Day 8: Baby Steps.

Again, today’s been up and down. I was in tears this morning before work. I’d rather not say why, as it’s personal, and it’ll seem insignificant and ridiculous to most people.

Things at work were a little better in that I got to do a few new things today. First, and this is pretty silly, I got to also make something in activity centre today rather than watching the girls do their arty things. I made a little card in the shape of a bird using different paper, and I’m going to send my mom her first Mother’s Day card! (It was never a big thing in my family.) I thought she’d like it, as it’s made with cherry blossom patterns and neutral tones, and it’ll remind her of the things she loved in Japan.

We were supposed to take one girl out to the park with some of the patients from other wards, but she refused. She wasn’t in the most obliging mood today. Instead, I was given the opportunity to take my first independent step – my PE let me do an initial interview. Granted, this girl has been on the ward for six weeks already, but she’d always refused to do it before. When my PE suggested it, she warned that the girl probably wouldn’t want to do it, but the girl was actually really eager to! My PE simply sat and watched, letting me ask the questions and take the notes. It was a bit embarrassing, I’ll admit, but I’m rather glad I managed to do it, and my PE was happy with how I’d led the session.

I’m also quite proud of myself for going to the gym induction I signed up for and exercising for 45 minutes. I did a little bit of running and some upper limb exercises. The gym is quite limited in things to use, and I’m more used to using dumbells and Swiss balls, which they didn’t have. However, I made do with what there was, and I know I’ll be sore tomorrow. I was a bit disappointed that I’d lost some of the flexibility I had a couple years ago when I was in Japan working out twice a week with a personal trainer, so I’ll be aiming to get that back. I used to be able to touch my nose to my knee with one leg straightened at a time, and now I can just about touch my toe with my fingertips, so you can see how much I’ve lost. Hopefully, I can slowly build up my tolerance for running, the weight settings of the machines and my flexibility over the next 8.5 weeks.

Baby steps to better work, better physical health and better mental health. That’s the way forward.

Day 5: Emotional.

So let’s go back to Friday. On Friday, I experienced irritation, disappointment, despair, apathy, pride and elation.

I woke up feeling irritated for no apparent reason, although it could have possibly been because every night that I’ve been here, the two men I live with have been rather disruptive past 11pm, which is the definite point at which I try to walk and talk quietly. Every night I have struggled to go to sleep, including on Tuesday (?) night, when the one set the fire alarm off multiple times after midnight while drunkenly trying to make cheese on toast.

Disappointment joined the lot when I discovered that my job is hindering my attempt to lose weight (yes, I do need it, but not as much as some people). My diet is pretty open to tons of food as long as fats and oils are limited. I don’t cook with oil, instead using a spray thing, yet I eat heaps of carbs. This has been very successful in the past, but working every day doesn’t easily allow for sticking to this diet, especially when the office biscuits are positioned right next to me. Also, when doing cooking sessions, we try to eat the food the patients cook, which, of course, won’t be tailored to my diet. So, lo and behold, I put on a couple of kgs last week (which have thankfully dropped again this weekend). I was always an overweight (but not obese) child, and I don’t want to go back to that.

Despair – I wasn’t the only one feeling kind of low on Friday morning, though. Some of the patients who are usually more cheerful were also a bit down. One of them had  a bit of tantrum in a meeting and said all of the staff were terrible and careless at their job, and I had to battle not to take this personally. All of the patients are prone to saying things like this, and I was told that I shouldn’t listen to the negative, but still try to see where the anger is stemming from. It was a struggle, though, and the hurt only calmed a few hours later via apathy.

Things changed after lunch when I had my formal supervision. My PE was so encouraging, and couldn’t think of anything negative to write on her portion of the form. It really helped to hear that, despite the patient’s earlier raging, I was doing well so far. She commended me on my eagerness and my ability to connect with the patients. She also said I was excellent at being aware of the patients and potential risks, which I said was probably a result of my years of experience being an older sister, cousin and babysitter.

Finally, elation. There was a disco for the building’s patients yesterday, with karaoke and the option to come in fancy dress. It was incredible to see some of my patients so engaged in such a normal teenage event. So many chose to sing, as well, something I didn’t expect. Even I was roped into singing, and it took me back to years of living in Japan, singing karaoke and organising dances for the younger students at my school. I felt so at home and so happy then. It only got better when I was leaving to go home and saw the two most timid patients in my ward coming down with smiles on their faces. If they didn’t know already, they know now that I’m a bit loopy, as I did a whole double fist pump act. At least this amused them, and I saw one smile for the first time.

That was my rainbow of emotions at the end of my first week.

Day 3: Teenagers with mental health problems are still TEENAGERS.

I did well today. I’m seriously getting into the swing of things, such as the habit of dropping my ID to get my keys in the airlock, then attaching the keys and alarm in a single motion to my belt. Some of the girls are also starting to warm up to me already, which is fabulous.

But yes, I did well today, and one of the reasons I did well is because I told my practice educator (PE) exactly what she wanted to hear: the girls here are teenagers first, patients second. I love teenagers, and I’ve had plenty of experience supervising them and so on. (Plus, I’m still really a teenager myself at the age of 19.) My girls really are just teenagers, but with amplified teenage characteristics. I think my PE has had students and new staff come to the hospital with the idea that these girls aren’t really “people” – that they’re merely their mental health issue – so she was well impressed with me.

Also, I suggested something today while on a community leisure trip that she hadn’t thought of, and she said it was brilliant, so points for me!

However, she did send me home afterwards because I was a zombie and had massive purple bags under my eyes. (I blame the man in this house who got drunk after a bad day of work and tried making toasted cheese and ham sandwiches at midnight, setting off the fire alarm five times.)

So far, I’m loving this placement!