As nurses, we see many ailments of course. One area I for one don’t see much of is mental health.
Most people may have experienced (or know someone who has) some level of mental health be it depression, anxiety, or some sort of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
I see many sufferer’s of dementia, yet I don’t spend more than perhaps 15-20 minutes with that patient at one time, which leads me to whiteness many tragic circumstances but not understand them fully. And that’s where my knowledge of mental health ends. I am not ignorant to it, I have just not had much opportunity to learn otherwise.
Working the hours that I do, I deal with mostly emergent work in the community and have to think fast and follow a plan of care. One evening recently, I was called to a patient who was a sufferer of severe anxiety, though I didn’t know that prior to the visit.
I was called in for an issue to do with their wound, which was the least of their worries and the tip of the iceberg.
As I sat and listened to them, hearing about how their day had deteriorated, it became apparent that this person didn’t know where to turn, so turned to us.
The wound was a by product of this persons mental health. An external illustration on their skin of what was happening in their mind.
I watched as they held their head in their hands repeating over and over how excruciating the pain was. It took me a while to realised that this pain wasn’t fully physical. The pain was hugely fuelled by chronic anxiety.
If they spoke about the pain for too long, they became tearful. The constant going round in circles with themselves. Blaming and re blaming themselves.
I had never felt so helpless. So useless.
I watched with compassion and empathy as that’s all I had to offer, I watched them in turmoil, in a constant battle with everything and everyone. Nothing was the answer for them, nothing could solve this.
Despair and torment was happening right in front of my eyes and I was helpless. I’m used to having a plan, having a knowledge of exactly what I’m dealing with. Not this time.
Desperation expressed through a grimace face and clenched fists. Not a person in front of me, just a lone egsistance seemingly.
I was lucky enough to speak to the patients relative whom gave me the briefest insight to the fact that this illness impacts on the whole family. No family Christmas celebration, being careful what’s said, constant treading on eggshells, despite them offering their support and constant unconditional love.
I came away from that visit, not feeling like I usually feel. I felt incomplete and unsettled. I hadnt made them feel well again or given them the peace tgey longed for. How can I not know more about this? His can this person be left to suffer over and over again with little support other than ones family?
As nurses, we see similar to this and worse. But we just tuck it away in our minds and carry on with our lives, hoping to have made just a tiny mark on our paritents lives.
Next time I’ll know more about this.I hope!
Some patients just stick with you and this will be one of them.