I Can’t Go Alone: Self-Care

How do you do self-care when your job is literally to care for others? How do you do care for others when you cannot care for yourself?

I know self-care is important because I have neglected it and sometimes feel like I’m falling apart at the seams. I spent a good portion of my life learning to hold in all of my icky parts and have spent years learning that holding it all together only leads to more of it spilling out at awkward times. My icky parts are my feelings and as the years have progressed I have learned that feelings are not icky. They are important and need paying attention to.

Feelings are as important as the pains and aches of life.  A fever turns you towards a flu or doctor so tears should turn you towards the feeling and figuring it out. What makes you sad? Why are you happy? Do you know why you anger so easily or do you simply sweep it under the rug?

This week I was slapped in the face with my lack of self care. I had noticed it: it came in my inability to enter some rooms or my inability to see past my own pain.

So this week when I had learned that one of my favorite aunts was very sick and possibly even more sick than we thought. I couldn’t get past it. I couldn’t even go to rooms on my unit. I couldn’t sit in meetings and not think about losing her.

Being slapped in the face like that got me thinking about how I was caring for myself.

I was throwing myself into this internship, throwing myself into the work I must do and neglecting the inner workings of me. Sure when I lost it in a room or two I would take a moment to reclaim myself but what about those moments when I simply ignored it? What about those moments when I just let it go?

So on Thursday when I couldn’t force myself to go on the unit I asked one of my group members: Is it okay to say, “Today I can’t go”? Is it okay to say, “I need help today”? Is it okay to say, “I can’t come in because my mental health is at it’s breaking point”? Is that ever okay?

One of my fellow members, John, asked people all day long for help. He passed the pager on to someone else, asked me to  go with him on a call and used us all to help him through it. What would he do when he was there alone? How would he get through it without us?

The time I spend on-call, I don’t worry about the job I do, I just do it but when I am not on call it’s harder for me. It’s harder and I’m not sure how to ask for the help that I need. It’s harder for me to say I need someone to go with me.

It’s almost as if the emotional drain of being on-call takes it’s toll and I do not wish to go into any more rooms, I don’t want to feel that anguish, I do not wish to subject myself to anymore emotional onslaught. I do not wish to cause myself anymore pain and going into those rooms is pain. It hurts my heart. It causes triggers each time, whether I realize it in the moment or if it takes weeks for me to realize it.

So how do I go back? How do I go on? I realized yesterday that this internship lasts for about two months more. How in the heck do I continue to go? How do I get myself to let go of the anguish and focus on the joy of hearing someone say, “That was a great prayer, thank you”? How do I get myself to go on?

This is a hard internship, much harder than any other so how do I continue to do the work I do without letting it consume my entire being?

How do I manage better self care?


Haunting Images of Recently Departed

I’ve been working at the hospital as an intern for 6 weeks now and there are some faces that I cannot seem to get out of my head.

There are patients I visit that stay with me for weeks on end. I remember the face of the woman that was run over by a car, I remember her family and the conversation and the prayers we shared. I remember the face of the man who died in hospice and the love family that filled the room and the words and prayers we shared. I remember the face of the woman who had last rights.

I remember the face of man who died this week and the family that was with him. Their faces, their stories stay with me.

There are times where I wish I could get their faces out of my head. Times when the residents at the hospital say that the families they are there for remember their faces but they forget them. I’m not sure how they do that.

Even if my conversation was brief and the person lived I still remember them. It has to be the mind that God gave me. It must be the compassion that lives inside of me.

Almost everyone in my group is certain that is is the kind of work that they want to continue to do. It’s not mine. I can be there for these people, in their moments of deep pain and anguish or in times of crisis but I cannot stay with them for long.

The entire time I sit with families or talk with patients I am trying to escape, trying to leave,  trying to finish the job so that I can go back where I feel safe.

It’s hard to tell people how I am doing because most of the time I am separate from it unless it comes along and slaps me in the face.

I feel broken and bruised and I’m not. My schedule is brutal. Today was my first day off in a while. A day where I didn’t have to go anywhere. A day when the world wasn’t pressing down on me and no one was demanding anything from me. I felt free today. I felt like I got my feet under me and now that I have had this day I can go on, I can gather the strength and courage to go on.

This schedule is brutal but sometimes I am thankful for it. I don’t have time to sit and ponder the things I have done. I don’t have time to ponder the things I haven’t done.

But today I noticed that I’m not taking very good care of myself. I’m not paying attention to how I’m feeling. I’m not paying attention to my emotional health. I’m just going, going, going.

I’m letting the visuals of the people I meet in their most trying times, take over my life away from the hospital. I’m letting them into my life, into my down times and if I’m going to survive this internship with 2 months left to go I better get it together.

I’m just wondering how I can care for myself better. I know I’m not taking care of myself because I’m neglecting everything. I haven’t knitted in weeks. I love to knit, I used to do it weekly with my gals and now I don’t even manage it once a month.

If I’m going to make it I’ve got to find a way to take care of myself and in these times of going, going, going; how I take care of myself may not look like it has in the past.


Same but different

Has anyone else noticed that no matter where you go you seem to surround yourself with the same kind of people?

I’ve been in Kansas for 4 months (it seems so much longer than that) and I’ve been noticing that the characters in my life change names a lot but the relationships seem to be the same. Does that make sense?

The people are fundamentally different but I relate to certain characters in the same way.

There are moments where I feel completely lost. Lost in a sea of different people, of different jobs, and moments where I feel lost in what I am doing. Doing something new and out of my comfort zone can be exciting and completely terrifying at the same time. There are moments where I feel lost and there are other moments where I feel like I fit, like things are fitting together and into place.

I’m taking my lunch outside and philosophizing :-).

People have been wondering how I’m doing. I’m busy. I’m stressed, anxious, but also happy and excited. On any given day I could answer the question differently. It just depends on what I’m dealing with that day and how much alone time I’ve had that week :-).

Today I’m good. I’m a little worried about my first 24hrs at the hospital this Sunday but that’s mainly because I have no idea what will happen and I cannot prepare myself for every possibility.

I miss my California friends and all the babies they are having and all the moments I’m missing out on but I’m also enjoying my Kansas friends new and old. I’m enjoying myself and trying to live in the middle between freaked out and overfilled with joy.

My lunch hour is over so it’s back to work I go 🙂

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