At work in 2010… so far

My little anecdotes of the workplace didn’t seem to work. For some reason, one thing keeps piling on top of the other and then I think: oh, well I’ll just write it all up when there’s time. But there’s never time. Except now, when I’m making it. Because my one-liners on Facebook are no longer informative of what’s going on in my life – which I’m sad to say at this point pretty much only consists of work. Yes, I only work three days a week and theoretically have the following four days to recuperate. The fact that I need that much time to compensate should have been the first sign that something isn’t quite as it should be. But then, in this formation, what is?

In my last post about work I had written that it had developed into a love-hate relationship. I am sad to announce that the hate side has officially taken over. After I had elongated my christmas vacation and returned to the clinic on January 4th, things were still ok. Everybody was happy to see each other after the holidays, we made jokes, etc. There was a whole new list of patients to get used to and a catching up on the events of the last two weeks. Plus, there was a new ward doctor – fresh from the university. He was nice, but knew nothing of psychiatry. The second week was already a little trickier, because of my upcoming birthday. The quarter century – a hard thing to swallow for me. But my friends were great and made the party really special. All the food I had spent days making was well received and I think people generally enjoyed themselves.

The week after that was the first time I met the senior physician of the ward (who happens to also be the chief physician of the clinic). I had heard of him before and knew he was a narcissistic asshole (yes, I went there), but at least I thought he wasn’t responsable for me, so he could do no harm. Instead I just sat there, watched him do his show and rip the poor intern apart (“What is the most common form of suicide in Germany? What about England? This is important for the state exam!”). It was also the week I was introduced to the new patient I was supposed to do therapy with – he had an established shrink, then went to another clinic, then came to us. No one knew how to handle him. Typically the kind of case I should get. That week-end was also one of the first times we had a theory-block, that not only took up the usual Thursday evening from 18h30 – 21h30 (every week!), but also went all day friday and saturday. Now that’s something you definitely notice the monday after.

People who know me know I’m lazy. Most of the time. People who know me well also know that I’m a perfectionist at work. There is no limit to what I think I have to do or what is “good enough”. I might have what Jeffrey E. Young calls the “unrelenting standards” schema or lifetrap. I tend to over-work myself when the going gets tough instead of slowing down. Which is why I doubled up that week and ended up sick the week after. I could see the burn-out crashing towards me, but I couldn’t stop. Even the week I was sick – since I couldn’t get out of bed or off my sofa – I read the psychiatry books I had ordered before hand. One of the reasons I keep pushing myself beyond all reasonable boundaries is because I have no point of reference. What is normal in this job? How much pressure are the others under? Do they worry this much if they’re doing all they should and taking work back home? I want to actually make the patients better. The others tell me they’re just glad when they go in therapy once they’ve been discharged or that their purpose on ward is to learn. Unfathomable for me.

So I come back after my sick week and my colleague is on a retraining, so the ward doctor announces (all happily, at 8h30 on a monday morning) all the work they have cut out for me that week. There was never this much to do. Three SKID-IIs (which take at least two hours each to do, without mentioning the analysis), three complete neuropsychological testings, two therapy groups, the usual meeting and oh, while I’m at it, I should increase the therapy hours with that difficult patient mentioned above no one knows what to do about. And then I’m off and I actually believe I have to accomplish all this. In the three days I’m there. And I do all I could and get most of it done and then half the patients it was meant for are released at the end of the week. Thanks for nothing.

[To be continued]

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