What is To Come

July 4, 2020

I’ll warn you, this could be triggering for a lot of reasons.  

*As always, this is a super vulnerable post where I talk about things I've seen and heard as a nurse over my 20 years.  It's graphic at times, but I promise there's a reason. *

I’ve been nursing since 2002. I began my career as a Registered Practical Nurse and then bridged over and was one of the last graduates of the Diploma Nursing Program.

Nursing opened up a whole new world to me. I was a young mom, but always had aspirations and loved school. I knew I wouldn’t be happy as a housewife or working 9-5. I tried on many hats, I worked at a retail store, I modelled for a short time, I sold make up, did home daycare….I never really found any of that full filling. I was always unsettled and felt antsy.

And then my husband and I moved into our second home. Our neighbours were an elderly couple, Frank and Donna. Both were on their second marriages, in their 70’s and quickly became our friends.

I was outside talking with Donna one afternoon, and telling her how frustrated I was that I wasn’t able to find work. I had put my applications in at Tim Hortons and had not had a call back from them.

Donna sat me down and told me a story that changed my life forever.

She told me about her first marriage. She and her late husband had met in high school, fell in love and gotten married right away. He went on to work full time and she stayed at home with their 3 young children. She was so happy, so in love. She loved being at home, spending all this time and energy with her children. Her husband took care of everything financial related. Donna had no idea what money came in and went out, she just knew that her sweet husband was financially caring for their family to allow her to be a stay at home mom.

And then one day as she and their children waited for him to come home from work, she heard the doorbell ring.  She opened the door to 2 police officers.  She stated that she doesn’t recall much from that meeting, just that they told her that her husband had died suddenly. She screamed so loud and long that she lost her voice for days.  He had died suddenly from a massive heart attack.  He was 34 years old.

“Don’t trust your future to anyone, only yourself. Do not rely on someone to take care of you, they won’t always be there, even if they want to be.”

Donna stressed the importance of being a self reliant woman, to be able to take care of my boys myself if the horrible occasion every arose.

So after much sole searching and disscussion with Kevin and my family, I applied to nursing school. I knew I wanted to be a Registered Nurse, however I was very realistic with my family situation. I was a 23 year old mother of 4 children under 5. Full time school seemed a far fetched dream, but I wanted to see if we could do it.

And we did! It was so hard!!! But I loved it. I loved that I had my own income that made a difference, that I had found a way to not ever be stuck not being able to support my family, and I had found FRIENDS!!!

Oh that memory seems like a lifetime ago!

And now as I’m half way through my 20th year of nursing, I find that I am beginning to understand the term “seasoned nurse.”

Let’s face it, nurses see some shit. The kind of shit that sticks with you and pops into your head when you least expect it.

My first traumatic patient came when I was STILL IN SCHOOL. I was a consolidating student in the emergency room and had a woman come in that had been beaten by her husband with an object. Her brain matter was all over her children, and also….my hands.

Once she had been taken by Air Ambulance to a trauma centre, my mentor and I went on to treat other patients. No break, no down time, no processing of what we had just seen/experienced/lived through.

This seemed to set the tone of my nursing career-always carry on.

Since that day, I (and ALL of my nursing family) have seen things that we haven’t processed, haven’t spoken of and have pushed deep down not necessarily because there is no help out there, but because that is the nature of the job. You treat, you support, you move onto the next patient.

And as you can expect, there comes a time when a “seasoned nurse” has seen the kind of shit that needs dealing with.

I’ve been feeling a shift happening for some time within me, and by shift I don’t mean necessarily in careers, but in the way I can function as a nurse and help other nurses function in a way that is healthier mentally.

I was lucky enough to be floating around in a pool just a few weeks ago with my close nursing friends, and was expressing my feelings to them, and they knew exactly what I was talking about.

We as nurses pretty much all feel the same way, just in different scenarios, different memories, different types of patients.

In the Intensive Care Unit, I have had patients who’s stories are so horrific and so tragic that their families need to be steered in the direction of long term emotional support. As that patients nurse, I am there with the family, experiencing their pain, caring for their love one, listening to their stories and learning about the kind of person they are and how greatly they are loved. Getting to know not just the patient, but the family, caring for them and feeling empathetic towards them. Sometimes for days. And eventually, when their family member passes, offering condolences and guiding them towards their next steps once they leave the hospital.

The family then goes home, cries, allows their feelings to arise and (hopefully) takes time to mourn their loss.

The nurse moves onto their next patient. Most times within the hour.

And we carry all of those emotions and feelings and fears with us, but don’t allow ourselves the necessary time to process them. Nor do we allow each other the time to process them.

