Oh no. OH NO…that was my first thought when I saw a spoon inside of the empty jar of peanut butter on Ms.__’s bureau. This was going to be a problem. My mind immediately flashed back to the last time she had over indulged in her favorite food…I didn’t think my scrubs would EVER come clean.
Ms.___ isn’t allergic to peanut butter. She ADORES it. The problem is it doesn’t adore her. It wreaks havoc on her stomach. Still, she isn’t on the locked unit and is free to come and go as she pleases. Every so often, what she pleases is to go to Walmart and buy peanut butter in bulk.
Even so, I was surprised that she relapsed on her peanut butter addiction after last time. It was a mess of EPIC proportions. We were short staffed that day and the daunting task of cleaning her, the wheelchair, the floor, and the bed up fell solely on my shoulders, two person transfer be damned. It took over an hour to get the situation under control, only to have to repeat the whole scene again in the afternoon. By the end of that shift, both of us solemnly swore “never again”.
“So much for solemn oaths,” I thought ruefully as I retrieved the empty container. My frustration must have been evident on my face because she wheeled over to me with such a look of regret that I immediately felt bad for her.
“I’m so sorry, Alice,” she whispered, “I couldn’t help it.”
My heart just melted. Here was a relatively young woman, only fifteen years older than me, apologizing for indulging in one of the few joys she has in life. Here I was internally whining about having to clean up a mess that hadn’t even occurred yet. Shame on me for that; for being more concerned about the amount of my work than the happiness of my resident. This woman has been in a wheelchair from childhood, has been in facilities for years and has survived unimaginable losses. If occasionally eating a whole jar of peanut butter brings her more joy than pain, then so be it.
I thought back to when I first noticed her growing fondness for binge eating peanut butter and realized that it was shortly after losing her husband. The time after that was when a good friend of hers had passed suddenly. I made the connection. Maybe the fact that I had been going through the wringer myself and had over indulged in ice cream despite what it does to my stomach helped me recognize what was staring me in the face. I sat down on the edge of her bed, took her hands in mine and said the words that helped me through my own struggles,
“Peanut butter is a good temporary fix, but if you ever need to talk I am right here. It’s ok to be scared. It’s ok to feel badly. You are not alone and I am in your corner. Always.”…We all have our peanut butter solutions.