Empathic Cross Wires During A Manic State

Drawing by Adrian Serghie

Provided by Scherezade Ozwulo from Scherezade’s Labyrinth

*trigger warning: mental health will be discussed not as judgment against the sufferer but as observation of the caretaker*

Last night was rough. Really rough; so rough in fact that I still feel it the next day as I’m writing this post. Actually, last night as I was enduring, I was writing it in my head

My job was to sit. My job is as sitter within the hospital for patients who are “antsy” e.g. flight risks, elopers, or confused etc. Last night my charge was a young man who at first glance seems put together, we introduced ourselves and the person I relieved gave report (highlights of the patient’s day/attitude which was all positive) and left us to our evening

As the sun dipped behind the horizon I noticed my charge’s conversation becoming erratic, nonsensical; several lines of their recently penned rap song being rehearsed at random times after a unrelated conversation or while holding a conversation, constantly getting up to go to the bathroom, looking for things not I could see, and long monologues about anything or anybody (who I’d never met); it dawned on me this young man was struggling with something

As the dusk became night, the young man became increasingly agitated, buzzing the call light for his nurse for a list of random things in his mind which he knew the hospital had but he really didn’t need; he was hungry so he demanded food but associated increased hunger from the saline IV he fingered constantly accusing the nurses of putting “drugs”in it; I constantly redirected him for fear he would snatch it out his arm

I was accused of being a cop (which he later filled me in that he despised) and just as quickly he apologized for his aggressive behavior; up and down, call light buzzed, walking around the room, stopping to “test” the locked window, fingering the IV in his arm: a series of fast paced events and moods I had no choice but to roll with as his sitter. Given meds to help him sleep; this was when my night fell into his Hell.


My charge never fell asleep, instead I was forced to listen to him confront and/or laugh with figurative and/or literally dead friends and acquaintances in between his rants of lucidity. He actually had dreams and aspirations, positive thoughts he felt freely to discuss with me- a physical person occupying his space. I was happy for his reality in real time and wished him all the well

As soon as his eyes would close, he was faced with “demons” only he could see; I was observer of this one sided conversation. Intermittently, my charge talked of God, his gift for music, life on the streets, politics, signs in astrology, his purpose to make it. His view: money wasn’t everything but his message imminent all quick fast and in a hurry

My head spun with so much of his information.

Attempting to sleep, my charge tosses and turns; a second dose of sleep meds administered and no relief- no affect on this tortured psyche. The lights off, television off nothing can bring him peace. Night going into early morning, the one sided conversations grew in frequency sometimes expletive laced, a far off laugh to a private joke only he knew, or a random retort to the shadows dancing off the recliner

At one point, a foam cup of water goes flying across the room; I decide to turn the light on to not only clean up the water but to give his mind some reprieve. My charge is disheveled, eyes drooping but his mind is still going; he tells me to turn off the light so he can sleep but we both know what’s going to happen

Late night turns to the sun peaking through the purple of the new dawn and he finally sleeps but with one caveat; body twitches signifying a fight or running- still no rest once his body says no more

As caregiver, my empathic waves are crossed within his. What he feels, I definitely feel within my teeth as they bite down, my jaw is sore. As he talks I try to decipher truth from fiction as much as possible (since I dont know him) not because I’m trying find fallacy but searching for accuracy within his stories- to have it make some sense of origin

He’s manic, period and that’s it.

As he lay in final throes of sleep deprivation- body twitching, I cried. I cried because my grandfather who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, does this. Fights, visions, hallucinations of his past present and future indivisible, its maddening, torturous, destructive.

Now, I see what it is to be afflicted with a neurological disorder that consumes the psychological; the psychological dismembered by life experiences where reality does in fact meet fiction

At the end of my shift, I was worn. Worn from being the passenger aboard this young man’s vessel; angry because I was made to be aboard this young man’s vessel. A vessel I’m not equipped to handle if it had gotten waaayyy out of control. Even still, when leaving I wrote a nice message onto his room board wishing him plenty luck in his goals and to keep following his dreams. I meant what I said regardless of how I was reconciling the evening’s events.

Tonight, I’m with someone new but I know as soon as dusk falls, it starts all over again for this young man. To be honest, I can go and visit him but I would be sucked back into his space- my body needs the rest just as much as his does. However, I pray he gets the help he needs so a brighter clearer future lies ahead for him.

I won’t forget him. I can’t forget him.

Originally posted on Scherezade’s Labyrinth

7 thoughts on “Empathic Cross Wires During A Manic State

  1. Scherezade’s a tough woman. I couldn’t do that. And she’s right that she is not equipped to handle it – it takes a lot of experience and knowledge of mental illness to work with people in manic episodes. I don’t doubt Scherezade has knowledge or experience 😉 but those situations are exhausting (and you’d have to read her blog to see that she’s already busy!). I think a lot of us have had these experiences, either with people we know and love or otherwise. We all need more info on how to handle this stuff. At least, I’d like some. Thank you so, so much Scherezade for your work! It takes a strong person and you make it sound beautiful.

    1. Thank you Alexandra😊 I try to be tough, gotta be for my two boys. I definitely wont forget that day or him for that matter. I was totally mentally drained and ready to throw in the towel, but God’s Grace kept me calm for this patient.

  2. Bless you, and bless that poor young man who is so severely afflicted by whatever chemical mayhem he’s going through. I’ve had some bouts of this, not nearly as severe, and I know that you helped him more than you can ever understand. Having someone there to redirect you, to be an anchor to reality, to show compassion and love – that makes all the difference. Thank you for sharing this, and being so strong for your patient.

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