Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Proximity Errors

By the way - have a look at this. It's not quite as convenient, and I don't know if it saves any watt hours at all, but it looks so, so much better.

Well, a rather rushed missive today, sitting at my desk in the Drug and Alcohol job thinking about how this job is messing with my mind.

Not in a worrisome way. In fact, from the bipolar point of view, things are going very well. The mood, the sleep, the motivation - all of these are perfectly unremarkable. I worry, but it's about things that should worry me, like my exam. I have times of low energy and poor motivation, but it's generally after a twelve hour shift. I still have the lack of confidence, the fear of talking to any but my closest friends, but that is probably utterly normal considering what has happened. Utterly utterly normal.

See, I've had normal, and I've had that glowing, barely containable rage and glee, that ferocious impatience with everyone and everything, that feeling that gold runs through your veins, and although you really really miss the highs, you really really don't miss picking up after them. Normal will do me just fine for now.

But anyway. This job, and how it messes with my mind.

One of our social workers was talking the other day about one of our clients, a fifteen year old girl, on the edge of amphetamine addiction.

(You know those shots of the earth from space, where part of the earth is in sunlight? It's all clouds and seas, and there's the shadow moving across from east to west? And just between the shadow and the light is that softening, that half-light, that brief penumbra, and you know the people down there are looking up and seeing night come?

That's where this girl is now. It can happen quickly at any age, but for her it's a very rapid thing).

Anyhow, our social worker asked me some stuff about what we could offer her, the role of counselling (maybe) and family therapy (possibly) and antidepressants (useless) , and she said "I don't want her to end up going down the bridge."

"The bridge?" I said

"The bridge down at Rye Street," she said. "It's the underage sex one. Everyone knows."

"Is it?"

"Everyone knows Rye Street," she said, staring at me like I was stupid. "If you want underage sex you go down the bridge. Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights. Ask anyone."

"I didn't know" I said. "That's horrible." There's a bank and a saddlery and a comic shop at Rye Street, I've been there myself. Up in the sunlight it's smiling young couples and the Pony Club and Tales of Wonder, and presumably underneath in the dark it's wheezy old men and a quick fumble of someone in Roxy jeans and a cheap teeshirt.

"You must have known," she said. I shook my head.

Anyway. I've been thinking about that. See, Mary (the social worker, long blonde hair, thick glasses that give her owl-eyes, floral dresses) sees a lot of this. in fact, most of every day for her is seeing kids on drugs, the damaged, the diseased, the disposessed. And she's been doing it for a number of years now, and before that the prisons, and before that a stint in a big paediatric psych unit in Sydney.

It's been a lot of what she sees, and if you see things often enough, for long enough, you think of them as normal.

I've noticed that in me. Because most of the people I see every day have some kind of mental illness, or some recent episode of violence, or blood that swarms with viruses, I end up assuming at some level that that's what's going on with everybody. At some level (and I'm not talking about rationally, I mean those unconscious, edge of your vision, only-there-when-you-look-at-them kind of assumptions) you expect to see pathology everywhere. Everyone is on drugs. Everyone has hepatitis. Everyone has low grade psychosis.

One of my friends went to a seminar on child protection, three days of speaking about the unspeakable, talking with people where you can't keep looking and you can't look away. Lunchtime on the third day he went out to get a yiros and walked passed a playground and there was a father pushing his giggling child on a swing and David said he wanted to kill him.

See? That's not rational thinking. Thats not an un-messed-up mind.

Like I said, I don't know the mechanism, but it's like normal vision, it's like sight. Things that are closer appear bigger, you can end up believing that that is all that exists.

I suppose in that it's like love, in a way.

Anyway. I think all this is why my non-medical friendships are important to me. Most of my (few) friends are non-medical. Socially I only see one other doctor, and that friendship is based more on complementary character traits and political beliefs than a mutual interest in serum potassium levels. It's not that there is anything wrong with doctors as friends - I can think of several people I went through medical school with I'd love to catch up with - it's just that I find my work emotionally and intellectually exhausting after a while, and at the end of the day I'd rather do almost anything else than discuss serum potassium levels.

Plus, like every other group of people who work together who then socialise together there are really only two or three conversations that happen, and those discussions happen over and over again. There's a bit of "who's shagging whom", although I tend to miss out on that, and then most of the rest is either

1. How such and such a simple job was screwed up by someone else ("and the notes say by this time she's only saturating eighty two percent, so he keeps on doing piss all and doesn't tell anyone, an hour later they call the code...")


2. How those above us are screwing us over, and the infinite variations thereof.

I suspect similar conversations are happening every Friday night in every single profession. Think of the best job in the world - I don't know, for me it'd be running a well-stocked second hand bookshop somewhere nice - and you can bet whoever has it spends some of his or her time complaining about it - this year's caviar is not as good as it could be, and it's almost impossible to get a decent bit of eye-candy to wave those ostrich-feather fan things over you as you quaff another mouthful of wine with pearls dissolved in it.

Anyway, enough whining from me. Back to the kidney.
Thanks for listening,


Blogger Benedict 16th said...

Reminds me of a 45 yo female alcoholic patient (well anything she can get down her throat - she is on your confidential circular)... It turns out all her abuse (the termination at 20 weeks when she was 14, the running away from home age 17, the 4 marriages and the multiple fractured bones and the 5 kids by 4 fathers, and not speaking to 3 of the kids... ) can all go back to her Daddy (who just died of Pancreatic cancer, actually step daddy she was adopted age 2), used to give her cuddles... (age 13 cuddles) where she would have to sit in his lap, not in a DH Lawrence spoons way either...

Also the - now 17 yo, with child (BMI <17), who's mother did herself in when the girl was 13 - guess who found the cherry red body? Who was at least cared for by the step father - at least until his new love (with 2 kids) came along.

Also - although I don't know the South like you do, I certainly know where the MSMBNH*, the pedarist stuff and the street workers** in about a 25 km radius of where I work.

Also ask how much a "Grey Nurse" reaches at the moment, or where you can score some "Oxy".... Not far from Napoleon Circle which is somewhere down your way.


* Men Who have sex with men but do not identify as homosexual
** versus parlour ladies, of whom 80% are not on regular self-medication

11:06 PM  
Blogger Ladyk73 said...

Are you saying you are bipolar...or just using the word artfully?

I have just become "officially" bipolar a few months ago. Bipolar II...either way MDD, GAD,BP,BPD,PTSD....does it all really matter?

I have had a hard year, and I am still having a hard time. My life crumbled from being an independent, professional, artistic someone who is offically below the poverty line, sad...and many times hopeless. I have not found peace of mind...even with the drug cocktail I'm on.

Anyways, This post gave me hope. Hope that I can be stable, productive, and remember the artist within.

In a month I start graduate be a social worker.
Let's see how it goes!

9:54 AM  
Blogger Camilla said...

It reminds me of that physiological thing - General Adaptation Response (is that the correct name?) - where under conditions of sustained stress, your body gets used to operating at a higher blood pressure etc., until those higher levels become the new "normal". I think it couldn't be a bad thing for people working in certain fields to take time out every now and again to readjust their levels of what ought and ought not to be considered shocking.

I see a similar thing in my own line of work (although obviously nowhere near as extreme as what you guys see). The idea of divorce is becoming more and more normal to me, which freaks me out a bit, considering how awful some of them are. Thankfully, I'm surrounded by friends and family who are happily married and provide lots of examples of marriages not going down the toilet.


7:16 PM  

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