Waiting

In just 30 short minutes, you’ll have the letters you’ve been waiting weeks for: Fall 2018 grades. You’ve calculated and hoped and prayed that things will turn out how you want (and feel need). You have all sorts of thoughts on the “what ifs” surrounding these final marks. There are plans if you don’t make a certain GPA and what punishment you then deserve.

Please, take a deep breath. I know this seems like the bet way possible to measure your self worth, but I promise you it isn’t. This time next year, when you’ve graduated and found your first nursing job, not a single soul will look back on these numbers. They’ll be far more interested in the fact that you graduated, passed the NCLEX, and have stellar recommendations. Who you are and the amazing nurse you’ll be isn’t based on how well you studied for med-surg.

Instead of clinging to these letters and GPA, I want you to focus on what truly matters: you made it. You fought hard to get through this semester, and that work shows. Look at the evaluation from clinicals. If one class or number has any meaning, it’s that one. Your professor sees something in you, and told you herself you’re making progress every single day. Think about all the patients who said you made a difference for them with your compassion and care.

No matter what you learn at 5 pm, be sure to show yourself grace tonight. That you do deserve.

Love,

Emily

I made it! – a little update

As a rule, I genuinely dislike taking breaks from blogging. I love to write. I love how this allows me to get my thoughts out. I love that I can reach other people. I love being vulnerable and sharing bits of my story. Sometimes, though, all of  that needs to be put to the side. The past couple weeks have been one of those times (for good reason).

The last post I made was on May 7. That was the start of one of the craziest weeks of my life. It consisted of: finishing a 6 page research paper in around 24 hours, writing and rewriting our last big journal for clinicals, attending IOP, shadowing a lactation consultant, packing up and cleaning my entire dorm (all last-minute, of course!), still making it to support group, studying, and trying not to lose my mind. I took my exams the next Monday and Tuesday, aced my maternal newborn ATI, and finally left campus at 6 on Tuesday.

I thought I would have time and energy to blog right away, but it wasn’t the case. I have napped more days than not since being home. I hate it but know my body is probably trying to tell me something. My brain feels like absolute mush, which definitely doesn’t help. I have all the ideas in the world, but without energy or focus I end up sitting at a blank screen most of the time. That’s finally changing because of work. I’ve always been able to think about different ideas/posts when I’m otherwise preoccupied. Driving is a top offender for this. I’ll have some brilliant idea but it slowly fades out by the time I have access to a means of jotting it down. Luckily, I have found time to type a note on my phone or even write all over my arm to remember bits and pieces of what I want to say.

Although I’ve found some inspiration while working, being there so much since coming home has left me exhausted. It’s been all kinds of crazy and stressful – from difficult requests to long hours and staying late more nights than not (I was officially scheduled 3 hours last week and worked 5 days/20 some hours). I come home and immediately sink into the recliner/my hammock. Naps and staying home are a big part of my life currently.

In the short almost two weeks since school ended, I’ve learned more and more that recovery is going to be the true full time job this summer. My team has already been on me about increasing exchanges, a meal plan change (that I’m expected to give a try..), weight gain protocol, and generally making strides away from the ED. They also share the beautiful future I could have without Ed. It’s nice to be reminded of the end goal because I can know what I’m fighting for. I don’t often see what could be when I’m in a struggling place.

I am so, so ready to be back in this space. I have lots more to share soon, but I just wanted to give a quick update to start off!

Dealing with disappointment in clinical

Monday, I got to observe a cesarean section. I saw a tiny little peanut enter this world. It was messy and involved more fluids/tugging than I would have thought, but the second baby girl was out none of the “yuck” mattered. The tone of the room shifted as the nurses and doctors talked about how long her toes were, her perfect lips, and her curly hair. It was amazing that there was suddenly this new human being, the one her parents had dreamed about for months. The miracle of birth and experiencing so many new things should have been more than enough energy and excitement to get me through the day. The nurse I was assigned to actually gave me the tasks of 15 min vitals checks, the hourly assessment, and generally helping out in any way possible. My confidence grew because she could trust me and I was competent. That stopped once another nurse told my professor the patient was no longer wanting a student (aka me) to be a part of her care.

