Hospital induction day! No… no I’m quite alright. Not about to embark on a long hospital stay anytime soon – touch wood – but apparently every person who wants to volunteer at our local hospital has to do an induction day. You know health and safety fire drills… yada yada yada… all VERY necessary but not exactly the most thrilling way to spend a Friday! To be honest, it was the most interesting of all the corporate induction days I’ve ever been to, but let’s face it: that’s not saying much. I learned, for example, that the hospital evacuates patients sideways from a fire in the first instance moving them sideways on the same floor and only taking them out of the building if things become VERY serious. It makes all the sense in the world, but I’ve never had to think about it before. I learned about all the different signs that may be on a patients door and who is or isn’t allowed in. I learned that almost half of all fires in the NHS are on mental health wards and the number of fires the NHS deals with in a year is much MUCH higher than I would have thought.
I also learned how to wash my hands… Properly! Now now now don’t be all disgusted. Of course I washed my hands before… and with soap too! But I’m here to tell you that once you’ve seen what I saw you’ll pay more attention to HOW exactly you perform this simple task. Of course the hand washing routine is much more important in a hospital given the fact that is a building full of sick people TRYING to get better and not, for example, catch what the guy in the bed next door has brought in with him. To that end, all bedsides have alcohol gel for staff to use (except children’s wards where staff carry their own personal dispenser attached to them). After telling us over and over how important it was to comply with this procedure, the sister in charge of infection control put a smallish blob of gel on the palm of our hands and asked us to go ahead and “wash” our hands with it…. after which she pulls out a black light and we discover the gel was UV sensitive and we’re able to see all the dark spots we miss when we usually wash our hands – in my case the tops of my fingers, between my nails, and my knuckle… EWWW! Yeah, I’m a tad paranoid about it since I saw that and now I REALLY pay attention. Oh and I’ll always dry my hands with a paper towel too and never use a hand dryer again after seeing those lab results compared. Trust me.
Really, it was the first session of the day that affected me and I’m talking about it last because it affected me not in a good way. The topic “Safeguarding Children” was all about abuse: who might be at risk, how to spot it, what to do if you suspect it, the differences and the effects of emotional abuse, verbal abuse… sexual abuse. Complete with slides and stories of past failures where nobody intervened and nothing was done. I felt like I was choking on it. I wanted to make it stop, to scream, and yet I just sat there and put these walls up and tried to let all these words bounce off me. I became somewhat numb… shutting off my emotions one by one until I could somehow cope. I felt like it was my life up there. I felt exposed. It’s weird sitting there feeling like you’re being judged, hearing someone talk about the effects on abused children, what its like for them to live in that situation, and how they can be affected into adulthood. My brain was screaming YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT ME STFU. It felt like eavesdropping on someone bitching about you when you know that you can’t do anything because you shouldn’t have been listening in the first place. Horrid horrid horrid. It’s made me want to curl up in a ball and cry. Now usually I would have left. I wouldn’t have coped. I’d have walked out and probably cried and this approach would only have caused more aggravation for me because when you walk out like that you eventually have to explain yourself and telling people who don’t really need to know is hard and can make you look like an attention seeking drama queen. Not only that, but dragging it all up to tell somebody I don’t really know causes me more harm than good because I get stuck thinking about it and it goes round and round in my head for much longer than if I had just been able to sit through the thing that was bothering me and somehow deal with it. This session I did just that. I gritted my teeth and sat through it all because it needed to be said. People need to know and be aware of these things and because the rational part of my brain KNOWS that they are NOT talking about me specifically and that nobody can tell just from looking at me. I’m not branded “abused child” across my forehead. So I sucked it up and kept my irrational/emotional side under control. Even when the lady started talking about how abused children often have trouble dealing with emotions as adults, how when in a conflict they shut down shut off their emotions and don’t react… and my brain is YELLING : I’M DOING THAT RIGHT NOW… AM I SO SCREWED UP??? Fuck, it was Hard. It left me a little antsy and insecure for a day or two, but I’m so proud of myself that I managed to get through that I’m hoping one day… someday it will get easier. I do realize its bad not to talk about what happened at all, but the key seems to be trying to learn to open up to talk about it with people I feel comfortable with… and not to get myself into situations where my hand is forced and I have to explain myself to people I don’t know.
Whoa… emotional minefield navigation is exhausting.