With respect to Socrates, my unexamined life is not worth living. The front room is the face we show everyone but we hide our true self in the back room.
Not even a day needs go by before my furiously active mind seeks new perceptions.
I thought I would chew on the events of this morning for a while but they immediately manifested themselves into anxious actions. I chose a shirt to wear. It didn’t feel right. It was missing a bottom button. It felt baggy, not comforting to my slender frame. My hair wasn’t behaving. Too much pomade and then too much water. I left the apartment anyway. I started the car. Something was wrong. I had forgotten my ID badge. I had to go back upstairs. So I changed my shirt, felt a little better and grabbed my badge. Of course now I was late for work. Then in the car, my mouth felt funny. I brushed thoroughly this morning but it didn’t feel like it.
This went on until I got to work.
Work helped put my selfish thoughts aside. I could be a better social worker, I thought. I held the hand of one my patients while she slept, dabbing her parched lips with Vaseline, which appeared distasteful to her given how she suddenly awoke tentatively licking her lips with a sour expression. I asked if she wanted anything and she softly said, juice. The nurse down the hall was preparing juice so I was in luck. She had fallen back asleep by the time I got back. I gently called her name and she stirred. I did not get a straw and that soon proved to be a mistake. Some juice dribbled down her chest, some dribbled right under her chin, some tantalized her mouth enough to satisfy. Then I let her sleep.
A few more sessions of successful psychotherapy, followed by scavenging for a seat to write my notes. I thought I had a good seat in a nurse treatment room and then a nurse comes in, untying her smock. She looks at me, startled, saying she “usually pumps at this time”. I give her the room.
Much talk was generated in grad school about how far to go with clients/patients/residents/consumers/individuals etc. Professors warned about doing too much, overextending yourself and setting yourself up for being taken advantage of, having the individual come to rely on and expect special treatment. Likewise for accepting gifts and niceties from individuals. It had to do with boundaries. That’s why declaring roles at the outset is important, so the individual knows in what capacity you are there.
The term “bending the frame” is used to describe actions above the normal for individuals. The frame refers to the ethical framework or boundaries we must adhere to. We can now and again bend the frame but should never break it.
School is a theoretical bubble, as useful as a textbook preparing you for practical life experience. Out in the real world, frames are not only bent but they are twisted into different shapes. How far we should go is complex because it is circumstantial.
One of my patients today was doing better than last week. He was out of his hospital bed, in his wheelchair, dressed and preparing to go in search of some writing paper. He was even taking his medication. That had been a sticking point last week for the nurses who said he was refusing his medication. I talked with him, he explained the pills were too big, I asked about crushing them up, he said he’d take them if they were crushed up, I told the nurses, they agreed to crush them up, and now he’s taking the medication.
You bet it feels good to see a positive change. The increment by which success is measured in my profession is often too small to tell. So this felt good.
He mentioned his recurring depression and we discussed coping skills. “I asked for Ebony a week ago. Just something to read. Apparently that’s too hard for them.”
I will surprise him with it next week.
Another popular activity for the bed-ridden are puzzle books and word finds. I could easily buy a few of those and have them on hand.
The population I work with is more dependent on others than I am used to. These individuals are not used to having to ask for everything. I find myself “bending the frame” more than I ever did as a social worker.
This morning while one of my patients waited in bed for an aide to clean him up, I peeled a couple of oranges and fed him peanut butter and jelly. It gratified me to act more than just say, “so, how do you cope with lying in your own mess and feeling hungry while there are these fruits you do not have the muscle strength to peel and the sandwich that is out of your reach?”
I like this type of thinking. It isn’t just pondering and existential questioning. There is something constructive in discovery.