Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Thankful List (Daily 5)

Today I'm thankful for:

  • a far away best friend who promises she's cheerleading for me
  • the fact that in two and a half weeks I'll be getting on an airplane to spend a week in a spot where palm trees grow outdoors
  • a long phone conversation tonight with a dear friend
  • that even though the weather today was terrible (-35C with the windchill), at least it was bright and sunny
  • my ipad mini that lets me read on the bus
  • baking banana bread in my toaster oven (even though I burnt it a bit)
  • that when I burned my hand on the toaster oven door, it wasn't serious
  • good friends in my nursing program
  • that I only have 6 shifts left in acute inpatient psychiatric nursing
  • a super cozy throw blanket
  • the sense of being surrounded and upheld
  • vitamins

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Review of "Right Where I Belong" by Krista McGee

This was a free ebook read, provided to me by Booksneeze for the purposes of review.

There was nothing too extraordinary in this novel, but it was enjoyable none the less. My only quarrel would be that it comes across as a bit preachy and not particularly nuanced, but the story (while predictable) was a fun read, and the characters were well developed and yet left you wanting more. The characters were likeable, though I at times felt like this novel was the middle one in a series, and that I was missing pieces that would have helped me to understand the story and characters more fully.  I appreciated the emphasis on calling rather than on income as the major guiding factor in choosing one's career path.  It was a simple novel, but all in all not a bad read!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Surprised by Oxford: A Review

Surprised by Oxford (by Carolyn Weber) has been on my read and review list for over a year.  I attempted to make my way through this lengthy title several times over, and ultimately never managed to succeed in finishing the read.

If I'm honest, this was a great disappointment to me.  Since the book had been highly recommended by several favorite bloggers, I eagerly requested a copy when it was made available on Booksneeze.com for review.  The copy on the book jacket (and the recommendations of others) suggested exactly the sort of memoir that I usually prefer - a coming to faith story complimented by time in a somewhat different culture, and much intellectual and literary discussion.  Unfortunately, I felt that this book bogged down in exactly this - the literary and intellectual discussion.  I wanted so badly to find the text appealing, and instead found that I struggled to enjoy the writing style and that I longed for a bit more emotionalism and a few less literary references.  I plan to eventually re-approach this book, to give it a final try, but I think I'll wait until I have time to devote a larger amount of mental energy to understanding, absorbing and completing this read, rather than struggling to force interest at a time when I find myself in need of lighter reading fare.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

First Day Lessons

My clinical placement for the semester started today.  Unlike other semesters, with one consistent placement, this one will change half-way through, and the two placements couldn't be more different.  For the first six weeks I'm placed on an acute inpatient psychiatric unit.  For the last seven weeks I'll be on cardiac care unit.  Like I said, quite the difference in approach.

I made breakfast for dinner, put on my pajamas, and was in bed to crash and veg by 6:00 tonight.  Eight students and one instructor spent an intense four hours in a tiny conference room on the psych unit today.  I can't remember the last time I had that much information thrown at me at once.  It was overwhelming.  Add to that a 2 hour commute home by bus in a blizzard, and I was pretty done in by the time I managed to get here.

I wasn't expecting to feel overwhelmed by a psych placement.  I've dealt with my own struggles with anxiety and depression for close to half my life, and continue to take medication and meet with my therapist to manage that.  I have close family members and friends who have gone through severe and ongoing mental illness challenges for decades.  I've worked with the homeless population in our city in the past.  Unlike most of the students in my group, this was not the first time I've seen the inside of a psych unit.  I really thought I was prepared for this.  I don't feel anxiety when I discuss mental illness.  I don't struggle to have conversations with people who also battle those illnesses.  But something about all that information being thrown at me in a concentrated manner drowned out my usual calm and invited anxiety out to play.

I knew that working on psych could trigger some of my own struggles, and so I was mentally somewhat prepared for that, but just the four hours of orientation left me feeling a bit like I was drowning.  It was easy to lose all the positives in the face of thinking about nursing on a unit where wearing a stethoscope is a risk to your health because having it around your neck could be a choking hazard if a patient became aggressive.

I sat on the bus home feeling overwhelmed and alone.

The creeping feeling of anxiety still scares me.  The little ways it manages to sneak up and become BIG still surprise me, and as I sat on the bus, it was BIG.

Quite frankly, I spent a large portion of that bus journey throwing myself a pity party.  I was overwhelmed, and that made it easy to fall into old patterns, to believe old lies.  I sat there feeling miserable, telling myself that I was alone, that I didn't have anyone to talk to about how I was feeling, how overwhelmed I felt, the creeping anxiety that was threatening me.

