At work in 2010: on ward and upward

I really should get back to my tale of the psych ward. Because I just reread the last entries and realized, had it not been for my sex-ed post, people might think I jumped off a cliff. People: I’m fine. Or, more correctly, I should say: I’m still alive and fighting. The mood is better, mainly because I’ve been able to move forward, because I regained some balance and because it’s spring. Granted, more suicides happen in spring, but that’s only because of the discrepancy between the heightened activity and happiness of normal people and the incapacity of depressed people of experiencing joy, even with the butting buds and shining sunlight. But I diverge.

So, back to that last week of February with the enraging comments of the chief and the stone-cold feeling at the movies. First thing I did, of course, was talk to The BF. He made it clear to me that it was high time I got some other opinions, preferably some that could also provide help. Code word: the sand was hot. As I wrote before I first talked to my good friend who was on the ward before me, but alas that only made things worse in learning that the chief could fire me and was a moody narcissist. But hey, I could always try to change wards. The problem here was, though, that I was currently on the best ward I could get. Diverse group of disorders (almost all the other wards are disorder-specific, i.e. only addictions / schizophrenia / mood disorders / etc.), which meant interesting diagnostics (even if no one gives a crap about my opinion, at least I get to form one), and I get to do one-on-one therapy, whereas on other wards there are only groups.

The week after, my mom was here to visit (talk about additional stress…) and I finally decided to buy a new bike. A real bike – not just one to get around town with, but a bad-ass cross bike to do tours with. I had no idea riding a bike could be so much fun. I’m very glad The BF advised me to get it, because it played a big role in tipping the work-life-balance towards positive experiences. Also, I widened my circle of advisors concerning my work situation: I talked to the other psychologist / intern on ward. He’s almost done with his formation, so he has more experience. But he also has a post-doc job in research, so he’s not on ward that often. He offered to set up a sort of intervision (supervision among peers) when I didn’t now how to proceed with a patient and told me not to worry about the chief’s remarks because after all I’m here to learn and can’t already know everything. I have to turn down my own pressure instead of building it further up. He also lended me some books on mindfulness based stress reduction, a sort of meditation technique that’s gaining popularity among psychologists. Only it takes a lot of discipline to pull it through, which isn’t one of my strong points.

Next in line, I had to report to some authority. Luckily, we have a supervision once a week with one of the very few leading psychologists of the clinic. I have very much respect for him and believe he really knows what he’s doing. Mostly we talk about cases, sometimes about organisational stuff, and one in a while there’s a personal question. He could already tell I wasn’t doing so great, morally, and asked me in front of the others. I wanted to gather a general impression of how the work was for others on their wards, and we compared. The detailed issues, the exact remarks of my chief, however, I wanted to discuss in private. He was glad I informed him on how things were with this chief, but basically told me there wasn’t much to do. Last year he spent months building a concept (a viable, helpful concept) for my ward, and then the chief doctor was switched and it all went to hell. Bottom line: psychologists can’t change anything in this medically dominated clinic, but they can stay out of it. I shouldn’t try to compete with the ward doctors and just ignore what the chief doctor says. Even doctors are afraid of what they don’t understand. In a hierarchical context where they might feel threatened, fear can also lead to aggression. So I should just do my job, not expect any guidance / reassurance / gratification, steer clear of the chief and change ward when I can’t stand it anymore.

Thankfully, things started picking up from there. New patients came in that finally caught back my interest. And even though I can never help them as much as I’d like to, I tread along and try my best without getting too frustrated. After all, the law only states that we’re supposed to get to know the disorders – which means watch under direction – and not actually do anything. I tried to lighten up and see a lot of things with more humor. The way things work on this ward are so preposterous anyway, might as well laugh at them.

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