Friday, August 19, 2016

Things That Fly: Balloons, Angels, Minds

It's Friday, and I feel like we are due for a lighter entry.  Forensics can be pretty dry, and I sincerely appreciate those of you who read!  So here’s one of my favorite stories from my time working at the State Hospital:
The hospital is located in a very scenic place.  So much so, hot air balloons often fly over.  One day a patient returned early from a walk on grounds.  This was completely unlike him.  He would always stay out until the last possible moment.  He was flushed and somewhat frantic.
“There are balloons falling out of the sky!” he shouted as he gave the nurse his grounds pass.  We looked at each other, and offered him medication.
“No!  You don’t understand!  There are balloons falling out of the sky!  Go see!”  We did our best to get him settled.  He wasn’t dangerous, just extremely preoccupied with the balloons falling out of the sky.  The nursing staff was about to change shifts, which included a meeting with both the outgoing and incoming shifts to discuss the events of the day.  About the time we settled in for our meeting, a staff member coming in for his shift bounced gleefully into the staff room.
“You guys are not going to believe this.  A hot air balloon pilot got confused, and just landed on the lawn outside our building!”  We certainly owed our patient an apology!  
It’s one of my favorite things that happened with a patient, and that’s saying a lot.  I loved my job.  But that incident taught me something important about listening to my patients.  No matter what someone’s illness is, they need to be heard.  We all dismissed it as a hallucination or delusion, but he was right.  When I am having a depressive episode, my thought process completely changes.  The things I know to be true, in many cases, are not.  Nonetheless, they are real to me.  Advice that was given to me when I first started working mental health was this: When your patient comes in from the yard and tells you he was out there talking to angels, maybe he was.

Be well.

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