Mental Skills

I took care of a patient recently who made me question my skills, but not in the way I typically do. Typically I think things like, “what if I don’t recognize something that I should and they decline?” “What if I miss something crucial and they code?” “What if I’m going to the bathroom and they code?” etc., etc. Typically with very physically ill patients, I panic that I will kill them faster, or miss something that will lead to an irrevocable fatal event. But what about mentally ill patients? I’m not talking about patients that whine and are annoying who sometimes might get called “crazy”. I’m talking about patients with actual mental illness, possibly undiagnosed. How do I help them? What if I miss some kind of warning sign and they become a threat to themselves or others? What if they get hurt? What if get hurt? How can I care for them wholly, not just addressing their physical ailment?

In my psych clinical in school, I spent most of the time terrified. Huddled in a group of people, I feared that if I somehow angered a mentally ill patient that harm would come to me and my classmates. So much of that is from a stigma that has been perpetuated through the years of deranged and violent “mental patients” in the media. Every movie or TV show that depicts a mental health facility is, in a word, scary. And lets face it, the facility where I did my clinical time was one of those places. This facility had been around for a century, with very few updates from waning mental health budgets. The staff was fantastic, but they can only overcome so much, and I felt that if I were a patient there, I would not be able to heal. Thankfully they have moved to a new facility since then, but I have not been back to visit.

Very few patients have made me feel that fear since being out of school. During report you hear things passed down, but I never had any incidents with anyone that made me afraid. Until this patient recently. This patient ended up in our care for a physical condition, that may or may not have been brought on from treating a mental condition in an unsafe way. At one point in the shift, the patient became agitated and hostile, jumped out of bed and came at me, which I was obviously not expecting. And what did I do? I panicked. I didn’t hit the staff assistance button, I didn’t call for help in the hallway, I panicked and stood there, trying to talk to my patient so that they would calm down. I had already called security for another reason, but they happened to show up at that time. Everything was alright and the patient calmed down, but I walked out of the room and burst into tears.

My ears and throat were pounding and I could feel the fight or flight adrenaline surging in my body. I couldn’t sit down and do anything, all from a minor occurrence with a patient becoming agitated. I felt relieved that nothing had happened, but I felt sad that I could not help my patient in the way that they needed. Sure I can do a Q1hr neuro assessment until I, and they, are blue in the face. Yes, I can sink a foley, start an IV, toss in an NG, and shit, why don’t we intubate and line while we’re in there? Toss in an EVD and a Udall so we can start CRRT, too. But can I provide that extra therapy? Can I help repair my patient’s spirit? Their feelings? Their identity? All of those things are what helps our patients once they leave the hospital, but what are we doing about them while they are in the hospital?

I know that my friends on the unit provide all that they can for their patients, typically at our expense (both mentally and physically), but is it enough? Are we covering everything? Should we even be responsible for covering everything? Is it actually possible? I’m not sure. These are all just the kinds of thoughts I’ve been having since my brush with psych nursing. And I have to say, god bless psych nurses, because I’m definitely not one of them.


Candy in My Heels

*My formerly squeaky clean slippers! Although since they are leather they are still actually squeaky…*

Man did I have a great dance week! On Monday for jazz and tap we didn’t have our regular instructor, which would normally make me nervous, but the owner of the studio taught our class and it was great. It really reminded me of classes that I remember, instead of just learning a routine, which makes me think of a rehearsal. So the talented Clemmy Ann ran us through a thirty minute warm up, then we worked on jazz pirouettes, then tap fundamentals. Having some structure was really great for everyone, and Clemmy Ann is a very passionate teacher.

What I think we really liked about the tap portion was that she would teach us a step and then we could add on, whereas our regular teacher just kind of teaches us a dance routine and peppers some instruction in there. This way we felt like we really learned something, instead of a combination where we don’t actually know any of the names of the moves.

And then Thursday came and I had BALLET!!

I loved ballet. Although it really wasn’t what I remembered… So let me clarify the last time I took a ballet class… I went to Indiana University for one year, prior to transferring to Purdue University, from where I would eventually graduate. Indiana has an amazing dance program (Violette Verdy, hello!) to go along with the rest of their incredible performing and fine arts programs. I mean, they even mention it in Center Stage so it has to be legit right!?

