Thursday, June 02, 2005

Balm of Sleep

I spent the holiday weekend working at my other job (hey, gotta pay for all this health care stuff!), 11-7 at the psych hospital. And you can't beat time and a half for holiday pay, especially when the regular pay seems just short of exorbitant.

Both times I was assigned to a kids' unit. Unlike adult psych units, the child units are usually uneventful at night. The units are kept a little bit too cold, so the kids snuggle into their blankets and avoid getting out of bed.

About half the kids sleep in their rooms. The rest "sleep out"; that is, they drag their mattresses into the hall and sleep so that they are watched all night long by staff.

Sleep outs for are actively suicidal or self-harmful children. Also, children who are at risk of sexually abusing others. Sometimes kids who are afraid of the dark sleep out. And sometimes there's a sleep out whose roommate is so flatulent that even the nurses hold their breath just passing by in the hall.

Every once in a while, though, you get a child who can't sleep. And even more rarely, you get a child who won't sleep.

This time, I had a sleep out child who said he couldn't sleep...but he did everything he could to keep from falling asleep. He was so tired that his eyes kept closing on their own; he'd jerk himself awake, complain loudly; when that didn't work so well, he'd sit up; when he begin falling asleep sitting up, then he'd get up and shuffle around, get a drink, go to the bathroom...I'd finally persuade him to lie down and then he'd start all over again.

Some of you probably understand what this is all about, and why, if these hospitalized kids are going to go over the edge, it's usually at bedtime.

Bedtime or nighttime, those are the times abusers often choose to torment their victims. So the time that most of us use to recover from the day and recharge for the day to come is the time that abused children dread the most. So they are afraid to sleep. And after all, if home was never safe, and your parents didn't love you enough to keep you safe, then it's easy for a child to believe that there are no safe places, and that no one will ever love them enough.

I finally persuaded this kid to lie down and imagine what it would be like if he were a student at Hogwarts...and he added "Fighting Voldemort?"..."Of course," I replied...and asked him to start with the Sorting Hat assigning him to a group...and he fell asleep within minutes.

It's a little scary to me that a world with Voldemort feels safer to someone than sleeping under the watchful gaze of two caring adults.


Keeefer said...

So true Jodie, so true.

The cruelty of man to his fellow man never ceases to amaze me

Jodie said...

Keeef, sometimes I think I must be from another planet, because it's just so incomprehensible.

Meepers said...

Heartbreakingly sad.

The parenting guru I've read a lot of really emphasizes night parenting and creating safe places for sleep to overtake the child. I question what parents are thinking sometimes when they refuse to do just that.

Meepers said...

One more thing: those are the children that, if they would trust me, I would just scoop up into my arms and croon and rock them to sleep, not matter what age. But then, trust is really the issue, isn't it. That's what my heart says to do. (not that you can in a professional situation)

Rhodester said...

There's a 7-11 at the Psych Hospital? What, is it like down by the gift shop? Do you sell grape slurpees?

Oh, wait.. you said the 11-7 at the Psych Hospital. Never mind. I'm lysdexic.

If I ever come and visit you can I sleep out in the hall? It sounds like quite the adventure.

Jodie said...

Meeps, I just want to rock them too. Unfortunately, it's not allowed -- although if the kid wants a hug, AND ASKS FOR IT, we're allowed to give "side hugs" -- because then the kid can't interpret it in a sexual manner.

Dave, of course you can sleep in the hall! But Pixie the Wonderdog, Evil Wiley, and Buddy the Gangster cat would probably all have to curl up to you...they'd keep you warm, though. :D

Third Degree Nurse said...

Unfortunately, too, too frequent. I've known dozens of sexually abused kids in my life, and read about hundreds more in my work in the juvenile system.

And this in the midst of the Michael Jackson trial!

I do believe the test of all evil in the world is when people abuse their power: over others/the environment/situations etc. The worst story I ever heard was a girl who said her grandfather raped her nightly. And her memories were of grandmother quietly closing the door behind him after letting him into the girl's room.

I'm glad those kids have you working there and a safe place to sleep.