Weird things happen to me.
This morning my computer turned itself on, waking me from my slumber. It’s 330 am. I’m taking it as a sign to get up and write Part Two before work. The collective wanting of so many hungry readers has powered my computer on, it’s melodic greeting and glowing screen an alarm clock I never set.
So many hungry readers.
So, where was I? Oh yes, Susan and my once shrunken head.
I got to work and received report. Susan was admitted with some small problem, comparable to a a stubbed toe, but if left untreated could leave her with one less foot topper. She was alert and oriented times three. She was independent. She was sooooo funny! This was part of the report I recieved. Apparently Susan had charmed the night staff with her sharp witty mind, and her oh so low maintenance ways. I was excited, and I probably had too much coffee. I told myself and the night nurse that I wouldn’t mention our past relationship to Susan until later, I would allow time for us to build a rapport. I would give her time to recognize me, that is unless she recognized me right away. This was a large possibility, after all, I saw her for almost ten years!
We walked into the room so Julie could say her goodbyes and I could say my hellos. I felt my heart beating fast, full of anticipation, full of……coffee and unresolved issues. She looked much older, or did she? It could have been her outfit. Lying in bed wearing a fuzzy blue robe and reading a NY times bestseller, she smiled and said hello, she asked about breakfast. I stood at her bedside to introduce myself, shook her hand and totally forgot that I was going to WAIT to share our history. ” Good morning Dr. Brown, my name is Kate, I’ll be your nurse today, breakfast is around eight, and you were my doctor for ten years!” She smiles and asks, “oh really? Family practice or psychiatry?” ” You were my psychiatrist!”, I share, way too peppy at 7am. “oh? what’s your full name?” I tell her, no bells ringing. She assures me that it will all come back to her throughout the day. She seemed a bit nervous. Not to worry, I would soothe her nerves with my nursing super powers! I leave to go see my other 3 patients. Lucky for all of us they too were low maintenance, cause I only had eyes for one.
I bring Susan’s morning meds and do an assessment. It is surreal, I am listening to my psychiatrists lungs, her heart. I ask her to tell me her full name and date of birth. In between our work, we talk about “us”. I tell her that if she is at all uncomfortable with me caring for her, that it would be no problem to get another nurse for her. I guess I’m not lying, it wouldn’t be a problem, but it’s possible that I would suffer psychological scarring, or just miss out on a really interesting experience. Susan says she doesn’t mind. The only problem she could think of was me giving her extra special treatment, she was concerned that I would do nice things for her that I wouldn’t do for my other patients. Oh, nonsense! I assured her that I was full of ethical practice and very fair. So when the magazine lady came around with her cart, it wasn’t favoritism that caused me to hand select The Nation, Discover, and Psychology Today for her. It was just considerate. She was in the shower.
She didn’t remember me, but she assured me that I was “in there somewhere”, because she kept finding herself calling me Kathy, the name I went by when I was under her care. I found myself lingering in her room, talking a lot. I was being very professional. I say, ” You told me on our last visit that I was irrepressible, and that I scared you, you said you didn’t know what I would do next.” I told her I was never quite sure what she meant by that. I was referring to our good-bye session where we wrapped it up because Susan was retiring. This hung in the air and she looked thoughtful. I excused myself, I had a call light to answer.
When I came back to her room Susan was ready. “Do you always have so much energy?” she asked. Here we go. I explained that I was very excited to see her, that I had a lot of coffee, and that the morning requires a great deal of energy. it is a very busy time here. I also told her that I am certain my energy is welcomed by many, as this is a place where, unlike her, most people are very sick, and an exuberant personality is a asset. I assured her that I was able to temper my glow when it was called for. She asked me if I forgot things, if I found myself having to catch up on things undone at the end of the day. No, not really. Wait, do I? I noticed that I was feeling bad. She told me that she worried that I would put some people off with my “ebullient” personality. She told me that this was probably what she meant by her closing statements to me at our last session. I was being psychoanalyzed! I assured her that I wasn’t manic, and I wasn’t hypomanic, and I asked her to please not worry about me, as this might cause me to worry about myself, and I wasn’t worried about myself, and I didn’t want to be. I said this lightly, and with humor of course. Susan smiled and said, “I’m not worried about you, now go answer your phone!”
I felt icky. I wanted her approval. I didn’t know it until that moment, but there was some transference going on. I told some of the other nurses that I was being psychoanalyzed, and this gave us all a good chuckle. The ickiness was lifting. I took it down 60 volts the next time I was in her room, and from there we had a very nice day. Her husband came to visit. He was a therapist too, Brent and I had couples therapy from him once. He was good, we got a lot out of it, but we never went back. I think that was Brent’s decision. I loved it. It freed up alot of energy. Stuff we couldn’t talk about on our own came up and out. I wonder as I write this if Brent and I would have gone back into therapy when the shit started hitting the fan, if we would still be together. Then I remember Brent’s closed head injury, and I decide not.
Susan’s husband doesn’t remember me either. I don’t mind this, it was only one session. He tells me that Susan really appreciates seeing me, it helps her to know that she helped someone. By now I have shared with Susan some of the insights that were very helpful, that stayed with me. Some that showed up much later to make sense, when initially they hadn’t .
I help her figure out the hot water setting on her shower, and we laugh easily. She is funny, and doesn’t take life too seriously. She tells me. “growing old isn’t for sissies!” She is in her eighties now, and fairly healthy. She is grateful and apologizes for being, “so much trouble.” She isn’t . I like her. The ickiness and the anxiety are completely gone. I remind her how she allowed me to pick a book from her shelf to keep that last day, and how I brought her one as a parting gift. I chose Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl from her bookcase, and I gave her Sark’s Eat Mangoes Naked. Weird. I think my intention was to tell her ” I’m okay” with this light but deep selection. Hmmm.
She still doesn’t remember me, but generously offers to send me my medical records, that is if she still has them, and of course after she goes through them to make sure there is nothing that would be, “detrimental” to my well being. I assure her I’m not that fragile, but that I understand and appreciate her concern. I told her I was writing my memoir, she thought her notes would help. I have thought that very thing more than once, and here she was offering them up. Sweet!
By the time the day is coming to an end, Susan has told me that she is so happy that I was her nurse. That she never gets to find out what happens to her patients after they leave treatment. She has been retired now for over ten years, and she thanks me for sharing my stories with her. We both agree that the experience was “neat”, while knowing we mean profound. She tells me she is so happy that I am doing well. She gives me her e-mail address in case she finds my records. I watch some of the academy awards with her , Susan drinks her red wine from a little jar her husband has smuggled in for her. I had called the doc already, asking him if the wine would interfere with the medications she was on. I didn’t tell Susan that I got her contraband ok’d , I let her feel a little bad ass, a little rock n roll . I tell Susan how I kissed Sandra Bullock by proxy, how I dated a musician that she dated. She laughs and tells me that I am just as pretty, if not prettier than Mrs Bullock, when I comment on how great she looks. Thanks Susan.
I get the urge to hug her as I leave, but I don’t, and I don’t remind her of her false prophecy that I would be forever dependent on antidepressants. I don’t want to. I decide that I was right when I suspected she was mirroring my own beliefs back to me. I believed that I would always need them, so she helped me to feel okay about that.
She was trying to help, and in many ways she did.