The stress of change

I’ve spent a lot of time feeling (very) comfortable in my role as a clinical Nurse/Supervisor for more than 30 years. I got to the point in my career where it felt like “home”, walking through the hospital, with cardiac monitors alarming and call bells ringing, and the hustle and bustle of nurses and clinical staff running into patient rooms responding to help. It’s a well-earned level of expertise that gives one a feeling of confidence that strengthens your spirit, and puts you in a state of catlike readiness to handle the unexpected crisis’ that occur when you least expect it. It’s what I know, and what I love; it’s my life… well, it was my life.

But now everything has changed, and I can’t remember when I’ve ever felt this stressed-out. Between a recent surgery, selling my house in the state where I was born and raised, building a new house in a different state, and changing jobs, sometimes I don’t know where to start on my colossal list of “things-to-do”. It’s overwhelming, and I just want to press “pause” on this big, blue marble called Earth, and basically just take a long nap. My confidence level at work is at an all-time low. My new job is so different from what I have known, it challenges me in ways that I never anticipated. Being challenged is not a bad thing, but it makes me feel very uncomfortable being so inexperienced, and dare I say, “stupid”? It’s a feeling of complete vulnerability, which is the absolute worst, at least it is for me.

We all make life and career choices every day; for better or worse, and sometimes, with just a leap of faith that it’s the right thing to do. What we don’t see when we are making these difficult choices, is the future outcome. I guess that’s what is so exciting. It’s a new beginning, and sometimes the hardest things in life turn out to be the most rewarding.

Mental Health: hope & light vs. darkness

I’ve watched the movie “Soul” so many times, and these words always break my heart:

You can’t crush a soul here, that’s what life is for.”

(22 to Joe Gardner in “Heaven”, Soul)

Life is hard, it can (literally) be soul-crushing. It can be painfully cruel, and it is definitely not always “fair”. I try to remember that there are more “good” people in the world than bad, and most people mean well, but we live in a world where half of Americans can’t agree on basic truths. There is so much division and inequality that it is difficult to stay positive and not be pulled into a dark and negative space. At the end of the day, when we are left with our own thoughts and little distraction, we can feel alone and vulnerable, and feelings of loneliness, sadness, or regret can crush one’s soul.

But what if those dark thoughts are not yours; they are the thoughts of someone you love, and worry about every single day… what if every time the phone rings, you worry that you will hear the panic, or rage, or sadness in their voice… you stop breathing and your heart sinks, and mentally you go back to “that” day last year when you discovered that your child didn’t want to live anymore; she was depressed and in such a dark place that she could not see that things could get better. It hurts so much to see your child in pain. When you are a mother, it doesn’t matter how old your child is… 8 years old or 28… the worrying never stops. So you pray, and you hope that today is a good day.

2020: the year of loss

2020: the year of loss

2020 was an unforgettable year that changed all of our lives, one way or another. As a nurse, my role was to show up and do my job, no matter what. We serve and care for others during a crisis… be it a pandemic, a destructive storm, or any other emergency that involves “essential workers” being placed in potentially dangerous conditions. Many healthcare workers have been traumatized by what they witnessed every single day during Covid. They were very brave; they felt the fear of the unknown, and they showed up anyway, in spite of it. They cared for the ill, and provided compassion and a hand to hold for those who passed. Covid changed all of us, for better or worse. Those images do not leave your head and can haunt you if you can’t separate work from your “real” life. For me, (just) being able to go into work and focus on others, gives me an opportunity to put my own “stuff” into perspective. After all, we get to go home at the end of our shift, our patients do not.

Mental Health Awareness

Please remember, as we say good-bye to May, which is Mental Health Awareness month, we need to continue to shine a light on the darkness and stigma of mental health, regardless of the month. The day-to-day struggles live on in so many of us. We all have things that we carry with us, and we all go through personal struggles; however, not everyone has the tools in their virtual mental health tool box to manage the rough waters that can pull us under, without a life preserver to keep our head above the water, and save us from drowning.

When one has mental health issues, they have to be brave (enough) to ask for help. But many cannot find the words to say it out loud for someone to hear (and help). This invisible illness is usually hidden and not talked about… often, until it’s too late. If only they held onto hope a little bit longer.

“Hope” is such a big word to me. It means so much more than the words that define it. It is everything. It is the past, present, and future. It is all of what you want things to be, and all that can be… it is the feeling that can keep someone holding on, and not giving up, despite being afraid.

The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. There is always at least one person who cares about you. There is always hope.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling, please remember that there are places to go to for help, and people who can support you:

Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center, text MHA to 741741, call 911, or go to the nearest emergency room.

Hope

“While there’s life, there’s hope“- Tolkien

Hope is exciting; it makes you feel that anything is possible. It is powerful and profound. The feeling of having hope can make even the tiniest spark of light seem like a sunrise in the making. Hope can make one walk a little lighter and feel a little happier. It can make you forget everything bad and painful, even if only for a short time. It is wise to be cautious with expectations, but I have found that even the slightest chance of something awesome happening, can make all the difference in the world between giving up or getting up.

The Giving Key

The Giving Key is a “pay it forward” movement that helps support and create jobs for people transitioning out of homelessness (TGK, 2018). Each key has a word of your choosing that represents something that one may “need”; the meaning can be different for everyone. The gift of the key may be yours in the beginning, but ultimately, the true gift is in the giving to others. When you find someone who needs “it” more than you do, you pay it forward and give them your key, and hope that it helps them, as it has you.

I have purchased several keys over the last few years. My first was “love”; it was an old silver key that had been weathered and worn. I identified with it. I wanted the gift of love to open up my heart to the world around me as it had been closed for a long time. It is a scary thing to be able to learn to love and trust again; I haven’t quite figured that out yet. Once a heart is broken, it is never truly the same. But one day I found someone who needed the key, and the word, more than I did…she was going through a really tough time after a difficult divorce. I recognized her pain and brokenness, and I knew that she needed to find love again…self love.

love

After awhile, I came across the keys again and I chose another word, “strength”. When both of my parents were diagnosed with cancer, and I was struggling with working full time and commuting to NYC, and taking courses for my Master’s degree, I prayed for strength to get through each day, and be present for everyone who needed me. A few months ago I reconnected with an old friend…the kind of friend that you don’t see often, but when you do, it’s like no time has passed at all. That day God put me where I needed to be; she needed to be lifted up. She needed a friend, a cheerleader, and someone who understood her struggle. Once again, I saw something in her that I knew all too well. I gave her my strength key because I wanted her to have a constant reminder that she was strong and brave, and that this, too, shall pass.

strength

My new key is “hope”, which I chose because it is something that I need to remember to never lose, so I don’t give up on myself or others. As long as there is hope, there is a chance that things will get better.

hope

I just purchased a key for my daughter. I won’t share with you the word that I chose for her, but it is something that I hope for her every single day. I only wish that she could see herself the way that I see her. It is probably my most important key.

The Giving Keys. (2018). About us. Retrieved from https://www.thegivingkeys.com