Now this is not a knock at the hospital I work in, I have a very supportive manager, whom is very connected with the staffs mental health. The hospital itself offers debriefings for difficult cases and if we were to request one, we would not be denied. There is also a free Employee Assistance Plan that can be accessed by phone if we feel the need to reach out.

With all this support, this is my track record of caring for my own mental health:

  • attended a debriefing….0
  • talked to my manager about my inability to shake thoughts…0
  • called EAP to talk to someone about a hard case…0
  • reached out to my fellow nurses to discuss reoccurring images from a really traumatic case…0

I speak to my husband about my days, but he literally has been hearing this for 20 years, and honestly is just numb to the whole subject. Nothing shocks him any more.

It wasn’t until I was telling my husband about a patient I had one day that I was shook into the reality of my career.

I had a patient that had sustained MASSIVE trauma from another human-the worst I had seen. I told him how this patient was a 3:1 (3 nurses to 1 patient) and how no one got breaks. How there were 2 doctors in the room with us (very rare) trying to best care for this patient. I described in detail the injuries that I saw, the trauma, the wounds and horribleness that the patient had sustained. I described the family and just really talked about all of the interventions we needed to do to try and save their life, but ultimately we were unsuccessful.

I talked about the mess of the room, the blood and the objects everywhere as we were having coffee. Kevin listened with obvious empathy and sadness on his face, but not shock, as he had unfortunately heard stories like this before.

Without me realizing, my son overheard my story.

His eyes were wide and he said “that’s what you do?”

His absolute horror and shock, the shear eye opening look on his face let me know I had normalized a very un-normal situation in order to cope.

It triggered a switch within me that opened up a door for me. I began looking back at all that I have been witness to, been involved in, heard. All of the emotional trauma that I didn’t even realize that I had. It’s not normal to hold someones brain matter in your hand. But it is “normal for the job.” It triggered me to recall of the horrid and awful things that I have seen. TRULY triggered me. And I began to realize that in nursing we have a culture that has been built over years. There used to be a “nurses eat their young” type of culture, that I honestly don’t see too much of anymore. But I am seeing a dangerous culture of us not acknowledging our mental health. Not able to empathize with one another when a difficult case comes in, mainly because we have had a very similar case that we have not dealt with. Often when a nurse starts talking to her fellow nurses about a particular patient, other nurses offer similar stories. This can be therapeutic by offering a feeling of solidarity, but I feel like it leads to an acceptance of what we see and deal with. A feeling of “yes we’ve all been there.” Not one of “how are you coping? How is your health? Have you had some time off to process?”

Because how can you offer this type of support when you haven’t processed your own emotions??

You simply can’t.

As I age and grow in my own spiritual journey, I see how slowness, calmness and kindness towards myself helps. I have seen the positive effects of getting quiet and processing emotions through movement and journalling and talking with people whom understand what I am struggling with. And as I step further in my nursing career, I see the need so much clearer for helping to heal the healer. Offering not just coping skills but outlets to be heard, acknowledged and a safe space to release, without interruptions, comparison or “one upping.” I see the need to not be judged when a name or a word makes you cry. The need for not being hugged or felt sorry for when you speak, but instead being listened to fully. The need for gentleness and compassion while we try and break through that brick wall that has been solidifying for so many years. To be around others that understand what you mean when you say your head feels full of others lives, or that you are mentally drained and exhausted with nothing left to give. To be able to recognize burnout. To not be offensive to someone when you shut down, and to not be ashamed when you want your grown children in the same room as you while you sleep because you’re scared to lose them.

As this awakening grows, I am beginning to feel an understanding of past behaviours and emotions. I feel like a change in the way we as health care providers take care of ourselves and each other can honestly be positively affected.

Now, I am not naive enough to believe that only nurses feel this way. I speak only from my professions point of view, and readily accept that all health care, first responders share in these emotions. I know that when reading this, some of you are nodding your head in agreement, knowing exactly what I am meaning-and I know you’re not all nurses.

So, where will this awakening lead?

I don’t know yet.

I see wilderness, sleeping late, moving together and loads of circle sharing with time and patience, candles everywhere….but its still in my crown chakra….not quite ready to transcend down!

I do know that I have tapped into something I am feeling very drawn to , something that feels very right. And that usually alerts me to a huge change coming.

I’m really excited for what is to come.

Kim

xo

16 Comments

  • Shelley Wishart

    July 8, 2020 at 7:26 am

    Kim, you write so beautifully. This post has made me cry. I love you sweet friend–am excited for whatever you’re cooking up!!❤

    1. Yoga by Kim

      July 9, 2020 at 2:11 pm

      Love you Shelley! you’re such a huge, positive force in my life. xoxox

  • Tiffany Reid

    July 8, 2020 at 7:49 am

    Hi Kim,

    Thank you so much for sharing. I am a funeral director and can relate on so many levels. Our industry is often over looked and we put the pieces back together after the trauma and console the families emotions while wearing them ourselves.
    I too have been wanting to unpack these emotions but in my industry it is laughed upon.
    I am constantly living through the vicarious trauma and suffer from compassion fatigue. It is nice to hear we are not alone.
    Thank you!

