Wednesday, April 4, 2012

bad days and BAD DAYS

 "A photo is worth a thousand words."


Monday was a fairly typical day at work. I had a new patient assigned to me. The patient had just transferred from the Detox/Crisis Stabilization Unit to the regular inpatient side (where I work). So, I read over his chart, then took a look at his photo from admission. I went to find him so I could introduce myself and schedule a time to meet with him.

I looked for this patient in the day room, and I did not see him anywhere. I asked the Health Care Techs if they had seen him. Was he with a doctor? in his room?

They just pointed, and he was actually sitting right in front of me. I hadn't recognized him because he looked nothing at all like he did in that photo, taken 10 days ago when he came in (intoxicated) to detox.

Sort of without thinking, I said, "Wow, you definitely look much better now than in your admission photo."

Of course, as could be expected, he said, "what picture?" Quite understandably, he didn't remember having his picture taken.

That day I went home on a mission. I tore apart my closet throwing boxes everywhere. I wasn't even positive that I still had the exact thing I was looking for. It took forever, but finally I found this gem, along with an accompanying psychological evaluation...



The sad part is that I don't remember having this picture taken. I actually don't remember too much of that day at all - only bits and pieces due to a benzodiazepine-induced blackout.

I first saw this photo when my favorite Health Care Tech was laughing about it a few days after it was taken. At this point I was clear-headed and integrated into the millieu, trying to make a joke out of the sad (and utterly humiliating) situation I was in.... which was a locked psychiatric unit!

I remember this Health Care Tech waving my picture around and asking, "Amanda is this you? It doesn't even look like you... You're an attractive girl; this is a horrible picture...Look at this, right? doesn't look anything like her.."

"Well, I wasn't exactly at my best when I came in," I said.

A week or so later when I was released back into the world, I showed this photo to a close friend, and he said, "Don't hang on to that. Move forward to more positive things."

But, I kept the photo anyway. It actually sat on the door of my refrigerator for quite some time. Then I moved, and it got thrown into a random box where it sat for years untouched (along with the psych eval)...until now.

They gave me a copy of my picture with no questions asked, but the psychiatric evaluation was a bit trickier to get.  Being the way that I was (and still am), I began demanding a copy of my psych eval soon after my discharge. When it arrived in the mail I read it immediately.

The most complimentary part of the eval is the part where it states that: "Ms. Hopper seems to be of average intelligence, with no apparent cognitive deficiencies."

The report also mentions a propensity to abuse substances, lack of insight in this area, and "Ms. Hopper verbalizes anger through sarcasm and a spewing forth of obscenities."

Naturally, when I first read this report, I folded it up and stewed for a while. All of it was crap, especially the part about substances. I disagreed with everything that this pretentious, asshole psychologist wrote about me.

Today as I read that same report, I agree with probably about 90% of it. Much of it no longer holds true (thankfully), but it pretty accurately describes how I was at that particular point in time.


At work on Wednesday, my patient asked to see his admission photo which I had referenced earlier. So, during our Treatment Team Meeting, one of the doctors showed him his photo. He frowned and said, "wow, I look horrible."

I said, "well, most people aren't at their best when they come in to detox...Maybe we can give you a copy of that picture for you to keep when you leave."

"Why would I want to do that?" he asked.

Other staff turned in my direction, and I felt my face flush.

"I don't know," I said, "maybe just so that years from now you can see this photo, and on a bad day sober it can give you perspective, that even a bad day sober is not all that bad in comparison."

He stared at me blankly and didn't say anything.

Later that week he asked his doctor for a copy of the photo. 'Just for posterity' he said.

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