I wanted to cry. I didn’t consider any of the million reasons she could have made that decision. Instead, I decided that it was ME. I did something wrong, so wrong that she didn’t even tell me herself that she wanted to be left alone. I was a failure of a nurse. I am not competent. I annoyed her and said the wrong things. I didn’t make her feel comfortable. I was too peppy or shy or awkward. I was so focused on this belief that I had no room to consider other options, even when evidence arose.

I can separate this out better now, so I want to do that. I don’t need to believe these automatic negative thoughts just because they exist and seem true in the moment.

Evidence against these beliefs: my nurse continued to teach me and involved me in med preparation, my professor telling me that I had done a great job today, doing super well on charting and everything, positive responses from patients in the past.

One thing that really helped snap me out of it was a conversation with my mom. I called her, like almost every day, to let her know how things went. I told her about the incident and how down I felt about it. She immediately fought back with other reasons that the mom would request me to leave: emotional, sick of being at the hospital, tired, cranky, had visitors, didn’t want to be touched any more than necessary, wanted to avoid the questionnaire I mentioned. Those few minutes we spent talking about it helped me to realize that there wasn’t just one logical explanation. I’ll never know for sure why she made the decision, but I have to accept that I’m not some terrible person no matter what her reasoning was.

I have to remind myself that I am a student and I will make mistakes, tons of em. That’s why I’m a student. I am learning, not just the book stuff. I have to apply that to real people and situations, which is way different. I’ll have good days and bad, but I have already learned from when things haven’t gone well in the past. I am going to be a nurse one day and I won’t get there without stumbling because it’s part of the process.

I don’t want that small part of my day to linger and ruin the experience I had. Spending time in guilt and shame that I don’t deserve only brings more self-defeating behaviors. I have to move on and keep going.

Delayed graduation shame

I tend to push away anything that’s uncomfortable and makes me think about the hard things. I’ll completely “forget” about it, only for whatever emotions to bubble up due to some trigger. Today, that happened in regards to schooling. I wanted to share my processing of this and what I’ve come to.

I graduated in 2014. In the perfect world, you spend exactly four years in undergrad and come out with your degree and all is well. With how competitive my high school can be, this plan usually includes amazing opportunities, scholarships, honors societies, and varsity athletics. Just like high school, it isn’t enough to simply graduate. If you would have asked me sophomore or even my 6th grade year, my plan would be exactly like everyone else’s. The expectation in our school was to go above and beyond if you wanted to prove yourself as one of the “smart ones.” By junior year I had a new, more prestigious and impressive plan. I was part of early college which meant taking half college and half high school classes junior/senior year, then doing one more year at community college to get my associates degree a whole year early. I clung to that idea and goal, right up until it wasn’t possible anymore.

Switching to nursing was absolutely the best decision I have EVER made in regards to academics, but this meant having to accept that I was no longer above and beyond. It meant having to do lots of prerequisites and instead getting my degree on time. I learned to be okay with this, considering I was on track still.

I am no longer on track to graduate with my class. I haven’t been for over 2 years now. I’ve been shoving those feelings of disappointment, shame, frustration, and inadequacy down ever since then. I’m able to forget about it most days. Today was not one of those. I logged into Facebook (which is an absolutely terrible place if you want to feel proud of your own accomplishments and not play the comparison game). A friend from high school posted a status update about his events today, including the last meeting with his advisor and trying on cap and gown. It brought up everything all over again.

I immediately went to all of the reasons I’m not enough. How could I be smart if I did really poorly in classes, couldn’t even handle my first college semester away, and am not in the honors program? The only conclusions coming from this line of thought put all of my worth in school, and since I “failed” there, I must be a complete failure of a person. I sat here for a while. I wallowed. I cried. I felt super shitty about it all. Then, I really started thinking.