    1. Yoga by Kim

      July 9, 2020 at 2:11 pm

      Tiffany, you are 100% not alone! And I absolutely agree that you are amongst those that see things and have had to do things that anyone outside of health care would shudder at and perhaps judge. There is just so much growth that needs to happen and so much discussion that needs to start in order for stigmas and judgements to lift. Also to not be thought of as weak or sucky when we express ourselves.
      I’m excited about the conversations that have begun with this post, and really look forward to seeing some new ways of coping, new ways of supporting and most of all new ways to express ourselves!!!!
      I’m always here to listen and learn from you!
      I didn’t know that was your profession when we met. I’d love to have you to yoga in the park, we can share some positive energy and love:) xoxo

  • Karen Amaden

    July 8, 2020 at 8:36 am

    Kim,
    This sounds so much like me and funeral directing. I can empathize with you on the care you as a nurse need to have for yourself. The mental, emotional and physical toll your career choice has had is true. You as a “seasoned” nurse know what needs to be done and how you can care for young.

    I am here to listen as you form a plan. your thoughts have moved into the throat chakra as you have just voiced them. The love you have for others is beautiful.

    1. Yoga by Kim

      July 9, 2020 at 2:03 pm

      Karen, yes! You totally get it! I thank you so much for your offer of support, and greatly accept it! I love your journey, and know you have loads to teach:)
      xoxoxo

  • Maki

    July 8, 2020 at 8:51 am

    Yup. I hear you, sista! You’ve just articulated what I had deep inside of me for years. 🤣

    1. Yoga by Kim

      July 9, 2020 at 2:02 pm

      Right? Time to let it all out!!!
      Love ya!! xoxo

  • Tommie

    July 8, 2020 at 9:52 am

    Wow. Kim. This. This is very moving. My MIL was a triage nurse for years. She was always so stoic and I think we all took for granted what all she was harboring. She succumbed to substance abuse in later years and lost her nursing license when she sought treatment. She was great at what she did. And, she was just an amazing person. She overcame the substance abuse and ended up helping others do the same. And, losing that nursing license after so many years of service was not the tragedy many saw it to be. You, my friend, are quite the Super Woman…incredibly inspiring. And, obviously, with so much wisdom to share. I gotta feeling you’re about to do something great 🙂

    1. Yoga by Kim

      July 9, 2020 at 2:01 pm

      Tommie, your MIL’s story is the exact reason that we need to have more support. The stoic facade, while inside she was likely suffer so much. I’m sorry for her (and your whole family) and see how it can happen. thank you for sharing this, Tommie. Provides me with encouragement and validation that I’m focusing in the right direction. xoxoxo

  • Hazel Mason

    July 8, 2020 at 10:39 am

    Thank you Kim for sharing in such an open and honest way. Protecting ourselves so we can continue to move forward is something many of us do. How could we go to work everyday with a positive outlook if we didn’t. Looking after the mental health of our folks is not something we do or make a priority.

    Yoga has provided an outlet for me that I wish I had when i was working. The kind of support you are suggesting will help so many of your colleagues, the trick is then to find a way to move on. You are a very special person my friend and I look forward to hearing about what you decide.

    1. Yoga by Kim

      July 9, 2020 at 1:57 pm

      Hazel thank you:)
      I often think of the time you and I were sitting at a table in Costa Rica…I was telling you about my husband, and our struggles since his accident. You listened, not interrupting, not hugging me. Just listened fully. You’re a huge inspiration for me learning and helping. xoxo

  • Kathy Gray

    July 9, 2020 at 5:17 pm

    Thanks Kim for sharing this. It’s as if you put how I feel (and I am sure so many others). You write so beautifully ❤️❣️

    1. Yoga by Kim

      July 10, 2020 at 12:12 pm

      Thanks Kathy! I know you can relate 100% to this. xoxo

  • Kim Sander

    July 9, 2020 at 6:39 pm

    My dear friend…. you will help so many simply by being brave enough to out these words out into the universe. You are a beautiful soul who is changing lives without even knowing it. Your spirit is transitioning and I can’t wait to see where it takes you and all the amazing things you will do in this world. I am thankful to call you are my friend and even more grateful you shared these very raw feelings with us so we can also reflect, grieve and heal along side you. Namaste. Xo

    1. Yoga by Kim

      July 10, 2020 at 12:14 pm

      thanks Kim…it was not a hard post to write, but a REALLY hard post to publish. I’m really excited about where this leads:) xoxox

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