On My Way to Positive Change

Who Is That In The Mirror?

May I just say with all honesty, this is how I have felt looking in the mirror the last few years? Many of you may relate. I know I haven’t been liking what I saw in the mirror for some time, and it was getting worse every day. And all of the chronic pain and recurring depression that I’ve been experiencing could closely reflect this picture on this inside of me too – the fibro flare-ups, Uncle Arther, the back pain from years of lifting dead weight, the chronic tension headaches and migraines from chronic stress, chronic insomnia, and all of the other things I’d been experiencing and the abuses I’d put my body through were showing badly, and getting worse by the day. Not a pretty sight.

It was an unexpected wake up call to hit a wall to make me realize it was past time for a major overhaul, inside and out. I don’t want to see this in the mirror anymore, and I need to let my body recover from years of neglect and abuse. I think as women and mothers, we tend to learn early on to put our children and everyone’s needs in the forefront, and if we have the time or the energy left, we may or may not attend to our own needs. Nurses do the same…snacks and junk food to get through the long shifts when you don’t get a lunch or breaks (most of the time), fast or processed foods for dinner to make it easier to get the rest of the endless chores done in the evenings. And with my long drive to and from work, I was eating to stay awake. I can honestly say I set a bad pattern 35 years ago, and I did myself a great disservice.

I’d come to a place of complete collapse to finally make some life altering changes in how I chose to live. Gone are the days of trying to be supermom, super-nurse, and the proverbial door mat at work that has allowed too any medical bullies to erode my self confidence and cause my blood pressure to escalate. I’m looking forward to living a healthier life in a completely new way, but it hasn’t been easy to break a life time of bad habits. It’s actually been like breaking an addiction…at a different level. Changing a life time of habits when you’re 53 isn’t easy, and I now have a greater compassion for the patients I used to care for that shared their frustrations in their difficulties of changing lifetime patterns-because that’s now me.

I’m looking to natural healing and holistic living methods now to find my way back to where I am meant to be. My bed and couch are surrounded by books on Reiki, yoga and healthier diets just to name a few. I’m taking time to sleep, read, meditate, learn simple and restorative yoga and meditation, and reading my Bible and filling my empty spiritual banks back up. God didn’t intend for us to live defeated lives. I’m watching everything I put in my mouth-instead of watching everything as I put it into my mouth! I’m tired of the multiple daily rounds of pills for blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, for sleep, for aches and pains, and I’m thinking I’d like to keep my liver and kidneys for awhile longer-so I’m trying to ward off the Excedrin and Aleve. It’s amazing the patterns we allow ourselves to fall into for the sake of saving time and a little convenience. I remember lecturing my patients about self care for years in the cardiac units… patient teaching I preached but didn’t practice.

It will be a slow journey back to complete health and wellness, as it’s taken a lot of time to get to where I am now. But anything worth having is worth the pain and effort of change, and healing and wellness are now my priority. I want to be the mom who really listens, the grandma who gets out and plays with the grand-kids…instead of just watching them from my rocker. I want to be the person who can get out into the community and volunteer. I want to be the wife who isn’t too tired to enjoy her husband. I want to become the woman I set out to be so long ago – that makes a difference in this lifetime, not as just a wife, mother, and a nurse, but as a human being who made a real difference and helped change lives for the better. And I’m believing it will happen, one day at a time.

My Unforgettable Nurse Mentor, Carol Ann

I’ll never forget my nurse mentor who guided me though my first year of being a LPN, and then continued to mentor me until I became an RN. Her name was Carol Ann… and God forbid if you called her “just Carol”! She was the best nurse I could have hoped to mentor me. She was kind, compassionate, a wonderful teacher, could get the most difficult IV’s put in the oddest places when no one else had success-and most importantly-she protected me from the realities of the bullies on our unit…she could brilliantly take them down with a look or a few terse words. I couldn’t have been more blessed.

I started out my career working on the telemetry unit, where I had to learn to read EKG strips placed in the patients charts every 4 hours. I’ll never forget my first experience with them-it was like Algebra or a foreign language to me, and I was sure I’d never get it. Carol Ann would take me into her office and work with me each shift, and then one day my inner light bulb lit up – and I GOT it! I was so excited, and she shared in my joy. She reminded me over and over of how smart I was, that I could learn anything, and to never give up on learning new things. I’ve come to see now how rare this kind of gift is these days in nursing, and I wish every new nurse could have a mentor like her.

The saddest memory I have of her was after I had left the department years later, and a younger nurse who had been one of the student’s she had trained transferred into her unit, and decided she wanted Carol Ann’s position as charge nurse that she had held for over 14 years and was excellent at. Her husband had end stage COPD, and she had the hours and the days she needed to work-in order to care for him at home. I found out that the nurse she had so lovingly mentored had turned a situation with Carol Ann around into something it wasn’t, and the manager of the unit was friends with the younger student and had taken her side. Carol Ann was removed from her position, and black-balled by the nursing staff throughout the hospital. I’d never been so sick over the undoing of this wonderful RN, and astounded that she had been alienated by this hospital system where she had served and mentored so many new nurses so faithfully. Years later, Karma prevailed, and the nurse received what she had sewed, but not before hurting a wonderful person.

Always think before you speak, have pure intentions when you act, and always remember what you do will come back to you – whether good or bad, in one way or another. The world is a hard enough place to exist right now, filled with enough struggles of its own. Kindness, compassion, understanding, and showing unconditional love is what counts in this life…and what makes the world a better place. I will never forget you Carol Ann.