Besides my eating disorder in itself as a barrier to my education, quitting halfway through my first fall semester is the reason why I had to take an extra year. I could do a few things with this information, but today I chose to explore why things are how they are from a lens of understanding and compassion.

I can’t deny the facts that I dropped a semester or had a terribly low GPA last spring. I can pretend all I want that I was this perfect student who never missed class, gave 110% in all work, turned in everything, and didn’t even need to study. I could sit there and lie to everyone about how amazing school has gone, but I don’t want to now.

I hate the idea of ever using my eating disorder as some crutch or excuse for my behaviors, but it truly did/does impact my schooling. Not a single moment of the past 3 years have been easy from an academic standpoint. Instead of the normal college experience, I got constant ED thoughts and behaviors that took over my life. I look back at this time and wonder how I even got through it.

The fact that I’ve gotten this far isn’t a miracle, but a culmination of a lot of hard work. I overcame every battle to get to where I am today. This isn’t the route I would have chosen, not even close. No one wants to actively seek out the most difficult path, but it’s what I was given.

I choose to stop the comparison game and look towards my future. In 5 or 10 or 20 years, no one is going to care what my college GPA was or how many years it took me to finish.  What truly will matter is what kind of nurse I have become, who I am as a person, how I treat others. School is important and will allow me to pursue my dreams, but it’s only a stepping stone. In 5 or 10 or 20 years, I don’t want to be able to brag about what I did in college. Instead, I will speak about the roller coaster of a journey it took to get there.

OB clinical eve!

This is my 4th first day of clinical experience. Every time has brought this crazy anticipatory/excited/terrified feeling that’s somewhere between the night before Christmas and a root canal. Currently leaning a tad more towards the latter, aha. This has a ton to do with the fact that I’m dealing with postpartum women because A) adults after only having kids for 2 months and B) the awkwardness of areas that need assessing.

I truly am freaking out about a lot of the assessment stuff. The acronym BUBBLEHEP is intimidating as anything and includes all of the areas we need to look at with moms. I have this terrible vision of everything being incredibly awkward when I have to ask her invasive questions or perform exams. I’m afraid that I’ll screw up, break down, and cry.

Excitement, on the other hand, is very palpable as well. I can just imagine how squishy and sweet the babies will be. I love babies and specifically newborns so much. I get to be a part of some of the happiest times for moms/families. I’ll be able to teach on a variety of skills and information that can be invaluable to a new mom. Starting now, I will see if OB nursing is something I could find a passion for.

Tomorrow (and the 4 weeks following) is going to challenge me. I want to push through to learn as much as possible. I need to use my voice and ask the hard questions. My professor will be there to support and guide me. I have the nurses too. One regret I had from peds is how little I interacted with my patients some weeks. I don’t want that mistake again now. I have to savor each patient interaction (especially when that includes my littlest patients).

I feel so honored that I am getting a look at new life: the sweet hours or days old babies and their incredibly strong mamas who brought them into this world. I’m not just there to complete my assessments and move on. I can be an educator and help mom learn how to care for herself and her baby. I can give her support if she’s overwhelmed and help in any way possible. I can make sure baby and mom are both doing well throughout the entire day. I will devote my day to one mom and her baby and make sure they both get the best care possible.

I have so much more to say and I’ll try to edit it in later, but for now I’m leaving it here. If I fall asleep in 10 seconds immediately have around 4.5 hours of sleep. Time is most definitely ticking.

