It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was in this picture with my beloved grandmother, mother, oldest daughter, and newest granddaughter! I was early into my career and it felt like I was successfully keeping up with my family, my career, and I had my ducks in a row. Within a few years of this picture, my life would begin to unravel into chaos, going in too many directions that I was not prepared to go.
Life has a way of doing that. It will hand you the ridiculous, the crazy, and incomprehensible with no notice. Inexplicable heartaches, they are inevitable. But mine began coming, and wouldn’t stop. My 29 yr old younger brother passed away unexpectedly from kidney failure, my grandmother passed away, and then during the period of one year alone, my husband received a cancer diagnosis, my father nearly died from heart disease and infectious pneumonia and underwent several surgeries, my son was brought to my door by law enforcement and I found out that my father had molested him when he was 13 and he had developed a drug addiction over the years to cope, and to top it all off, my oldest daughter disappeared without warning, and we went for months either hearing nothing, or would occasionally get one of those bone chilling calls from law enforcement saying that they believed our daughter was either dead-or severely injured. It just kept coming.
Instead of using my insight as a nurse and evaluating the signs and symptoms of burnout that I was beginning to have back then and addressing them, I shoved them down and just kept allowing myself to be everything to everyone, leaving no time for myself. It took almost 4 months to find my daughter and get her back with her daughters, and since then we’ve gone through court and jail episodes, hospitalization for newly diagnosed bipolar disorder, homelessness and the list goes on; my son has battled his addiction demons and still struggles; my youngest has experienced severe depression periodically; and not long after that, my mother suffered from a nearly fatal stroke that stole nearly a year of her life. And last month, we found out my husband’s cancer has returned. Life has been unraveling in the most brutal of ways.
In the last year and a half, I’ve gone through 2 traumatic work experiences that have made me reevaluate my profession. What ultimately did me in was dealing with physician bullies on a daily basis, and no support from management. The daily verbal bullying and belittling caused me headaches and heartache, and I felt stripped of any self confidence or worth as a nurse-and I was too tired to fight back. I had lost all of the joy and confidence I once had of being an excellent nurse who gave my heart and soul to my profession for 15 years. I began having panic attacks prior to or during work in the last few months of my job. And then one morning last month, I simply.. couldn’t.. do it anymore. I tried to get up and brush the dust off and keep going, but my tanks were empty – because I had neglected to fill them for too long.
I took a break from life to rest. Some part of me hoped that all I needed to do was rest for a little while…and then I could hop back on the pathway to functioning again. ONLY MY BODY IS NO LONGER HOPPING. I’m still exhausted, and when I think about walking back into a nursing role again, my mind is flooded with doubts and fears of the unknown…can I still do it? Will there be more work place bullies somewhere else too (of course there will be!)? And if a doctor were to become inappropriately hateful again, would I have the self control not to strangle him with my stethoscope- or would I hurl a sharp or heavy object at his head (probably)? And my body. It hurts…it’s rebelling…it thinks its 83, not 53…HOW DO YOU RESET THAT???
I humbly accepted the fact today that I am only human. Though I feel broken and let down by life, I will get back up. I’ve had to accept that it will take more time than I’d hoped to heal. We are a lot like automobiles…if you don’t maintenance them, they will break down. The fact is, if you don’t take care of yourself and tend to your needs, you may find yourself face down on the rock floor of life as I did…and you DON’T want to be there. It doesn’t seem possible that so many years have gone by so quickly since that picture; and some days I don’t recognize this older woman I see in the mirror. But I will remind myself daily that my hope comes from God who gives me the strength I need, one day at a time. I watch inspiring videos and look at the children in posts on FB and different media battling cancer and other diseases with a smile, of the homeless and starving all around us, things that remind me of how lucky I actually am…I have not walked in the shoes of so many who are so much worse off and have gone through much more than I could imagine. I’m keeping a gratitude journal now, recording things daily that I am grateful for-to remind me that God is taking care of everything and it will all work together for good. “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present” (Alice Morse Earle). Ending on a positive note…I’m healing, I’m trusting, I’m forgiving, and I will get to get to where I’m meant to be – in His time.