I don’t do life updates often, but I personally think this post is very important for me to make. As I’ve mentioned a few times now, I recently opted to seek employment, and I applied for a position at a local children’s hospital. This hospital is primarily psychiatric, although they do have an outpatient genetics lab too. I work in direct patient care on the psychatric side, in their residential units.
I’ve now spent two weeks working the “floor” of the hospital- I’ve been employed for four; however, my first week was spent training in classrooms, and I had a few days off before I started with the patients. I can tell you right now that it is a lot of work.
My days are incredibly long. My position is a mental health tech, and we are the people with the kids the most. I arrive to work around 6 in the morning, and often I don’t leave until 7 (scheduled to leave at 6:45, but there is always something that needs to be done). The past two weeks have been incredibly intense for me. I had four days working “E12” shifts (10AM-10:30PM), one day off, a “D4” shift (6-10:30AM, although I stayed until about 11:30), one day off, another E12, another day off, and then four days in a row working “D12” shifts (6AM-6:45PM, although again, I usually stay until 7). Yes, in 13 days, I worked 121 hours. Technically, given that I started this on a Thursday, this was over 3 separate pay period weeks, so even though I feel exhausted as if I worked 2 60-hour work weeks, I don’t get paid for that 😛
The kids are very challenging. I work on the youngest unit, where we take kids that are elementary school aged. This kids usually come from backgrounds of abuse and neglect, and many are diagnosed with mood disorders (bipolar being the most common), ADHD, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorder, and usually it is a combination, not just one. Some kids have killed animals. Some kids, even at that young age, have attempted suicide. Most have poor boundaries. Most struggle to listen to any direction. Yelling is common. Our 6 year old patients swear at us when angry (I have heard more f- and b- words than I care to hear already). Learning to manage anger is huge for these kids, and anger tends to be default for many of these kids when they hear the word no. The kids require a lot of firm limits and patience at the same time. It’s a skill I have yet to master. I’ve got the patience and the firm limits; it’s applying both simultaneously in a therapeutic way that’s a little elusive. Most of them don’t respond to me, probably testing my boundaries.
The hard part is not dealing with screaming, cussing, angry children. The hard part is knowing that they struggle. The hard part is seeing these kids, who are, at heart, kids who want to play and make friends, have their lives interrupted. When they yell and need to be restrained, I don’t feel annoyed. I’m not angry. I’m not even frustrated. I’m drained. All I want is to help them. I know they are here to get help, but I can’t fix it. They will have to suffer. They will have to do the learning and growing.
It’s not 121 hours of work that is hard. It is 121 hours of seeing the weight of the abuse, neglect, and just bad luck of these kids. When a kid stops playing a game because they “just want to be tickled,” and they laugh when you tickle them? That’s heart warming. I could do that all day.80 hours a week, easily. But when that same kid tells you they want to bang their head on the wall so they die? That’s not. When you tell them that you care about their life, but they tell you that they don’t? That’s when you feel the burn out.
And all of that said, there is another consequence. My entire life schedule has been interrupted. Going to bed at 8:30 at night? Hardly seeing my boyfriend? Eating what the kids eat? Having no time to exercise when I feel energetic, and no energy when I have the time? And what about blogging? What about stress relief? What about when other life happens?
My grandfather has been going for some time now. He’s had so many health concerns, and each one has left him a little more hopeless. Hospice care is his option now, doctors saying weeks are left. I currently feel so emotionally spread thin, feeling so sad about the kids, but also feeling sad about my own life. When do I grieve? I’m a new employee; taking time off for this is grounds for termination. Dealing with this issue means going back to my parents, where I don’t have all my tools for coping anyway. And once I’m back, it’s back to work.
I know I will be fine. I know I can make it through fine. I’m just a bit worn out already.