Verbal abuse in the ER is hardly notable, even at the much nicer job I'm at now. I'm pretty sure there's actually a mad libs version that would fit 90% of these encounters. Feel free to play along- get me some (noun) you little white/tattooed (noun). I told you to (verb) you (adjective) bitch! This is my life. Not every day. I've mastered the blank stare, usually followed by "okay!" with a smile as I call security. Sometimes, though, the rationale for the verbal abuse is so minuscule and unexpected that it manages to make me a little angry.
Such was the case the other day, when my request for a UDS on my definitely chronic homelessness/maybe acute on chronic psych patient was met with "get me some juice", and I had the audacity to reply, "sure, can you grab me a urine sample while I'm getting that?" Yeah. So as a general rule I don't get juice for people who refer to me as a stupid bitch, regardless of how much screaming you follow it up with. SAH-CUR-ITY.
When security's stern talk about honey, vinegar, etc. was not well received, they sent the social worker in to try to clear her for discharge, who finally brought her some juice to get her to stop screaming. Crazy lady then gave me a talk about how I should be more professional and proceeded to obtain a nice cocaine metabolite filled urine sample for us. Afterwards she made sure to tell me that I was a "scared little white girl" for calling the po-pos on her. I was DONE.
I'm sitting charting all this foolishness being irritated as hell over and above my baseline pregnant bitchiness when the social worker came to talk to me. What she said could not have been a more perfect antidote to my angst and frustration. "Yeah, hood nurse, she's completely batshit crazy. Don't take it personally. She's absolutely out of control and awful, so there's no point on even trying to reason with her. She's not this way because of anything you're doing, or anything anyone is doing- she simply lacks the capacity to be any other way. She's not capable of being calm, or reasonable, or nice. And what a horrible life that must be."
Really thinking this out nearly brought me to tears. I actually did cry when I thanked her for saying this a few days later. Maybe it resonates with me more now, being crazy hormonal and more emotional than I've ever been and having the sensation that my feelings are not coming from within myself, nor do they seem at all in character with who I feel I am as a person. I'm sure this pales in comparison to people suffering from mental illness. I can't imagine feeling things so strongly and beyond my control every day, for life, and struggling constantly to strike the right balance of medications with innumerable awful side effects to just be able to function in society. Even worse, the people that suffer from hallucinations and delusions and who live, what for most of us, would be a bizarre nightmare- only they never wake up from it. It's no wonder so many of these people turn to drugs or alcohol.
I hope it doesn't come across that I'm excusing or justifying bad behavior. Aggression should be dealt firmly across the board, because when it isn't, dangerous things happen. It's just in situations like this, it's really easy for anger to be the first emotion to surface, even when it's not the one that will get us anywhere. It's advice I'd always give to the new nurses I mentored, but that I still find hard to take myself sometimes- you can't argue with crazy. Beyond that though, and what I'm trying to be mindful of from here on out, is that not only can we not reason on that wavelength, but we should be very, very, very grateful that we can't. I hope I play those words back in my head every time I feel my temper rising, and my face flushing. "What a horrible life that must be." Indeed.