Risky Business

There are a couple of iconic things about this movie. Tom Cruise dancing in his underwear, and this line: Sometimes you gotta say, what the fuck.

Spoiler alert! If profuse profanity offends you, stop reading now.

One of my all time favorite patients at the Minneapolis VAMC was Harold. He looked like the Muppet Professor guy, minus the lab coat. And he was more…round.

Harold was bipolar, and he often came into the hospital extremely manic. His mania was med resistant; it took a looong time to get him stabilized. When I worked nights, we would talk for hours. Well, Harold did most of the talking. I nodded a lot. Harold had a kind of old guy cartoon voice. I loved to hear him speak.

The same thing would happen when I worked the day shift. Harold would shuffle up to the nursing station and ramble on and on and on about anything that popped into his head. Some of the nurses I worked with found Harold to be very annoying, and they wanted me to tell Harold to go away.

“Well, I see it this way,” I said to my annoyed co-workers. “I can either let Harold come to me, or we can move the entire nursing station into his room. This seems like the easiest thing to do.”

But we discuss private information! Harold could overhear something about the other patients!

“When have you ever seen Harold actually listen to anyone?” I replied. Some of my co-workers started thinking I was pretty annoying, too.

All things must pass, and even Harold’s mania eventually lost its grip. We set a date and prepared him for discharge. I tended to be Harold’s nurse most of the time, for good or bad, so I was helping him get dressed after he had showered. I had him sit on his bed while I tied his shoes, and then Harold started crying. And by crying I mean he sobbed like a toddler that had just dropped his ice cream cone.

“What’s going on, bud. Aren’t you happy to be going home?”

“Yes, but you guys have been so nice to me, and I’ve been such a pain in the ass!” More sobs.

I had been a psych nurse for 13 years or so by this time, and I had learned to read people pretty well. And by read I don’t mean read like reading a book. I mean read in the same way a blind person reads Braille. It’s a feeling. It’s a touch.

“Harold, have I ever lied to you?” I asked. I was sure I’d never lied to him, mostly because I rarely got to speak to him.

“N-no,” he stammered through his tears.

“Well, I’m gonna tell you the truth. You were never a pain in my ass.”

“Really?” he stopped sobbing. “I’ll bet you’re gonna say, Man, I sure am glad that son of bitch is out of here after I leave.”

“Harold, I would never say that about you.”

“Oh yeah, I’ll bet you say I sure am glad that bastard’s out of here.”

It was at this precise moment I decided to say what the fuck.

“I would never say that about you, you son of a bitch.”

“Ha!” Harold snorted. He had stopped crying. “I’ll bet you say I sure am glad that motherfucker’s out of here!” I resumed tieing Harold’s shoes.

“I would never say that about you, you bastard.”

“Hahaha!” Harold giggled. “I’ll bet you say I sure am glad that cocksucker’s out of here!” I finished tieing his shoes, and looked him in the eye.

“I would never say anything like that about you, you motherfucker.”

“Hahahahahahahahaha!” Harold laughed. He looked like he was going to do a cartwheel across the room. “Godammit, Mark! I like you! I’m gonna buy you…a new refrigerator!”

Home run.

I don’t recommend using this technique with patients to anyone. Ever. If I were anyone other than myself, I doubt I would’ve tried it. But I do lead a blessed life, or so I’ve been told of late, and right now that appears to be an indisputable truth.

I wonder if any of my former co-workers are saying, I sure am glad that son of a bitch is out of here…

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