#COVID-19 · Nursing

Therapist Friends

My sons started kindergarten. I have minimal pictures because I’m generally bad at taking pictures. I like to think it’s because I’m being present in the moment and just soaking up the emotion of it all. But it’s also because I forget. The first day the school and aftercare program lost them. They were never lost. They just didn’t get off the bus at the aftercare stop. So I thought they were lost. I had epic Mama bear panic ten minutes of tearing out of my office while picturing just pulling over every bus I pass and going up them aisle by aisle until I found them. But then the school secretary verified with Dattco the boys were still on the bus with a sleeping child who also missed their stop.

Nothing like a good adrenaline rush after a morning of blubbering for my week to start on the right foot.

The highlights I get from the boys are the bus rides, hot lunch, and yeah. That’s all they really talk about. I’m assuming there is some learning that occurs but who knows.

The great thing about being friends with therapists are moments. My friend and I were hiking in the woods. We had already dissected the boys being lost on the bus where I received validation that I was within my rights to have epic crazy town ten minutes.

There was a road within a half mile of where we were hiking. We just couldn’t seem to get there from the paths we kept choosing. There was a lovely orange circle that looked really easy and was 2.1 miles. Perfect. Then we were on blue. Then we were on blue/yellow. Then we were on orange/yellow. Then I don’t know how but we ended up in an unmarked section where another person emerged looking confused.

We kept walking. I was sweaty, hot, and cranky by this time. Meanwhile my friend who is a therapist says, “Maybe we are just supposed to be lost in the woods right now. Maybe this is exactly what we both need right now.” She literally says this smiling and if she could have been skipping I feel like she would have been. There I am the nurse. The nurse is like oh hell the fuck no fucking way are we supposed to be fucking lost and sweaty…and I’m not skipping. I keep that all inside though as I mentally handslap my forehead and look at her smiling positive attitude and try to channel the therapist side of me.

I gotta be honest. I couldn’t find it. But I did smile because how therapist-y was that moment? And literally. I just pictured her skipping.

(She sometimes reads my blog…I say this with love my friend)

I’m not sure the plus side of friends with nurses. We swear a lot. We are blunt. And you send us pictures of random skin conditions and expect diagnosis and treatment. Literally happened the same day from another friend and is not uncommon; not even a trigger warning usually just a random picture of a body part with a rash. (She never reads my blog but on the off chance: with love also my friend)

My therapist friends and I are careful to never do therapy on one another. And if some one starts to sound to therapist-y we will say, “Stop therapizing” at which point there will be denial they are therapizing but also a general backing off and trying to approach differently. The pro’s of therapist friends are we can get into deep analytical discussions that other people would find boring. They also say things when we are lost in the woods that are annoyingly positive but also hilarious because it’s beyond comprehension to me how some one can be that positively existential while hot sweaty and lost.

When I went into psychiatric nursing I never thought of a by product being a cache of therapist friends that would develop over time. But here we are. It’s been interesting evolving from emergency department co-workers to psychiatry. They are all a little messed up but in very diverse and special ways. I vibe with both sets. Definitely my people.

What’s nice is that I can be therapist-y and a nurse. Typical intake with a nurse goes something like this, “So you were a nurse?” “Yeah, but I’m still a nurse, I’m just an NP now.” “Yes but in psych.” “Yeah….okay. I worked in the pedi-ED”. “Aw shit. Okay so you’ve been in it.” “Yeah, you?” “ICU. (or ED. or MICU. etc.)” “Nice, you see other psych providers?” “yeah they don’t know shit.” “Yeah, it’s hard to describe what it’s like seeing some one’s insides or holding their brains in your hands.” “Yeah. I like you. I’m so glad I found you.”

Ver batim I’ve had that conversation more times than I can count. Nurse’s have seen some shit. It’s different sitting with a nurse as a provider than sitting with a therapist who has never worked as a nurse. I usually have to reference seeing guts and brains (which is not a lie or exaggeration) in order for them to relax and open up about what’s going on. Their reason for seeing me does not even have to be about nursing but them just knowing I get what they see relaxes them.

I’ve never regretted going into psychiatry. I’ve never regretted declining intakes to save spots for nurses and the LGBTQ community. I’ve never regretted forging the friendships I have with therapists, in fact they have seen me through some of the hardest couple years of my life starting back in 2019 with the death of my Dad.

I am a firm believer in fate and people showing up in your life when you need them. I worked in the ED when I needed ED friends. I still have them as friends, but not seeing each other every day like we did means we naturally grew apart. What’s nice about the ED though is I know I could reach out to any of them at any time for anything and they’d have my back. Just as so many have reached out to me for family members and friends since I went into psychiatry for help connecting to services.

I honestly feel blessed for the people who have been in my life since going into psychiatry. I’ve met such good people who work hard, are smart, compassionate, and are just good role models for me professionally and personally. And I’m still surrounded by nurses too; they are just psych nurses so haven’t necessarily held guts and brains- still cool but different than ED nurses.

I’ll take the annoying positivity while lost in the woods because that’s what I need. I need people who see the best in others, therapists seem far less cynical than nurses, because it’s something I need to practice. Since March 2020 mental health providers have been stretched beyond what you can even imagine.

I see it, I hear it, and I feel it.

We hold pain, secrets, love, and loss. I started my day today with a person calling and bursting into tears when I said we could not take her daughter as we are closed to adolescent referrals. Then I heard her story of calling fifteen offices and I was the first person who even answered the phone. Not even my client. That’s how the days go now though. Long, hard, and with a lot of tears.

I have such immense respect for mental health professionals, my friends included, because this work is hard and my friends in particular can still hold onto such positive outlooks in the face of such darkness. They also are woke and call themselves out on privilege. They make me a better person. I know my psych APRN friends right now are going, hmmm, am I a therapist friend or a nurse friend? More on the therapist friend side but with the cynicism of a nurse. Good people.

Take this for what you will. An ode to my friends- therapists and nurses- who helped me survive the last couple years. I can’t remember a time in my life I needed friends more and of course it was the hardest time to see anyone. I am grateful for the people who keep showing up for me and who I am happy to show up for.

This is also a call to examine the people you surround yourself with and what they contribute to your life. As I get older, as my kids get older, they see my friends. They know them. I surround myself with people I want my children to know. There should be equal parts giving and taking with one person perhaps taking more at different points in life and vice versa.

This is also a thank-you to all the mental health professionals still standing in the wake of COVID-19. I see you, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you are and do.

And if you’re friends with a nurse…two words: Trigger. Warning.

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