Thursday, January 30, 2014

Repeated Exposure

It's very subtle, how it begins.  It's like a twitch, in the back of my brain.  A flare of activity in a place that's long laid dormant but somehow, once triggered, feels instantly and sharply familiar.  There is frustration and impatience at first - I do not have time to feel like this now, thanks very much.  I hastily push it aside and move on.  Then, because it is so familiar and because it has never been nearly long enough to forget how it feels, there is slow acceptance.  I am a little older now, and a little wiser, and a little better at recognizing it when it comes - the rising tide of anxiety has found its way back to me.

I check myself, all the time.  I try to step back and assess whether this is actually stressful or difficult, or if I'm oversensitive and magnifying it to be so.  A psych lecturer the other day was discussing the roots of anxiety (free self-diagnosis is always an entertaining part of provider education).  In her world, everyone who is anxious is a war veteran, a victim of child abuse or rape, a closet drug addict and alcoholic - or all of the above.  Stupidly, perhaps, I asked her about those people who are anxious and depressed and none of those things.  She assured me that some people are just "extremely oversensitive individuals" and just don't know "how to handle stress."  Ah.  Got it.  Thanks a bunch.

It's January.  I know this.  It is dark, and the very most typical time of the year to feel this way.  It's cold, bitterly cold, every single day.  I haven't seen the boy since break and I miss him with an ache that is barely touched by Skype conversations and text messages.  I know all these things, and yet when I stand paralyzed in the middle of my kitchen, half-dressed and already panicking about the day ahead, it doesn't help to know those things.  It doesn't help when I feel my chest tightening around the knowledge that I have a quiz, four lectures, about a thousand pages of reading I'm behind on, twenty-four hours of clinical a week, and an empty gas tank facing me when I walk out the door.

I cry at the slightest thing.  I can feel my nerves that are exposed, like raw wires sparking in the sub-zero New England air.  The slightest thing - an insensitive comment from a friend, the way my preceptor spends two minutes with each OB patient - will set me off and I'll be leaking tears in a matter of moments.

The raw familiarity of these feelings is always the worst.  I think, forever, there is a part of me that hopes to be free from a history of mental illness.  That wishes if I could run far enough or fast enough away from it all that it will never catch me.

In my more rational moments, I know that familiarity, and education, and privilege also make me that much more able to access help, if I could only find the time to do it.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's 2014

1.  What did you do in 2013 that you'd never done before?

Became a nurse!  And pelvic exams.  Lots and lots of pelvics.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?  

I had to look back and here's the rundown:
1.  Keep running -- sort of, I did for several months, and then took several months off, and now I'm trying to start up again.
2.  Keep doing well in school -- yes, in so much as I'm passing and happy and learning as much as I can.
3.  Pass the NCLEX/become an RN -- yes!  Currently applying for summer camp nurse jobs with my fancy new license.
4.  "…move from loathing to loving your own skin." -- a never-ending process, but this is the first year I can remember where I spent more time appreciating my body and its capabilities than I spent wishing it were different and hurting myself to change it.  So that's pretty huge.
For this coming year, I strive to:
1.  Be consistent with fitness.
2.  Nurture the relationships and friendships I am blessed with - stop being lazy about Skype, phone calls, and emails to the people I care about.
3.  Less screen time.  Books are awesome, even my textbooks.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No, but someone very dear to me is due in April.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, and I'm very grateful for that.

5. What countries did you visit?


6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

A better balance between school and life - a lot of times this past year, I felt like I was either burning the candle on both ends, or slacking so utterly that it made my stomach clench.  I'm not sure either was true, but if I am consistently more balanced, then if helps me not feel like a swinging pendulum all the time.

7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

August 20th - took (and passed) the NCLEX
November 9th - my boy moved away

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Becoming a nurse.  Being halfway done with grad school.  Sticking through the shitty times and finding that on the other side of those times, is the best/safest/most loving relationship I could have ever imagined.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I tried very hard to find an RN job after I got my license and didn't.  That still stings.  I also left many a patient visit this fall feeling like I had failed them, that I couldn't do nearly enough.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Definitely sore after the half-marathon in April, my first ever UTI in July, and some fun GI stuff this fall that is now greatly improved.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

The solid beginning of a professional wardrobe. 

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

The boy's (again), my parents' (always), and - perhaps most importantly - H. and I worked really freaking hard on our friendship and it shows.  And that makes me happy.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

I had some, um, interesting patients this fall.  I whipped out my very-serious-very-calm-but-very-intimidating clinician voice to good effect a few times.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Yale.  Always and forever.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Finishing my GEPN year, becoming a nurse, feeling like a real midwife, planning a future with the one I love.

16. What song will always remind you of 2013?

"Half Acre" by Hem.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder?

Happier.  Onward and upward.

b) thinner or fatter?

Maybe a little thinner?  I don't really know.

c) richer or poorer?

Poorer.  Those emails from FedLoan Servicing are like punches to the gut.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Listening.  Sitting still.  Reading.  Running very fast.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Overthinking.  Being defensive.  Feeling angry.  Facebook.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

With Richard's family in Ohio.  It was really hard being away from my family.

21. Did you fall in love in 2013?

Every single day, over and over again.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

I liked watching New Girl with the boy, and H. and I liked watching NY Med on Hulu during dinner.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I don't hate anyone.  I hope that nobody hates me.

24. What was the best book you read?

I'm really enjoying The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Hem, but mostly I listened to podcasts during my drives.  I fell in love with This American Life, Radiolab, The TED Radio Hour, and The Moth.

26. What did you want and get?

A relationship that lasts through the tough times, another year to grow and develop, and some truly amazing friendships that I didn't have before.

27. What did you want and not get?

A baby.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

The boy and I watched "We're the Millers" the other day and it was, by far, the funniest thing I have seen in a very long time.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 25, and felt suddenly very, very old.  I had a test that day, and two more that week, but in between a very stressful school workload, Richard and I went out for dinner and saw a monster truck show.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Again, easing this loan stress would be nice.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?

Adulthood!  I wear dresses and slacks and flats and blouses to clinical now, and jeans and scarves and sweaters to school.  And plenty of old scrubs and stolen boyfriend t-shirts the rest of the time.

32. What kept you sane?

Richard.  My parents.  Hallie.  My garden.   Cooking.  Sleep.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Pope Francis, without question.  He is a leader and a revolutionary, and I admire him.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

Healthcare, again.  I am extremely disappointed in how the ACA is going so far.  I lost count of the number of patients I saw this year who attempted, and failed, to get healthcare for themselves and their families and were left with no good options.

35. Who did you miss?

I missed Richard so, so much when he moved (it's nice being here with him on break, but that is ending soon).  I miss my parents, always, and especially this Christmas.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

I have two amazing school friends that I only knew peripherally last year.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.

You don't have to have all of the answers.  You just have to be willing to listen to the stories.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

All my life is arm in arm with you
When you've got trouble I've got trouble, too.

Long post!  Congrats if you got through it all!

Here's to a happy, healthy 2014 for us all!

New Year's 2013
New Year's 2012