Tag Archives: Stress

Got A Knife

Share

Got A Knife

 

I can feel my pulse quicken in fear just thinking about him again. But I’m getting ahead of my story. A true story.

 

It was the week of Thanksgiving, and the mood of the staff I supervised was a bit more lively. It was the PM shift—the 3:00-11:30 pm in what is called the Psych ER of a behavioral health hospital. The staff in our adjacent registration department were in good spirits, too. My son, Bret, worked there after classes at Lake Forest College. He and his co-worker Beth (not her real name) were anticipating the four-day weekend.

 

There was a steady flow that night of people seeking assessments for substance abuse, hospitaldepression, anxiety, psychosis, eating disorders—all areas of mental health and substance use. The outcome of the assessment determined what treatment would be recommended.

 

Later in the evening, an older couple brought their adult son in for an assessment. I’ll call him Joe. He was friendly and responsive, but Joe also was depressed and had some delusional thoughts. These thoughts interfered in his ability to care for himself. So Joe and his parent’s agreed when the psychiatrist recommended an inpatient stay for a few days to stabilize his mood. Joe’s parent’s decided not to wait for the sign-in process and they said their goodbyes until visiting hours the next day.

 

Then, it happened.

 

I was in the hub of our department where all the clinicians and nurses complete their notes, speak with doctors, and so on. From the corner of my eye, I saw Beth running to me from the registration department, shouting something. Then I heard what she kept screaming over and over. I felt like I was under water and someone was yelling something very serious, but it was all a muffled echo. My brain tried to take it all in.

 

“He’s got a knife.” “He’s got a knife.” “He’s got a knife,” Beth yelled pointing to registration. I didn’t have to ask where Bret was. I started running.

 

knifeAs I turned the corner into registration, there was my son …MY SON …pinned against the wall …with a knife pressing on his neck. A KNIFE ON HIS NECK! Someone’s got a knife!

 

I was in charge and I tried to focus, but in one second my brain took in the entire traumatic scene and then warped my mind a mile backward at what felt like the speed of light. What is that called when the brain does that? Disassociation? Paralyzing Trauma?

 

No, no, NO, I thought to myself. Then I was back.

 

“Hey,” I yelled.

 

It was Joe. I startled him. He looked at me still pressing the knife on Bret’s neck. Joe explained he knew we were the FBI and our plan was to kill him. He wanted out.

 

“You want out?” I asked. Without waiting for an answer I said “I’ll let you out.” Joe looked at me and then at my son.

 

“Joe, you let him go and come over to me,” I pleaded, “and I’ll get you out of here. I promise.” I aged 20 years waiting for a reply. Joe slowly took the knife off Bret’s neck and walked over to me brandishing his knife back and forth in front of him, and in front of me. We were face-to-face.

 

“Okay Joe, let’s go. Just follow me.”

 

Joe remained behind me with his knife at my back. I unlocked the door to leave registration. I hospital2could see my staff going towards Bret as we left. I took Joe down the main hallway—the one he used to come in. This way he would know I was keeping my promise and taking him back to the main doors. When a mob of staff appeared to join the fight I waved them back. Yes, Joe should have gone upstairs to an inpatient unit, but how many would be hurt getting that knife.

 

I walked Joe through the main doors and we entered the lobby. I told the receptionist to let him go and Joe walked out our main entrance and into the night.

 

Returning to our department, my staff had already called 911 and the police were outside waiting. Bret was fine. Everyone was okay. We learned the police had Joe in custody.

 

My son, in his late 20s at the time, laughed off the whole experience. No big deal for him. I, on the other hand, needed therapy for months after this event. Symptoms of Traumatic Stress plagued me. Even now, today, I close my eyes and see the image of my son being pinned against the wall with a knife at his throat. It’s been almost ten years but feels like last night. Thank God it’s all in my head!

 

FullSizeRender (6)Think about it.

drsandy@e-couch.net  ♦  ©All rights reserved 2014, Dr. Sandy Nelson, E-Couch.net

Fear: The Upgrade of Worry

Share

IMG_1783

We all know what fear feels like: that burning, hot, paralyzing sensation that erupts in the tummy and flows through the veins like lava; that weak, jelly-like feeling in the limbs; that shaky heart-throbbing Oh my God emotion; that I can’t breathe dizziness episode, well, need I go on? No one escapes fear.

