When my self-care wasn’t good enough.
Sometimes caregivers can give so much of themselves that there is nothing left. And in those times, it’s important to reach out and get help.
I gave too much one day, not only did i experience a shocking event, but I wasn’t tending to my self-care in the the time frame leading up to it. I like to use the analogy of myself a glass of full of water. Every stressor I perceived around me, I would pour out some of my water, diffusing the flame, and putting out the spot fire. Though I would not replace my stores. Slowly but surely giving away all my water to others, the level had lowered and lowered, until I only had a few drops left.
And I experienced an event where I could no longer fake that I was fine.
As Nurses we like to fix things, and we are good at it. And if we can’t directly fix it right there and then, we will prevent it from getting any worse, and… reassurance and empathetic listening will be provided. Our poker faces remain still to restore comfort and peace in our patients.
One evening I found myself in a situation where the worst case scenario for a patient had occurred. A rapid deterioration where, the dramatic escalation of treatment and resources was not enough, resulting in a horrendous prolonged arrest situation where the patient died.
And when his wife walked in to find us compressing the chest of her husband, her scream silenced the unit. Which I can only describe as been punched in the chest, having her heart ripped out and slashed apart in front of her, and then someone stomping on the remaining pieces.
I was very emotionally effected by this, and the following days and weeks to come were very sobering for my need to really pay attention to, and protect my own well-being.
What I experienced was called a “natural reaction to an adverse event”. And one influencing factor in my inability to cope was additional pressure of smaller intense events that had taken place in the weeks prior. Where I didn’t give myself enough time, space or strategies to be able to dissolve those situations within myself.
The emotional reaction I experienced in the following days was overwhelming. Needing to pullover on the side of the road as the trauma, tears and feelings of denial, anxiety, anger, bargaining and then depression rolled over and through me, till I could finally sense a glimpse of acceptance. Gone was my resilience and ability to cope. For a little while, I was encompassed by the turmoil.
I could not perform.
I could not concentrate.
I could not play the roles.
I experienced the 5 stages of grief in waves at multiple times through the next few weeks and days. What was worrying, was that I had never felt this way before, I had no idea when these feelings would go away, or subside, and if I would ever return to my “normal” self again.
And that’s why I found reaching out to a professional was so pivotal for me at that time. I spoke to a beautiful woman for an hour, twice. She listened to me, and I labelled all the feelings that were knocking me over. The reassurance that I was completely normal, that they will pass was phenomenal. Her advice and encouragement was like a warm hug that I needed.
Looking back now, I wouldn’t change a thing, as I have learnt so much from the experience. But my self-care strategies now, and my threshold for asserting myself and tending to my own needs has changed.
I am grateful that resource was there for me, when I needed it.
I share my story in hope to raise awareness and shine some light on the fact that Carers can experience disturbing situations too. And there is a new resource available that is open 24/7. Because we work around the clock, so does the wonderful counselors on the other end too.
It’s called Nurse and Midwife Support, it is FREE open 24/7 and available to talk you through should you reach out.