Ed’s coming back to bite me

I got an email yesterday that immediately made my heart sink. I have a significant academic scholarship (those years of slaving away in HS paid off, ha) and it’s renewed each year. The past 2 have been no problem at all. My GPA was wonderful, until last spring. It was the hardest semester of my entire life and an extremely low point. I was deep into the eating disorder and depression wasn’t well medicated either. I missed classes, had no motivation, worked my body too hard, never slept, ate very little, missed assignments and papers, etc. To be quite honest, the fact that I got through the semester and my team didn’t end it early is amazing. It was truly miserable. One of the only reasons I could stay in school was the contingency of a higher level of care afterwards. I left for residential before our final grades were even posted. In the first week or so there I was able to find out what my GPA was: not good but .1 above what’s needed to stay in nursing. I thanked God, rejoiced, and tried to forget how terrible I did. I mostly was able to accomplish that, until today.

I can no longer hide from the failures that happened last spring. It doesn’t matter that this past fall was a huge improvement and return to my normal GPA range. I still failed to make the quota, by just .05 this time. Small difference or not, it isn’t enough.q

I can’t change that spring semester, as much as I want to. There is still a chance to get my scholarship back, though. This is through an appeal process for “extenuating circumstances. ” I will need to explain the situation and provide documentation (whatever that means) I’m terrified that nothing will change their minds, but I emailed anyways to find out specifics. I know that R and Dr. C will be in my corner. I just hope that my eating disorder doesn’t take this from me too.

In this limbo period, I’m going to try to take care of myself. If I don’t do that, this semester could he a repeat of 2017 and even more would be at risk. Nursing is so important to me. I can see myself as a nurse in just a year and a half. The whole struggle has been worth it. I just don’t want my eating disorder to cost anymore than it already has.

I haven’t cried yet about this. Maybe I’m still in shock. It’s honestly hard to believe it’s real at this point… It feels like one minute I was a straight A high school student and the next barely scraping by. I’m going to try my best to be kind to myself and allow tears to come.

Now is the time to fight for myself. I can use my voice and be vulnerable here. In the meantime, I’ll try not to completely freak out (easier said than done). Worrying and overthinking won’t help. I have to put more effort into recovery because a repeat of last spring would only end up with me in treatment. I can’t have that happen ever again, so I’m going to fight: for my scholarship, schooling, overall wellbeing, and recovery.

Halfway there!

The semester is officially half over and I’m on spring break! It’s crazy how long/fast the past 6 weeks in pediatrics were. I’m thankful for every second (okay, maybe not the stress) and it is by far my favorite placement in nursing so far.

I remember back to my first surgery, in 2009 when I was 14. I was naturally pretty terrified and uncertain about the decision. I’d never stayed in the hospital or had surgery before, and here I was about to have a major operation with 3 nights there. My experience was nothing short of wonderful. The staff was all amazing, especially my nurses. I have the fondest memories of how kind and helpful they were. Other than the whole pain thing, I enjoyed my stay. I vowed then that I would one day work in the medical field, but specifically at Devos. While my mind has changed a thousand times since then, I’ve now come to that same conclusion. I would love nothing more than to work in pediatrics (hopefully NICU!) in the very hospital that changed my life.

I’ll admit, I’ve cried more than a couple of times during this first half of the semester. I dealt with a ton of frustration, anxiety, some panic, stress, and exhaustion. There were late nights and some missed assignments. I made plenty of mistakes (which only added to my frustration). I lacked motivation at times. Despite everything, I ended Tuesday in the happiest of tears. I did it! I’m content with my grades overall and I feel like I put in as much as I could, considering my #1 job right now is recovery. It wasn’t an easy thing to balance, so I am trying to be proud of the accomplishment.

I am beyond grateful for peds rotation as a whole, my professors, the off unit experiences I had, and the floor nurses and patients. These 6 weeks confirmed a thousand times over how much nursing is my calling. Nursing school is tough. I’ve wanted to give up, but the interactions with patients and glimpses of the future I’ll have makes it all worthwhile.

After break, it’s OB time, and I’m getting pumped for that too! It’ll be weird to work with adults again, but I’m excited for the opportunity to witness birth and see more babies, of course. I already can tell I will like this area as well. Still, I think peds will hold my heart 🙂