This month was a bit of a struggle, reading-wise. I started with a different book in mind and it wasn’t that great. Then Bonnie Price, a fellow blogger, recommended a book that I started but am still reading. I’m a multi-book reader, so this month’s review is on the other book I was reading at the time. (No worries, Bonnie! Your recommendation is coming up next month.)
I got “Weekends at Bellevue” at a book sale, and I was super curious. I love books about mental health facilities, mainly because I spent most of my career working at two. I was a mental health technician/associate, depending on the facility I’m referring to. I was at one facility for one year and the other for four.
If you don’t know what that is, think of it as a CNA with a BA in Clinical Psychology. I am not a CNA, but I did pretty much everything that covers. This was not always easy, but it was almost always fun.
I do know I will never work in geriatrics again, and thanks to not being able to perform a chokehold defense move thanks to my thyroid surgery, I’m pretty much retired from this line of work. I’m okay with this. My rheumatologist would not be happy to see me still doing physical managements with kids twice my size five days a week.
Lily and I were actually a “tech and a half” at one point (I was pregnant while working at one facility) and I literally have scars from working at the other. That happens when you have a 15-year-old hit you in the face with a stereo cord. My right eyebrow has not been the same since. That’s just one example, and I can’t make this stuff up if I wanted to. I have a full post devoted to this time- Real Stories of a (Former) Mental Health Worker
If you’ve never heard of Bellevue, feel free to look it up on Google. It is a very large hospital in New York City and has a very long and not-so-glorious history behind it. I’ve read another book about its history and I was glued to every page. This book, however, tells the story of a 3rd shift physician in charge, Dr. Julie Holland. She was there for 9 years.
It’s hard to work in a mental health facility. It takes a toll on you, physically and emotionally. This is why the turnover is so high. You see and hear things that you cannot unsee or unhear, and it’s hard to process. If you are involved in physical managements, you run the risk of getting hurt. I worked on one of the “worst” units in the second facility and loved those kids.
They may have been aggressive, loud and destructive, but for the most part, it was not entirely their fault. They also needed love, direction, and other things. You cannot leave work at a mental health facility changed, and I didn’t. Dr. Holland somewhat mentions that in the book. It certainly helped me put Julian’s diagnosis into perspective, among many other things.
Dr. Holland did a great job in explaining the symptoms of certain mental illnesses for those who don’t understand because there are many who don’t. I appreciate that, even though I knew exactly what she was talking about.
She broke things down in an understandable but not condescending way. That makes it even better. She explains what led her to psychiatry because anyone who works in psychology has a story. She also dedicated a chapter to how a day goes in the ER of Bellevue.
My story is simple- I want to help others. I originally wanted to be a child therapist, but I honestly didn’t want to go to grad school after having two kids while getting my BA. What’s next? I have no idea.
Throughout the book, she balances telling how her life flows in and out of the hospital. She watches a friend get sick from cancer (no spoilers here), gets married, has babies and even works on Christmas. When you’re Jewish, working on Christmas isn’t really on your radar.
Dr. Holland experiences a lot while she works at Bellevue, and it leads her to make some life changes. What are those changes? You will have to read to find out!