  8. Angela Brooks says:

    Thank you Sandi – without your encouragement I would have remained like them – I want to be able to share my story to impact someone else to live their story in full color.

  9. Angela Brooks says:

    Thank you Carla – as I walk down those halls they do speak to me – not in voices like some hear but they whisper from the yesteryears of so many days gone by.

  10. Angela Brooks says:

    Hello Elvie – Yes when I stop and really think of things that happen I sometimes smile and sometimes I cringe – but I am always proud to say I have learned.

  11. Angela Brooks says:

    Golda – wow is right. When I look at people around me instead of judging them I wonder what is the story behind that life – what makes that person smile bigger than this ones. We all have a story and we all can change someone with it.

  12. Guy RN says:

    Hey Angela, I really enjoyed reading , IF WALLS COULD TALK., ….And to share just a little about me and nursing, I have been a Registered Nurse of almost 20 years and have worked in just about every part of nursing. And yes, Mental Health, and while looking back, there has always been mental aspects of every patient, no matter what medical field setting it was. Today, I am working with the Developmental Challenged people, I have always had a passion for nursing. It's been very rewarding and I don't feel the desire to do nothing else in life, but Nursing. I myself, am a Creative Writer, another passion, that I have. So with all said, Angela, … keep writing, keep sharing.. Guy Struble RN , Alexandria, Louisiana.

  13. Dawn Wilkerson says:

    Oh Angela!  This is the first blog post I have read since returning home from my vacation (not just from your blog but any posts that I have missed from all of our friends!)  
    I am SOOOOOO proud of you!  I am so excited for you with your new position!  Thank you for sharing this post with us!  Many blessings to you my friend!

  14. Fay says:

    Wow Angela, I was imagining myself walking with you through the corridors and walls. It feels so vivid and real even though I've never been in that place.  Thank you for sharing and allowing us into your world for just a moment.

  15. Elise Adams says:

    Just adding my heartfelt agreement to everything said here already.  You know, you not only are a voice for nurses but also for those who struggle and suffer with mental illness.  So often what goes on between 'those walls' is never remembered or witnessed out loud–it's so quickly forgotten.  Thank you for speaking out in your role as 'helper' and 'voice'!

  16. Carol Giambri says:

    Wow, what a great article Angela.  Time does fly but when I read this today I thought about the many people you touched, helped and loved along both of your journeys. You may never know all the lives you have impacted, but with God walking with you I am certain the shine that radiates from you ignited them to their next level at their timing.  Thank you for being the person who has stepped up to the plate and do what you are designed to do in love. You are also an example to the staff that has been watching you over these many years and continues to. 

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