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A word on Bourdain…

9 Jun

I woke up this morning to the news that travel journalist, professional chef, writer, artist, Anthony Bourdain had passed away at age 61. I was instantly heartbroken and shocked, it didn’t seem real. My husband and I were huge fans of his and Parts Unknown was always our go to show when we couldn’t agree on anything else to watch. We own all of his books, own almost every season of No Reservations and we on demand Parts Unknown to watch together on our days off. People who write and sing and act, they provide us an escape from daily life, or they give us words to cope with situations we cannot put into words ourselves.

Art imitates life and life is inspired by art whether we realize it or not. Everyday life is the greatest muse for any artist because regardless of how we live life, our human nature is to relate to other people. I think that was my favorite thing about Bourdain, he sat and ate in villages in West Africa, around tables in rural America, on skyscrapers in Tokyo, and in 5 star restaurants in Paris.In every single solitary situation, he listened twice as much as he spoke, he found common ground and he made every situation relateable. I found myself getting lost in all the realities he explored, imagining the people and the sights and the sounds of every single place, he infected me with wanderlust and a desire to know more about people and their own world. Watching him eat things I’d never heard of and become curious about foods I had never seen has changed my life. I have broadened my horizons in search of hedonist pleasures that involve what seems appetizing or interesting. I have changed my travel bucket list based on living through his own adventures.

And while Bourdain was all things ironic, witty and just down right cool, there obviously was a side of him that maybe no one knew. That’s what mental illness does to people, it creates a hiding place for every dark feeling and it makes daily life an act. A role that gets harder and harder to play everyday, a burden that becomes heavier with every step, a reality that feels like a void. It’s hard to explain depression to people who have never experienced it, depression is like feeling homesick, but not knowing where your home is. It feels like waking up in the morning and praying for night to come. It can imprison you and isolate you from everything that gave you meaning before. I genuinely hope that all of my friends and family know that giving in, succumbing to suicide does not end the pain, it only passes it on to other people.

I related to Bourdain the most because he was quoted as saying “I have a lot of good friends, for a week.” For whatever reason I have had so many wonderful, beautiful, nurturing friendships in my life, but it seems they only last a season. I have had so much love given to me but only for what seems like a short time. I feel like I have created small eternities with people who I have only known for a short amount of time, but I know there will be an end, a separation, due to whatever life changes that come and it makes it hard to completely invest in anyone. That is what makes the waters murky when mental illness creeps in, its hard to unload your burdens onto someone who may not have the strength to carry them with you. I hope that you all, as my friends and family know that there is always someone to listen, even when you feel the most alone. I genuinely believe that most people are good, I believe most people are the same in America or anywhere else in the world, we only hope to experience as much life and love as we can in the time we are given. Only the details are different. I hope you all never cut that time short. There is always another option.

I think the greatest thing you can do in Bourdains memory, is to find people who you don’t know, maybe you don’t understand, or maybe you don’t agree with and share a meal with them. Find a common ground, through the most basic human experience. Make the foreign, no longer foreign. Eat the food, know your neighbor, have a lust for life.

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Just doing prison things…

25 Aug

When I first became a nurse, I don’t think I really saw the full picture of what I was getting myself into. I think we all have a vision of what our career path may be, and usually we are wrong. I never realized how multi-faceted this career path is. I never knew that maybe some nurses aren’t supposed to be “nice,” I never knew truly what it meant to be a good nurse. I am a person who sees the big picture, the future, it’s taken me this long to visualize all of the parts of nursing that make it worthwhile, although I know I have much more to see.

When I was a new nurse, like many new nurses, my brain was full but I had no wit. I had not learned what it means to have “bedside manner”, not truly. I had not dealt with an angry, grieving, or dissatisfied family/patient on my own. I had so much to learn. As new nurses especially, we don’t want to be the “bad” nurse, or the stupid nurse and definitely not the mean nurse. Nurses are creatures who thrive on ensuring the well being of others.

I think around the time I was doing hospice care, I had reached the peak of “bedside manner”. Every person has natural abilities, god-given, sixth sense, whatever you may feel they are. I can read people. (My other abilities include remembering numbers, a killer mean face and eating warm carbohydrates.) In light of the incredible nurses I was trained by at hospice, I developed not only the skill of how to read people, but also how to comprehend them and how to use that knowledge to change an environment. They never told me how to do these things, but by watching them it was incredibly apparent that they could take any situation and turn it into what it needed to be. They could diffuse family feuds, even if only for a moment to lay down the law about “mama” and what she needs. They taught me about priorities, how to walk into a room and demand all of the eyes for an update and how to be in the room as a glorified ghost. The greatest challenge of nursing is to adapt who you are, to be who you need to be,  for that patient, for the right reasons. 

For almost a year I was a hand holder, a helper, a comforter, but I was not a healer. I began to feel like I was sacrificing a large part of my profession that I never got to explore. So, I left.

