I don’t really know what to say as I launch myself into constructing the first blog of 2021 for our wee pod. It seems that there would be so much to rage about right now. The injustice of the welfare system, the way in which the ‘game’ of life is rigged against those experiencing mental ill-health. The lack of investment in service provision and support for people living with learning disabilities or the flagrant disregard for neurodiversity.
Yes, as my blood begins to boil so I am reminded of the one thing that was designed to unilaterally harm the most vulnerable in our communities, to marginalise them, to disenfranchise them, to drive them into the shadows – Austerity – a political imperative lacking any solid evidence base. Now I know I should cite some reference at this point but I’m not going to; it’s my rant and so I should be allowed to pretty much do what I want.
My Gran had a phrase, it was her version of ‘oh FFS’. It was as close to blasphemy as a practicing Catholic born in the 1930’s in the West of Scotland got. She used to say it at times of great exasperation (usually when my Granda or one of her grandchildren had managed to get themselves into a spot of difficulty).
I remember one particular situation when I fell and split open my arm. Running up the back stairs to her house clutching my elbow as blood pored from it, she looked at me, her arms stretched wide waiting for me and said “In the name o’ the wee man Stuart McKenzie, wit have ye done?”
I sobbed telling her I had fallen over running, landing on a kerb stone. The moment I reached her arms I knew I was safe.
Now the adaptability of this phrase was later to be found when my Granda decided to spend his winnings from the Granada National on a Video Camera in 1986, costing £600 at a time when that Thatcher was doing her level best to keep him out of work. Gran said exactly the same thing only her arms were not stretched out and there was a lack of warmth in her tone “In the name o’ the wee man Norrie McGregor wit have ye done?”
For clarity, the “wee man” is indeed the “big man”, it refers to God; essentially my Gran was referring our situation to the almighty in an attempt to comfort, in the case of my arm or scorn in the case of my slightly inebriated Granda after a trip to Dixons.
Now, by this stage you are asking yourself, what exactly does any of this have to do with RMN Behaving Badly, the state of the nation, mental health and nursing? Well I’ll tell you, it has everything and nothing to do with it all at the same time.
Now my Gran wasn’t a nurse but I’d like to think had she been one she’d have been pretty awesome at it. I’d also like to think that much of the drive I have to challenge injustice and care for others came from her. I have been reflecting on my career choice quite a lot of late, I think being a manager now and working through the pandemic has made me evaluate and reflect. Why did I come into MH Nursing, why was I drawn into this profession that I love but a profession that with equal measure it exposes me to the harsh realities of the world, the pain and distress of others?
I should say now that I am neither religious nor do I believe in fate. What I do however believe is that as a MH Nurse there are times I wish I had all of the answers known only to a higher power and that I could predict the future. Whilst I’m incapable of divine acts or predicting the horse races, a family trait but for one day in 1986 which resulted in a VHS cam-recorder arriving in the Gorbals, its been my job at points in my career to help identify the dimming light at the bottom of the abyss, to make acceptable predictions that might be enough to just get through the next hour.
When a patient harms themselves for the third time in a week and comes to you as their nurse with a look of shame, guilty that they may have let you down, wondering if you will scald them like another nurse once did, you have a split second to react. Your posture, facial expression, tone and language will all have an impact. Reflecting on this very same scenario when I was a young staff nurse I’m not sure I got it right? I think that in that moment it may have been “In the name o’ the wee man, what have you done to yourself” Video Camera-version and less Bleeding Elbow-version.
I know there’s a point in this somewhere that those of you more gifted with words than I am wold be able to articulate in a paragraph, but then I wouldn’t have had the chance to reminisce about two wonderful people or reflect on something that I wish to this day if I had the power to rectify I would. I wish I could have been the comforting “In the name o’ the wee man”. I’m not even sure I can recall what I said but I know deep down I could have done more.
As we approach Mental Health Nurses Day 2021 I personally want to take time to reflect on my life and times as a MH Nurse. My experiences, success, failures and achievements. I want to take time to consider how my work and patients have shaped me as a person. Both Ed and myself would love to read your narratives about your own reflections and how your experiences brought you into MH nursing.
In the meantime, in the name o’ the wee man, take care o’ yersel’