And it was there, on the bus, that the first day lessons merged with the lessons I've spent the last couple years of therapy working on.  Coping strategies kicked in.  I remembered that four dear friends had promised to hold me in prayer before the day ever began, because I'd been wise enough to anticipate the potential for anxiety and share that with them in advance.  I sent strategic text messages to friends who I knew would not only hold me in prayer, but would help to draw me out of my pity party. I rearranged my evening plans to accomodate the need for increased self-care.  I was able to recognize that several things that depress my mood were in play today - I was in a new and overwhelming situation, I hadn't had breaks for appropriate nutrition, it was blizzarding (Seasonal Affective Disorder anyone?), I didn't get enough sleep last night,  and I'm dealing with hormonal health issues this week that always make my mood that much more labile.

And in that is where the lesson lies.  It's continually a revelation to me when certain things emerge.

After a decade of wrestling with poor boundaries and not great relationships, I had no less than nine friends who I could easily text to ask for prayer and support.  Friends who I can trust to know and love me even on the icky days.  I'm NOT alone!

I can recognize when I need to do better at self-care.  I can remind myself just how important it will be for me to eat appropriate meals and snacks over the next six weeks, and be diligent about getting to bed.  I can plan to pull out my SAD lamp and use it more regularly.

I can recognize the things that I can't change immediately (hormones, weather) and acknowledge that I don't need to be afraid of my mood, because I understand what's making it labile.

I can recognize that though I haven't needed to see my therapist as regularly lately, I might need to be a little more proactive with that in the next six weeks, and that I should book an appointment to talk through some of this experience.

And I can say no.  I can change plans because I need to honor my introversion or need for rest.  I don't have to force something that isn't me.

And with those revelations, I feel just a tiny bit more confident heading back to the unit tomorrow. Because in those revelations I see healing, I see growth, and I even see my word for the year, honor.  I am learning what it is to honor the space I'm in, even while I'm continuing to grow into new spaces.

It's going to be a challenging six weeks.  I'm going to see and experience new things - some of them very hard things.  Some of those are probably going to trigger afternoons like the one I had today.  All of them are going to teach me.  They're going to instill greater compassion and understanding in me.  They're going to inform my practice as a nurse.  And I can choose to focus on the fact that they might be triggering, or I can choose to focus on the fact that even the triggering moments are ones for growth, for learning, and for recognizing how far I've come.  And I can choose to be grateful for that.  (Remind me of that, would you, if you catch me having any sort of extended pity party?  I might vent, but I want to choose to honor this season, too, and to honor it with thanksgiving.)

Friday, January 04, 2013

One Word 2013

My new year started off busy, and it wasn't until today that I really sat down to plan and pray and write and dream about the year ahead.

I was once again surprised by the word that came to me, and yet not at all surprised when I considered the directions my life has been taking, and the things that God has been whispering to my heart.

My word for 2013 is HONOR.

I had to smile as it emerged.  It was a word that had been on my heart for a couple specific things in my life - the need to honor the journey in those areas - but I wasn't expecting it to be the word that would set the stage for the year ahead.

For me, honor carries tones of respect, of discipline, of sacrifice, of commitment.  It carries the pull to conformity in certain areas, and validation and worship in others.  It's a big word.

And yet, I'm looking forward to it.

I feel like honor is a good place for me to base this year.

This is my last year of nursing school.  I feel the pull to honor the ways that my school commitments impact my life, and my schedule.  I feel the need to honor the things Jesus is teaching me in the midst of the process of becoming a nurse.  I feel the need to honor myself by working to excel in this last year of school.

I continue to journey with my body.  I stopped writing about it here because it was a mostly negative journey for much of the last year.  But this year I feel the pull to honor my body by exercising a greater degree of discipline and commitment in what I eat, and how often I exercise.

I feel the pull to honor my mind, too.  Not just in school, but in what I feed it.  I want to honor it by putting limits in place for the amount of television I consume, and spending more time reading and writing.  I want to honor the part of me that is a writer by making a commitment to show up in a few different spaces where I write and to contribute something to those spaces on a regular basis.

And most importantly, I want to continue to honor the journey of faith that Jesus has been taking me on.  I want to honor it by taking the time to read, and pray and write and research as I move into new places of faith.  I want to honor it with deep conversations with soul friends.  I want to honor it with daily time in scripture and devotional readings that open my heart to listen.

I'm a person who excels with goals, and so I still set some for the year, but each year they stem from the word I chose.  This year those goals include things to do with healthy eating, with trying new things (in life, and a couple new recipes a month).  They have to do with instituting discipline in some areas of my life (areas like exercise and finances).  And they have to do with feeding into the relationships that honor who God has made me (like cuddling babies, and investing in time with soul friends).

I'm looking forward to 2013, and seeing what comes from a year of honor.  I expect it to be challenging, and just as much of an adventure as always!