Reality

Because just in case the usual aches and pains of my days aren’t enough…

I fell yesterday. I was going out to the grill to check on the chicken, and my leg gave out and I fell to the deck floor in a heap. I stayed there for a time. Assessing the situation, because my foot was twisted in one direction and my hip twisted in another, and I was alone. It took me a few moments to first recover from the pain, and then figure out how I was going to upright myself without further twisting my already inflamed joints.

A day later, and my knee is still protesting my clumsiness, making it hard just to lift myself from a sitting position.

And I wonder how my shift is going to go tonight.

An already physically demanding job is getting more physically demanding, because on night shift, we have lost not just a few nurses, but a few techs as well. It’s the story of bedside nursing across the country. RNs being asked to do more and more with less and less.

July will be a year since I graduated nursing school and started my career as a bedside nurse at a community hospital. I like what I do. The environment is rich with learning experiences, and the team (or what’s left of it at the moment) is great. But more night shifters are on their way out, and despite the promise of another group of nurse and tech graduates starting in the summer, it wont be until late fall until they are ready to work on their own and make a difference in the holes in the schedule.

I’m just not sure if I can wait that long. My days off are spent recovering from balancing the demands of my job with the chronic pain I suffer from, as well as keeping up with laundry, cooking, and food shopping. Relationships are suffering, too. My marriage is under enormous strain right now, and my daughter is hitting some important milestones as a high school junior: SATs, prom, sports events…

I’ve applied to graduate school, to finish my education as a Family Nurse Practitioner, in hopes I can bow out of my job with a more appealing excuse besides, “it hurts too much,” or “I can’t keep up.” But the reality is setting in that if I dont make it in this year, I may have to find a nursing job doing something else.

Because it hurts too much. And I just can’t keep up.

Self Care

I’m feeling guilty for not having done much of anything with my past 2 days. I’ve been extraordinarily fatigued, so I’ve spent the major part of my time either on the couch or in bed. I know the sudden surge in fatigue levels is partially due to my hormones, and I know it will come to an end (or at least be more manageable), but there is so much I have to get done that just isn’t getting done: ACLS studying, filing the family taxes, batch cooking, helping mom organize her expense ledger… and that’s just the beginning.

If this was someone else’s blog, I’d leave a comment about self care, and that sometimes that means that in doing nothing, you’re doing something: you’re giving your body the time and rest it needs in the moment it needs it. I’d go on to say something about how our society celebrates the idea of running ourselves into the ground, and how that serves no one in the end: not the individual, and not society.

I need to learn to listen to my own advice.

That’s not how it works…

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Any given day, I fluctuate between a 5-7, which is a vast improvement from what life was like before diagnosis and treatment, when I was 0-3. The response I got when I posted this on FB? “This year’s goal, a 9!”

Um, that’s not how chronic illness works. I’m no longer in treatment, and I’m coming to terms with my own limitations. I appreciate the positive attitude and well wishes, but to tell me that I should be aiming for a 9 perpetuates the idea that I’m not doing enough, not being enough… Just. Not. Enough.

I could go on, but I wont. Not at this time. Besides, I know many others who have faced similar situations and have more eloquently discussed why this pervasive “do more” attitude actually does more to hurt than to help.

Disconnected

I’ve been feeling disconnected for quite some time. Since this summer really. And it’s been hindering my ability to write.

I used to write quite a bit. It was how I processed thoughts, emotions, stress, etc. I created this blog to help me record and process my journey with Lyme disease, and my continuing journey to become a health care provider to other sufferers. I wrote through bouts of brain fog. I wrote through stressful moments like final exams. I wrote in an attempt to distract myself from the unending pain. But lately, I’ve largely been silent.

Journaling is something our nursing instructors encouraged us to do after every shift when we finally landed our first nursing positions. They used to tell us that the day would inevitably come where we’d be brought before a judge in some legal case and need to defend our actions and our charting. But if you were to look at my nursing journal, you’d barely see more than a week or two of entries.

Why?

I’ve noticed my writing slipped to the wayside this past summer. And a couple of things happened this summer that might be at play here. First, the new nursing job. I’m an RN on an intermediate care unit and I work night shift, 7p to 7a. When I asked a fellow RN (who graduated with me and we started our jobs at the same hospital the same week) if she was feeling a similar disconnect, she reminded me that I “give so much of myself at work, that whatever is leftover, I save for myself.” And that feels like it could be part of the answer, but I’m not convinced it’s the only thing going on. It is true, however, that I give wholly of myself on each shift. So much so, that I need to be completely alone for a few hours before my shift, and when I come home, I eat and collapse in bed, avoiding discussion about my shift beyond a grunt or two.

But something else happened this summer. Something that was wonderful and painful all in the same breath. A special someone from my past that had resurfaced months before was now planning a visit to my home. And every moment that we shared was beautiful and exciting and completely loving. But after the visit was over, and without going into too much detail, phone calls were painful. They were hurtful, and even hateful. I remember breaking down into tears more than once while words were exchanged between us.

So we don’t talk like we used to before our visit. Thoughtful texts from time to time, but not a single phone call. I’m left with beautiful flashes of moments shared between us, which make me ache inside for reasons I have yet to really tease apart. But those moments are tarnished with the recollection of hurtful words spat at each other, words that caused me to make the decision that there will be certain subjects that will forever be off limits should we ever speak again.

One of those subjects? My illness. Lyme disease. Something that *is* such a huge part of my life, not just because of the physical toll it has taken on my body, but the direction my life has taken because of it: my current nursing career and my future goal as a nurse practitioner.

Another friend of mine thinks the disconnection has more to do with the latter scenario… That I need to properly grieve and work through this pain before I reconnect with my own thoughts and write the way I used to. And this also feels like a reasonable piece to the puzzle, but it’s not the entire answer.

And so I feel stuck. I need to figure out a strategy to deal with the changes and lingering grief, and reconnect…

 

So much exhaustion, so much pain…

I hadn’t written in some time, maybe because I don’t want to confess to the difficulties I’m currently facing, but sometimes all it takes is a few words from someone who can empathize with your struggles to free the words and give voice to so much silence.

I’m 4+ months into my new job as an RN. I work two twelve hour shifts a week, which is part time, since three 12 hour shifts a week is full time. And I’m not sure if it’s the job or the weather or the fact that I’m on night shift (and probably all three are factors), but my pain and my fatigue is getting to disheartening levels.

Chronic pain is depressing. It’s demoralizing. It’s exhausting.

And I feel horrible complaining because I know all my co-workers, to some extent, deal with pain, too. So I don’t complain. Or at least, I try really hard not to.

And I don’t even complain on my blogs anymore, because for starters I don’t feel “safe” anymore on one of them. I feel judged. Someone I know who reads them has said hurtful things, mean things, and so I don’t share like I used to. I probably shouldn’t allow anyone to take take away what was once a helpful coping mechanism, but I’m just not sure how to navigate the possible fall out of that right now.

I’m not in a good place right now. I’m too tired and too sore and I’m taking more pain relievers than I really want to just to make it through. And I’m tired of being thankful and I’m tired of staying positive and I really want to complain a whole lot to anyone who will listen. But I’m not sure it will do any good and I’m not always certain anyone wants to hear it…