So the last time I took a ballet class (some, ahem, ten or so years ago), it was in a place that looked like this:

*actually, I couldn’t find a good picture so I found an actual video filmed in IU’s studios*

So that’s why I was a little taken aback when some people had to use chairs because there were only two portable barres, which did not have enough space for everyone.

*This our actual studio, with one of the portables. Source.*

Then I thought about it and realized I was being a little judgmental. The floor is fine, there are enough mirrors for people who want to use them (I avoid them, personally), and what does it matter anyway? I still think it’s weird that the “studio” is in front of an office incubator, but it will be fine for my first foray back into this crazy world. I know it’s mean to already be planning to switch studios, but maybe I’ll change my mind after the next seven weeks.

My reasons for choosing this studio in the first place were: 1. It has a summer class, 2. It has a true beginners class, 3. It’s for adults, 4. The owner is a friend of a friend. I’m wary of taking an adult open class because if I’m the only beginner I’ll get overwhelmed. Then frustrated. Then I’ll cry. So maybe I’ll take those classes after this. Or maybe I’ll just try to take privates somewhere. But the kind of education that I want may need to come from the actual ballet schools here. There are two that are home to actual companies. Hell, maybe I’ll just take class with the kids. But let’s get through the summer first!


Also, the title of the blog actually comes from Center Stage. The song “Canned Heat” from the final number was interpreted by my friend and I as “got candy in my heels tonight baby!” We are special.

Recharging Batteries

Let’s just jump into this like I’ve posted in the last six months…

I got home from a wonderful vacation yesterday and have spent today relaxing and recharging. I got an email reminder from my calendar that I have to work in the morning and I almost threw up in my mouth. Not from disliking work, but my coworkers and I have agreed that the longer you are away, the harder it is to come back. I think that goes for a lot of things, which for me includes working out. I resisted returning to running for months because I knew how out of shape I would be. I put off returning to dance because I’m overweight and not nearly as flexible as I used to be. I’m terrified going back to work after being off for greater than seven days because I know I will be off my game.

It’s hard to organize your day if it doesn’t start off perfectly. And having a day start off perfectly in the ICU is definitely a rarity. Even if it’s your third day with the same patients, getting report from the same nurse, there’s always something that can go wrong or throw you off kilter. And for a lot of my friends and I, it’s typically happening to us! We just have that gift I guess.

But if I’ve learned anything from my bumps and tumbles, it’s that I’ve gotten better at rolling with the punches. I’m not the best, but I’m getting better. My biggest problem is that I feel I need to control everything, and let’s be real, that shit is not attainable.

It’s with this mindset that I am finally, after many, many years, returning to the world of dance. I can’t control everything. I know I’m going to look and feel like an idiot for many classes. I KNOW that I do not have the strength or flexibility that I had ten, fifteen years ago. BUT, and here’s the big one, I WANT TO DO IT. I LOVE ballet. I love watching it, I love reading about it, I love pretending I can do it in my head. And if I think about it that much, I would be stupid to not pursue it, right? Right. …I think.

My first step was getting a group of friends together for a more informal dance class, and it has been an absolute hit so far. We do jazz and tap for an hour once a week, and it is so much fun. Not a lot of girls in the class have dance experience, so it’s very informal and we are all there just to have a good time. Good times aside, while I was organizing this class, in the back of my mind was, “man I want to do ballet…” And I could not rid myself of that nagging thought. So now I’m at a point where I feel comfortable enough to take that leap into ballet class, and I even managed to talk a couple of other people into it with me, so at least I won’t be alone!

My first class is this week, but it has been an excruciating wait! I’m not sure what to expect from this studio (it’s different than my tap/jazz studio), but I’m heading into this experience with an open mind and my head held high. I’ve drawn quite a bit of inspiration from some other adult ballet students in the blogosphere, and I’ll list them here as my closing sentiments. I bid you adieu, and hope that with more activity and less control, I’ll inspire myself to post updates regularly.


Adult Ballet Bloggers!

The Adult Beginner
The Remedial Ballerina
Pointe Til You Drop
Ballerinas by Night (this is their YouTube channel, but the Facebook page has updates as well!)


Ballet Shoes and Bobby Pins