Chapter 2: A Little Crisis of Self-Confidence
A/N: I said I might do a companion piece, and I guess the time is right. A rainy Sunday afternoon when I'm meant to be revising for a Law exam tomorrow. Can anyone think of a more perfect time to write? This second chapter will be written from Carter's viewpoint, and the timescale is the same as with the first.
I don't think working in this ER will ever become any easier.
Sure, I've been here for almost eight years now. Made my way up the hierarchy of the medical profession, as they say. I'm sure I ought to have gained more experience than I have by now.
Maybe I have, but I just haven't learnt from it. Because time and time again, I find myself making the same mistakes. I didn't think that was supposed to happen.
Patients die. I was their doctor, their caregiver.
I was the one who their relatives and friends trusted to make better, and I fail. Not every time, a good proportion of my patients walk out of the ER, out of the hospital smiling and thanking me for how I treated them.
But although I try, I can't escape the thoughts of those who don't make it.
I've tried to get other people's perceptions on this. I'm not stupid, I realise that other people have insecurities and I'm not the only person on this earth - hell, in the ER - who has gone through a little crisis of selfconfidence once in a while.
Mark Greene tried to make his feelings clear on the subject. Basically he said to stop sweating it, that sometimes people can't be saved. Whether he was talking about the influx of patients that visit us daily, or me and my endless thinking, I don't know. A piece of wisdom, nevertheless.
Susan laughed at me for a while. Should have expected that, I guess, she's been a little more light-hearted since she came back from Arizona. Not that I'm ungrateful, since the old Susan would never have gone out with me. But she has a new habit of not taking problems that I find awkward, seriously. After the laughter, which went on for at least an hour, or maybe two minutes, she saw my expression. I guess I must have looked a little peturbed, since she tried to console me.
"You're a fantastic doctor, John. Would you still be in the ER if you weren't?"
Good point, although Malucci survived for two years before being found out as an incompetent impostor of a human being and thrown onto the streets.
Peter's gone, and I don't want to disturb his new life. I got the point when he left, I've got to come to terms with the reality that this is my life.
Not anyone else's, mine. What I do with it is my business, and it reflects on me.
I could have asked any multitude of employees at County. I'm well-liked, at least I think I am. But rumours would spread, and I don't want to feel any more insecure than I already do. Believe me, I do a good job of beating myself up already. I don't need any help from the gossip mill.
I would have asked Abby, but the way she's been acting lately, she'd be more harm than good. I have a feeling our conversation would go something like this:
Me: Abby, do you think I'm a bad doctor?
Her: Of course not. You've grown up with millions in the bank, can have any woman in this hospital you want, and walked into the chief resident position without any effort at all. With credentials like that, how on earth could you fail?
If you take the first three words of that conversation, I could turn it into something I may possibly want to hear. The following monologue, however, I would rather not subject myself to.
She really has been that bad over the last couple days, weeks even. It's hard to talk to her without receiving either a grunt or a snap in reply. I tried to ask her what was wrong, tried to see if it was her mother or money problems or whatever, but she shot me down, and told me to go play in my pool full of money with 'the new hot blonde doctor'.
That put me in my place.
When I was near the nurses station the other day, I heard something about bothersome neighbours, and I think it was Abby who spoke.
Hell, I know it was Abby who spoke. I could recognise her voice anywhere.
Anyway, a lot of noise was mentioned. Sounds as though she's not been getting a lot of sleep, and her behaviour at work definitely backs up my theory.
It's amazing what profound thoughts you can have during a mere fifteen minute break. The insecurities and... other thoughts, have to be pushed out of my mind now my break is over. Even I know it's good to have a time to purge your emotions now and again, but not when there are patients to treat, and the woman you want to see starts her shift in ten minutes.
Uh-oh. Sometime between when I went into the staffroom and when I wandered out of it, Weaver went on the attack. No-one's said anything, but I can tell from the defeated expressions and the solemn workforce that nurses and doctors alike have received a severe talking-to.
