STORIES OF THE GATE: PARTY ON MY WRIST

Barriers and keys allowing only staff to enter and exit define a locked psychiatric ward. I always have three keys with me at work: a key to the locked wards, a key to all the offices, and a key to the fire extinguisher cabinet. (The fire extinguisher used to be accessible to everyone until patients began misusing them.) I don’t carry metal keys in my pockets because they rip them, so instead I wear my keys on a circular plastic wristband. After we were also required to carry the fire extinguisher lock-box key, I sounded like one of Santa’s reindeer wherever I went.

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I’m always trying to lighten the mood as I go through the security gate at the naval hospital where I work. I often smile and jingle my wrist as I stick my arm out the car window to present my ID to the security guards. Sometimes I add, “Party on my wrist!” Either way, I can usually coax a smile from the guard. When we live with chronic illness, we have to make the most of every healthy day. Forcing myself to create good cheer in an otherwise mundane moment is one way I achieve that.

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