Monday, July 09, 2012

Asylum & The Shoe People

A place offering protection and safety; a shelter.

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.
Acts 4:32

Someone asked me just last week why people who work in mental health seem to get burned out.  I can only speak for myself, and I won't deny experiencing burn-out.  It's because the needs of our patients are so all-consuming.  Mental illness takes away potential, motivation and support.  It wears out loved ones and steers people in destructive directions. 
The burn-out, for me, became apparent a while ago when someone stopped me in the hall to, well, to chew me out.  It was a co-worker, a nice guy in fact.  A guy who doesn't work directly with patients but who certainly has a great deal of compassion for them.  One of the adult patients had been discharged and this gentleman noticed the man leaving without a pair of shoes.  In his mind, this shouldn't have happened and it was my fault.  Nurse manager and all, I guess I am supposed to be all-knowing and ever able to meet every need.
You don't have to do that in traditional health care, not often at least.
The word of the patient without shoes spread and although there was no malice, lots of people looked at me and asked me how I let this happen.  I went home and cried.  Any number of people could have gone to the store and bought the patient shoes, but at the end of the day, it was more or less agreed that it was my responsibility.  And thus, The Shoe People.
I got on Facebook and on this blog and begged.  I'll be honest, I was partially motivated by my love for the mentally ill and partially because I was fed up with being the one blamed when things like shoeless discharges or people without a warm coat for the winter.  Frankly, I resented it.  I I I, it became about me and I suppose God used my self-centeredness to inspire this outreach.  It was almost a year go that I asked for your shoes.
And goodness, did you respond!  Shoes on my door step, shoes from people at church, shoes in the mail!  Money for shoes!  And then I pushed a little bit harder (it wasn't very hard) and there were coats and clothes and sweaters and hats and even bras! 
And still more monetary donations.
Then I said we need children's pajamas and clothing and there is now a mountain literally to the ceiling in my office of children's clothes. 
This week we have an autistic child on our unit who is nonverbal.  He uses sign language to communicate and we have an interpreter there most of the day but the staff need to be able to "talk" to him.  They want to get to know him so they can establish a rapport and really reach him.  So I thought, why not ask The Shoe People?
I put a post on Facebook asking for a volunteer to teach our staff sign language.  I think it took about thirty seconds to get a reply.  My sweet friend Yvonne stepped up and offered to volunteer.  I'm not a bit surprised.  We've been friends for about 200 years and I know this chick, she is a servant to the core. 
At meetings when we identify needs that we never thought we could meet, the leadership turns to me..."Shoe People?"
I'll admit, I worry sometimes that the Shoe People will get tired of this whole thing and one day, the well will dry up.  That's not faith talking, that's the burned-out psychiatric nurse.  Because really, the Shoe People are the hands and feet of God, and his well never runs dry. 
I take this work that I do seriously.  I lose sleep over it.  I have a hole in my gut to prove it.  Yeah, I'm not coping in exemplary manner.  But the Shoe People are teaching me that where there is a need, there is a provider.  A Provider.
We need, we need, we need.  We are almost out of clothes and low on shoes.  Winter is going to come again and we'll need coats and hats and gloves.  Some of our ladies want purses.  Purses!  I would've put that request out of my mind at one time, but not now.  God wants to gives us the smallest desires of our hearts, the tiniest things that will make life sweeter.
So I suspect some Shoe People will be dropping off some purses pretty soon.
Every time I see a patient receive a pair of shoes or an article of clothing (or a book, we need books too!), I get the push I need for the next step. 
I think about stopping, leaving psychiatry.  Finding a job somewhere else, where I can take care of my patients and send them on their way without finding them something to wear. 
I wish, sometimes, that I didn't have to figure out how to communicate with a nonverbal Autistic kid.  Because I just don't have enough to offer, I just don't have the money and the wisdom to find the answers. 
Tomorrow we'll discuss Yvonne's sign language classes and schedule them.  Already word is spreading and people are feeling a renewed hope and excitement.  We could never afford to send everyone to ASL (American Sign Language) training but now we have this opportunity and we are so grateful.  
I went to the doctor today to follow up on my scope.  "Significant bleeding ulcer, looks pretty nasty."  More medicine, keep up the diet changes,  decrease your stress.  Need to schedule a sleep study, insomnia still a problem.  Heart rate staying a little too high, probably because of the discomfort in my gut.
I got in my car and thought, "I've got to get out of this, it's wearing me out."
Then Mac called, telling me about learning to sign so he can work with these kids more effectively.
And God touched the heart of the Shoe People.
I'm not done with this work but I am learning that I am arrogant to think I can do it alone.  I'm going to keep asking for what we need and I'm going to keep talking about the Shoe People and I'm going to learn, one day at a time, to stop worrying that I won't be able to do what needs doing.  Because I won't. 
But we will.


Pat said...

I'm crying reading this. You are so right, the well will never run dry to supply the needs...there are more shoe people that haven't even been notified by God that that's their new assignment!
Meanwhile, please take care of your health, you're the only first born daughter I have.

Bonnie said...

What a touching post. The love of God and those he puts in our lives is what really keeps us going, isn't it. You're a hero to a *lot* of people, made possible by Gods strength.