Well, I had promised a turdy story for Nurse’s Day, but I am going to reneg. Daisy Fae’s post reminded me of this story, which I wrote some time ago. It is a true story, and I thought it would be good for Nurse’s Day.
I spent a lot of my life fearing people, and isolating myself from them. How I ever came to be a nurse is a mystery to me. I survived many years in nursing by being task-oriented and intellectual. But at some point in my emotional healing I decided I had to learn to love myself and other people. I decided to try to love the most unlovable person in my sphere. Miss Sally was my victim.
Miss Sally was a long-time resident of the nursing home where I worked, and definitely qualified as unlovable. She was misshapen by injuries to her left side that left her with an arm she couldn’t straighten, and a leg that was shorter than the other. Her face was every child’s vision of a witch, with a hooked nose, complete with wart, and piercing, beady blue eyes. Her hair was long and stringy, and often covered her face.
If her appearance wasn’t enough to scare you off, her demeanor was. She was a chronic schizophrenic who screeched when she was approached, and hit, kicked, spit and scratched when you attempted to care for her. She greeted everyone with “You will die and remain dead forever”, yelled over and over at the top of her lungs. Anti-psychotic drugs seem to work well for a lot of schizophrenics, they didn’t seem to touch Miss Sally. When you could get her to take them. The nursing assistants were frightened of her, and were rough with her because she was combative. And I wanted to love this woman.
I started out by saying “good morning” to her, and addressing her courteously as “Miss Sally”. I’d ask how she was, and compliment her if she had on a nice dress, or in one of her rare good mood, had let the
aides fix her hair attractively. At first I did this over her screeching, but eventually she began to listen to what I was saying, and answer quietly and appropriately. When the aides saw that she didn’t always screech at me, they too began to address her as Miss Sally, and speak to her courteously. We stopped walking her, and put her in a wheelchair, when we realized some of her combativeness came from the pain she had from walking with one leg shorter than the other, and she calmed down even more. Her good days became more frequent, and we began to have actual conversations. I told her I loved her, she was one of my favorite people, and like most of us who have been abused, she mistrusted it at first. I began to be able to touch her, and then to hug her. She began asking the nursing assistants for hugs and kisses when they put her to bed. She no longer asks if she will be “safe and secure for all time” very often. I haven’t heard her say “die and remain dead forever” for a long time. We haven’t changed her meds or increased the dose, just added high doses of tender, loving care.
By loving Miss Sally, I began to see that I was lovable too. My attitude toward people was different, and I began to focus more on healing and less on tasks. My life has been greatly enriched. If you want to heal your life and relationships, go find Miss Sally to love.