This past Monday I ran into a former co-worker while I was out and about. She's a nurse who has done the same case on the graveyard shift for 18 years. The case was the result of a Dad who shook his baby badly enough to cause serious brain damage. This nurse has dedicated herself to this child, now an adult child, to the point where she really wasn't there for her family. She allowed her need to care for a baby to come ahead of the need her teen children had to have a connected Mom in their lives.
She was there for the drama, but in between the bad stuff she didn't share with them the things they were interested in. She was too tired to attend school functions since she needed to sleep to go to work. When she did attend, her conversations were all about the condition of the abused baby. You never heard a single thing about the triumphs of her own children, just the bad things. Like when her daughter got into drugs and they affected her mental status. Then there was the attempted suicide of her son. Her husband getting caught cheating on her, his heart attack, etc.
All the times we talked I would tell her she needed to take care of herself and her family first. The only time I ever earned a trip to the bosses office for a session was because I told her that company policy was family comes first. It wasn't anything other than an offhand statement to her apology for letting the client's family down when her daughter was in the emergency room, but she lodged a formal complaint against me for saying it. I chalked it up to her own guilty conscience and didn't make a fuss because the conversation didn't go on my record. Now I can say what I want and she can't do anything about it. I told her she needed to learn to take care of herself.
I was shocked when I saw her condition. She moves like a woman 20 years older than she is. Her litany of health issues include fibromyalgia, diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, arthritis of the knees and a possible detached retina. She drove to work last Sunday night unable to see out of one eye. Reaping what she sowed is an issue with her. She is unhappy with...well...everything.
Her oldest child will help her out but the other 2 can't find the time. I'm standing there looking at a woman who is 8 years younger than I am whose skin is gray, she's obviously exhausted, she can't stand up straight so she's leaning her full weight on a shopping cart. She told me that she was going out on disability at the end of the month unless the doctor took her out after the appointment she had for 2 pm that day. I hope he did, but I don't know because I've gotten a grip on myself and am taking care of me.
I very badly wanted to give her my number and tell her to call if she needed anything. I didn't do it because I could see the big black hole of need that I would be sucked into and that black hole is toxic. Her decision to accept her disability and give up her patient showed her how little loyalty that patient's family had to her. She now has to face the reality of what she did by prioritizing that patient over the needs of her family and it's not pretty nor does she like it. She oozes negativity and I fail to believe that situation will change.
I am hoping that she finds peace in life. She'll feel better when she does. I know I feel less pain when I'm content with myself and my choices. Even when they are somewhat selfish. Sometimes it's necessary to be selfish and put ourselves first. In life people come and people go, the only constant then is me. I'm learning to be here for myself because nobody else can be here all the time except me.