The following is an excerpt from my book, Saturation: A Memoir.
The night aide was new. That she was trying to overcome her boredom, which I could understand because there was nothing to do at 1:00 a.m., by occupying her time with me and the other two residents was annoying. She should have brought a better book to work. I was already wishing I hadn’t greeted her when she decided to drill me first about my art project.
“What are you working on?” She asked, leaning way too close to me and my project.
“My collage.” I replied, pushing my artwork away from her and scooching my chair over. Her breath smelled.
“Oh! FUN! What’s your collage about?” She asked, oblivious to my discomfort. She was way too happy for 1:00 a.m.
“Suffering and death and stuff.” I answered as I squished a light blue fuzzy ball hard into the center of some sparklies for emphasis. But instead of leaning back up or stepping away, she just tuned her head to look at me. In response, I leaned away from her without moving my chair again. “Oh.” She said, frowning. “What about life?”
“Life?” I asked. “Like the blood running from all the slits I’ve made to my wrist? THAT life?” I could only raise my eyebrows at her by this point. She was in my personal space and she was asking personal questions about my assignment that she was not supposed to be asking. It was my understanding that only counselors were permitted to ask us details of our assignments. This woman was no counselor.
Once she decided I didn’t want to play nicely, she moved on to the new resident at the next table. And once I overheard the aide ask the resident if she wanted her to listen to her 1st-Step, I flew into Mama Bear mode.
“YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO ASK HER THAT!” I bellowed at the night aide. Even I flinched at the ferocity of my attack. I found her blatant disrespect astonishing.
I’d had it up to my hairline with some of the staff taking advantage of their positions of authority with us. It happened consistently and I was tired of watching it. Too many of the residents and staff seemed oblivious to the idea of forming and enforcing personal boundaries.
I got angry that this night aide asked the resident if she could listen to her 1st-Step and I got even angrier when the resident agreed to read it to her. We weren’t supposed to share the details of our assignments with anyone except the members of our group.
What was taking place at that moment was just one more breach of a resident’s personal boundaries. It was an over exertion, an over extension, and an abuse of a staff member’s authority. Not on my watch … that was my attitude. Of course, I was a resident and this discussion did not include me. But I felt like they’d made it my business by allowing me to overhear them. I was only trying to protect the resident. Okay, I was trying to correct the staff member, too.
(To be continued…)