Fear is often like a stow-away…it jumps on every other emotion for the ride.

Are you bummed out? Chances are fear is one of the feelings responsible. Anger is always accompanied by fear, and so is guilt. Wondering about getting hurt in a relationship? Getting laid-off? Getting dumped? Losing a loved one? Fear is the main ingredient there, too. Fear has many other names: terror, worry, apprehension, alarm, concern, fret, uneasiness, anxiety, distress, dread, and panic.

Fear is probably the worst feeling, along with depression, to encounter because it’s experienced physically as well as emotionally.

Psychiatrist and author of Worry: Hope and Help for a Common Condition, Dr. IMG_0727Edward Hallowell thinks people worry when they feel vulnerable and powerless. Worrying is used as a means to restore some sort of control—an attempt to reverse vulnerability and powerlessness. If we’re busy worrying, we feel a sense of control over the problem, even if that’s all we do about the dilemma—worry.

A type of worry—the worry or fear of uncertainty—has been shown to cause a devastating result.

Uncertainty is not knowing. It’s a situation that is unpredictable so an individual can’t determine what to think or do. Over a period of time this causes feeling of helplessness. Mounting evidence published in The Complete Guide to Your Emotions and Health, by Emrika Padus, shows that:

Worry over life’s uncertainties—those future “what-ifs” and past “if-onlys” that can drive us crazy with speculation—creates a particularly devastating kind of stress response…It’s what we don’t know (and can’t do anything about) that can really hurt us.

IMG_0322Uncertainty keeps a person in a constant state of semi-arousal which places an extreme burden on the body’s adaptive resources and resistance systems. Not knowing when something is going to happen or what is going to happen means having to stay on guard—tensed.

 

When worry escalates, the result is fear.

Fear floods the body with epinephrine. It’s most powerful effect is felt on the heart—both the rate and strength of contractions increase. Blood pressure soars. If the fear is intense enough, all systems can fatally overload.

Individuals who experience an intruding level of fear have one thing in common: a need for control.

Anxiety is a future-focused state and control has to do with uncertainty. We IMG_0307seek control of people in efforts to influence or guarantee the outcomes to situations that we want. Worry is often viewed as an attempt to control the future. In some cases we can even think that if we worry enough, a dreaded event won’t happen. The amount of fear and anxiety that we experience is influenced by our perceived ability to cope with what we fear.

The minds of worriers become dominated by fear.

But worrying does not provide security or safety. There is no way to eliminate uncertainty.

Think about it.

 

©All rights reserved, 2014, Dr. Sandy Nelson, E-Couch.net
Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com

Why Fun Is Important

Share

IMG_2316Do you think your childhood was packed away when you boxed up those Lego’s, Etch-A-Sketch, and coloring books? Do you think the kid you once were ceased to exist when you stopped using crayons? It’s a mistake to think that the kid you once were is part of your past along with Charlie Brown sheets and Play Mobile Sets. That young girl or boy is very much a part of your life today. He or she shows up at work every morning. In every relationship you experience, he or she is present. It’s not true that at some point you cease to be a kid because your body morphs into an adult.

If you’ve been working day and night, with no fun, you may be out of touch with your inner kid. He or she is that child-like part of you that is spontaneous, silly, playful, and comical. Adult sports, hobbies and interests are all expressions of play where fun and laughter surface.

Author and Life Coach, Martha Beck, writes: Having fun is not a diversion from a successful life; it is the pathway to it. http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Why-You-Need-More-Fun-in-Your-Life-Martha-Beck

Don’t feel guilty for having fun. The time you give to an activity that you enjoy is d5804b95c88b361a7bde79e79ebc2f78a solid investment in good health and success. There are well-documented benefits of fun and laughter. It relaxes the body, reduces stress and toxins, helps to relieve pain, improves the immune system and circulation, plus stimulates hormones that release feel-good endorphin’s. Research also shows that fun and laughter strengthens relationships and can help defuse quarrels. Wouldn’t you sign-up for this?

IMG_2353Even in the midst of difficulties, injecting some fun activities and laughter can go a long way towards reducing stress and providing a fresh perspective during tough times. Participating in anything that is fun helps to give the problem-solving and thinking part of the brain a break and cues the creative part where insights and imaginative ideas live.

Think about it.

 

©All rights reserved, 2014, Dr. Sandy Nelson, E-Couch.net
Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com