by, Leslie Oneil, RN
In The Ring
I sat at a table in a large meeting room watching Dr. as she stood in front of the room. She stood in front of us with poise…armored with stories, analogies, statistics, and invisible red boxing gloves to match her red dress. She was ready to defend mental illness, and fight for its proper place in medicine and in the spot light where it belongs…right next to the heavy hitters: cancer, heart disease, diabetes.
Dr. delivered the statistics….”1 in 5 people suffer from depression.” She counts the room, “1, 2, 3, 4, depressed. 1, 2, 3, 4, depression.” She continued, “Put all of the depressed people in a room, and look around. 1 in 15 of those suffering from depression will go on to commit suicide.” It’s dramatic. The room was silent. It usually is. I am not comfortable with the topic anymore than I was the first time, but I am getting used to hearing the same phrases, the same statistics, and responding to the same questions from the audience. I am now familiar with the language of mental illness.
Last Friday, as I stood in the middle of the PACU, our eyes met. It felt intense. it was an emergency, and an emergency in behavioral health means…
Then I heard Michael Buffer, the master of ceremonies, in my head. He introduced the statistic to the ring. Dramatic music played, and before I had the chance to raise my gloves, the statistic nailed me…First with a left hook, then went below the belt. I was knocked out. Speechless with my face in my hands. Gloves were off.
Your patient committed suicide.
No amount of training prepares you. No power point presentation. No book. No doctor.
I never even imagined how I would handle the news. I was weak in the knees and shook.
The patient was starting electroconvulsive therapy in 3 days. The patient had just called me. The patient denied any suicidal thoughts. The patient…….It doesn’t stop.
The gravity of what I do hit me. It hit me hard.
As I drove home I thought, “Have I entered a losing battle? I’ve wanted to be a nurse to comfort people, advocate for them, care for them, and try to help improve their quality of life if possible.” If possible are the key words.
Am I okay with, “We did everything we could. Stop. Time of death….”
My question to you: “Do you find gratification with the result or with the process?”
You think you know the answer…until you’re in the ring.
Leslie Oneil, RN, is a ECT specialist nurse. She writes at a blog worth following, A Very LOshow.
We are not responsible for the outcome of our efforts. The defeat is in not trying at all.
Thank you Dr., and you are so very right, Carl
I was looking for Leslie’s web site A Very LOshow unable to find it.
What a great post. As a nurse I feel the same helplessness.