Nursing Voices

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Art of Staying Sane

This poor guy is pouring his heart out to his psychiatrist. He’s reliving his traumatic childhood in vivid detail. He’s telling his therapist that it’s “all his mother’s fault.”Freud was all the rage when this book was first published in 1950. The publisher writes that John Knight was the pen name of a famous scientist who was suffering from depression, and that the book is a “startling confession of how he found a new and better life through psychoanalysis.”

Well, I know that I’m "just a nurse," but I think everyone can benefit from therapy. After all, what is normal?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve received some interesting questions from some of my readers. Today, I want to address a question from “The Mental.”

Question: “ ‘They’ say that psych nurses usually go wacko themselves after several years since they are surrounded by crazy people all the time…you forget how to interact with the Outsiders. We start to rub off on you all?! (HA! I love it. It is contagious you know…) So the question is: How have you stayed sane after all these years? I have observed psych nurses crazier than me before so I know there is some truth to the saying.”

Dear “The Mental,”

The phenomenon you are referring to is called psychosis by osmosis. I coined the term when I entered psychiatric nursing. Maybe one day I’ll submit it to Wikipedia. Osmosis is the movement of water (red dots) through a semipermeable membrane to a higher concentration of solutes (blue dots). In psychosis by osmosis, the psychotic behavior, or craziness, of one individual cross over to an individual with fewer symptoms, thus making everyone a little crazy. I, too, have seen this phenomenon, and it can be really entertaining to watch.

Your question implies that I am normal. While I’m not certifiable, I have to admit that I’m a little left of center. I mean, really, I work in an abusive health care system and I don’t have the sense to get a new job. I tell my patients that there is only one major difference between us. They let their craziness run their lives while I have learned to run my craziness.

There are many things that we all can do to get on top of our insanity. For example, I write, collect books and pottery, enjoy time with my family, and I don’t think about work when I am at home. And I remember the words of Robin Williams……

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”


Blogger apgaRN said...

Ha ha! I love it... aren't we all a little bit cuckoo from time to time? You're right, though, it's all about whether or not you let your inner crazy get the better of you. I sat in the waiting room of a psychiatrist's office this morning with my son (ADHD), and watched the people file in and out of the various rooms. And I thought, "I could be you... under not-so-different circumstances, I could be you." Huh.

3:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen! I even think about it with the moms who do drugs and have babies. What if I had been born into their situation, their financial status, their environment? Can I honestly say that I wouldn't have done drugs? I'm not saying that this makes it okay, but it does make you think!

I think it's that way with any illness, really - I mean, the perspective factor. For example, I'm on the methotrexate for RA - but I consider myself so lucky. Almost all the time, I can walk, I can use my hands, and I'm okay. I'm not homebound or wheelchair bound. And even if I get that way at some point, I didn't start off that way like the JRA's do...

When I had my anticholinergic toxicities, I think it made me feel like there was a very fine line for me between sane and nuts. One chemical receptor turned on or off and I'm a total looney who doesn't even know her own name. That really happened to me - and I actually wrote things during those times, so I can even look back on things I said! I think it's rare to be "that crazy" and to return to completely normal AND to have some documentation of things I was thinking about and saying. In the 2nd case when I went completely delusional, my parents were there for the majority of it because they were called to the ER, and they frequently kid me about things I said.

So what's the difference between me, a nurse who was high school valedictorian and has 2 bachelor degrees, and someone who is delusional or psychotic and in an institution? Just a few neurochemicals....

"There but for the grace of God go I!"

Carrie :) (Posting as anon for now...amidst all the issues with my blog at the moment...)

5:51 PM  
Blogger Bohemian Road Nurse... said...

Amen again. I'll just admit right up front that I'm as looney as a toon, and I ain't kiddin'. My motto is the book title by Lewis Grizzard: "Elvis Is Dead And I Don't Feel So Good Myself..."

7:20 PM  
Blogger Not Nurse Ratched said...

Heh heh. My friends and I call this phenomenon "whirling with the dervishes," as in if you get too close to a whirling dervish you will get sucked in to it. It's hard to keep boundaries around this phenomenon. Still, I usually find healthy and well-adjusted people pretty boring. So whirl, dervishes, whirl!

9:27 PM  
Blogger The Mental said...

I LOVE it! I haven't laughed this genuninely in a long time! Psychosis by osmosis! I can tell that not only are you a talented writer but you also like to play with words. The aliteration...the way it rolls around in your mouth, your mind's ears, and tickles your fancy is awesome! This post is definately a "keeper" for me! Something to read the next time I need a good giggle! Many thanks!


10:49 PM  
Blogger The Curmudgeon said...

They let their craziness run their lives while I have learned to run my craziness.

Wow. I may have a new motto.

Or something.

11:22 AM  
Anonymous southeRN said...

I find that without the hormones(all risks noted and discussed with 2 docs), I'm a bit out of control myself!

5:52 PM  
Blogger The Angry Medic said...

Hey, you don't have to be a psych nurse to go crazy, you know. It could be worse. You could be a medical student.

Heh. I loved Patch Adams for saying that last quote of yours. And psychosis by osmosis? Brilliant, Mama Jones, brilliant :)

7:35 PM  
Blogger RX850 said...

Mother Jones you nail it every time! Brilliant!

9:08 PM  
Blogger poody said...

I love my therapist. I never knew how crazy I was until I started therapy! You could have just told the mental "Takes one to know one!" Being from the south I embrace my craziness! Hell, everyone has one in the family I just happen to be the one from my family!LOL Better living thru chemistry I always say!Roses are red violets are blue I'm schizophrenic and so am I.

11:49 PM  
Blogger JustCallMeJo said...

Oh, MJ, you do such a great job at giving me a little giggle when I need it.

2:10 AM  
Blogger Smalltown RN said...

Oh your response it just perfect. Gosh girl you can write. Your words are fluid and free flowing...wonderfully well said....oh to be that little left of center.


7:26 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

"Well, I know that I’m "just a nurse," but I think everyone can benefit from therapy. After all, what is normal?"

What is normal? I've answered that with my profile -

There are billions of people and a version of normal to go along with each one of them. No two versions are exactly the same. There will be hundreds of thousands of little things that make up your version of normal. With any luck you can find people that have close to the same idea of what normal is that you do. These are your friends. Anyone else you try to tolerate as best you can. Sometimes that's not possible. Avoid these people at all costs. They will be the proverbial pain in your ass.

12:19 AM  

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