Someone bumps into me, and I turn to see Abby walking alongside me, already carrying a bunch of charts and a harassed expression.
"Whar are you doing here? I thought your shift didn't start til eleven," I ask her, trying as best as I can to sound as though I couldn't care less. I'm just John Carter, aloof boy. Man.
"Came in early. Just in time to witness Weaver on the warpath, which you conveniently managed to miss," she says, with just the slightest trace of malice. I have no idea why the malice is there, but it is, and I suppose I must have done something to deserve it.
"Hey, I've seen her pissed off many more times than you have," hoping that the hint of a smile on my face will relax her, take away the hostility that seems to be destined for me.
Finally, a smile, the first one I've seen since... I don't remember when.
"I'll believe it when I see it. Bet you've never seen her pissed off at a vending machine that won't give her the packet of Cheetos she so desperately wants, and manages to turn it into a diatribe on the incompetence of the entire staff of this hospital, not just the maintenance man."
I can picture Kerry Weaver doing that so clearly. It sounds exactly like her. But whilst listening to Abby's description, I've walked too far, and will have to walk back to my destination, Curtain 3.
"Listen, I'm going to have to go, you know, the patients." You know, the patients? Nice going, John. Is that what you do, treat patients? I thought you sold peanuts. "But we haven't talked for ages. I've missed this-"
I was about to say we should meet at Doc's, maybe get something to eat next time we're on the same shift, but her expression darkens when I mention the length of time it's been since we've really talked, and I find myself being interrupted.
"Well, I've been here, Carter. Don't blame me for your inability to seek help from someone other than Dr. Lewis."
She disappears round the corner, and I know better than to follow her. And before you can say speak of the devil,
"John? Curtain 3 needs a glucose test, Mr. de Silva's been waiting for over an hour."
Susan appears from nowhere, and god knows how she appears to understand the needs of my patients better than I do.
Oh, I forgot - I'm a bad doctor with issues.
"I'm on my way," I say, more curtly than she deserves, and turn around to walk back the way I came. I underestimate my companion though, and she keeps pace with me, talking all the way.
"Was that Abby I saw you with? She's not even supposed to be in yet... I've tried to talk to her, even I can see she's run down, but I guess she can't accept help from me. I don't know what I've done, but it sometimes seems as though she takes everything I say personally.... John? Is there something wrong?"
I stop outside my destination, realizing that my expression must have given away more than I intended. "I'm fine. Glucose tests, rundown nurses, everything's going like clockwork."
And leaving a bewildered Susan staring after me, I assume my doctorly pose, and sweep into Curtain Three, saying jovially to Mario de Silva, "Hanging in there, Mr De Silva? Just your glucose test to check your sugar levels, and then you'll be free to go back home."
I hate thinking at work. It's almost never productive.
Take today; I alienated two people who I care about, and compromised the care of a patient because I was too busy fretting about my troubles.
There are people out there who have it so much harder than I do, yet they don't complain. They take what was given to them in life and turn it around. They become happy with their lot in life.
I can't say that I have ever suffered true hardship. I've suffered emotional pain, but I have never known the fear of wondering where my next meal is coming from.
I have a good house, a family who pull together when they are desperately needed (I may be feeling generous, but even I know my parents are not the best), and a good job.
I am good at what I do.
I have a girlfriend, if you can call Susan a girlfriend. I'm not sure what we are to each other, but I know that I am glad to have her in my life again.
I have friends in my workplace, and I appreciate their presence.
See? No need to complain. I'm fine.
The fact that I'm worrying about anything and everything these days is merely the effect of stress. A few weeks off work should rejuvenate me; because if they don't, I'll end up like Abby is at the moment. Tired, worried, and snappish.
Maybe my time away from her will give me some perspective on where we stand these days. I know I've confused her, I've confused myself as well. Time off work, maybe away from Chicago.
I'm sure that's all I need...
A/N: I might make this into a series so we can see what happens after Carter goes away. We'll see....