In a lot of ways I am a leaver. I will funnel myself into whatever I’m doing. I will bleed it dry and then I will leave. I wish it wasn’t that way. I wish I loved routine and consistency and being 100% self assured in what I do, but I cannot stomach it. I need to find out all the things I don’t know the hard way. When I landed this prison job in March 2015, I never knew what I was in for, not even a little bit. Prison nursing is the anti-hospice. Within no time at all I realized I was in a whirl wind of constant chaos, constant confrontation and constantly being checked on what you know. (That’s how inmates know what they can get away with. haha.) But lez-be honest, I didn’t know shit. So, how do you learn a whole bunch of things you don’t know? Fake it ’til ya make it.  

The nurses who trained me were bad asses. Total rockstars. Self assured, smart as hell and tough as nails. I watched them so close, they taught me the ropes and they re-wired my brain. I learned our standing orders, I branched out to get hours at a medium security prison and I told myself that this was going to be fun. Dying was no longer okay. I now had to learn how to preserve and maintain life that was thrown into 1,000 dangerous situations (many by their own hand).

The first few times I heard the words “medical emergency” on our radio my belly would tie up into knots. That adrenaline rush said “flight” but I knew I had to go. With the guidance of Dustin and Melinda and Debbie and Memaw Cheryl (among others) they used me as extra hands, showed me parameters for broken bones, fights, diabetic seizures, overdoses,and  chest pain until my body no longer said “flight” but instead screamed “fight”. I looked forward to the rush, the run, the breathless arrival and the 7 second assessment of the scene.I feel like that rush is addictive, you become immune to all the noise around you and you welcome the chaos because when it’s over you feel like you can hear every scream echoing in your head and you can’t turn it off.  I absorbed and learned and adapted again to what my patients needed me to be.

For a while, my team was unstoppable.

But in corrections, the turn over rate is insane for both security and medical. Constant stress does a number on you. People graduated, burned out or found other opportunities. The band broke up. We still had Memaw and Deb on night shift, our OG’s. (I know you’ll love that Memaw. Lol.) We had a famine of staff through the winter which meant tons of overtime, tons of sick people and tons of mistakes I probably made. It was rough. I relied on our security staff a lot through this time. They would let me vent, I would bring them coffee, they would vent and we’d all feel better. It’s like having a tabernacle choir of the most screwy brothers and sisters you can always rely on.We all fuss and fight and shaving cream each others’ shit but I know if it goes south we can pretty well rely on each other. These guys and gals spend so much time away from their families, they eat little and they sleep less. They are truly incredible people.

When spring rolled around the corner, we were all exhausted. Running on fumes. I felt like I was sick constantly, and I thought about leaving.Instead of absorbing all that I could from this job, I felt like it had absorbed all of me. I felt like I was only prison, I was jaded, a little hostile, and permanently tired. In the midst of all of that, we had a late season flu outbreak. We had a quarantine dorm where we took care of all of the sick people, checked temps, gave meds, assessed a few times a day, ran fluids. A few of our older guys got sent out because they were deteriorating fast. Then, the unthinkable happened, one of our guys died. Needlessly. From blatant neglect from outside care. It really affected me more than I thought it would. A year ago my patients would die daily, I would rarely bat an eye, because I knew they were ready. Every nurse in our facility did everything they could to save him and it wasn’t enough. It didn’t matter to me that he was an “inmate”. He was a person. We take an oath as a medical professional that we treat them all and let the judge be the judge. If you can’t do that, you need to get out.

As sad as it was, my patient was exactly what I needed him to be, for me, for all of the right reasons. My compassion was (mostly) restored.

The biggest perk to prison life is that I can genuinely be me. Unfiltered. Sarcastic, but somehow still a professional, damnit. I had an inmate tell me the other day that he had no idea how “mean” I was after I had a serious chat with him about not coming to get his insulin. In a moment of trying to help someone see the importance of their health, I realized in that moment I was the “bad” nurse. That’s okay, because that’s what he needed. I was a “good” nurse just as recently by helping square away details for a dying man. Nursing is not purely a profession of comfort, the greater goal is to help your patients be exactly who they need to be, for themselves, for the right reasons. If anyone tells you different, well, that’s horseshit.

 

xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bully is mostly bull.

7 Jan

If you know anything about me, you know this, I’m crazy. Not crazy like “Woo, watch me go dance on top of the bar.” or crazy like, “I’m going to end this in a homicidal rampage”, but a kind if crazy that can’t  be restricted by routine. I feel less and less inclined to be any one thing for the rest of my life. I hate habit, I hate feeling like I am or will be one thing or do one job forever. If you know me, you know that my worst quality of all is that I am unpredictable. Completely. But more importantly, as I have gotten older I’ve developed less and less respect for people who use bullying and oppression to have their way. Bullying is not just in the school house, y’all. They be bullying everybody up in this life. But, I won’t stand for it.

Long story short, I’m leaving hospice.

I shocked myself too. It’s complicated, but unimportant.

I love this place, really. I love watching families find closure in death, patients dying with dignity, feeling like I’m honoring last wishes, providing support to the mourning, and mostly finding my self actualization, in that, we are all terminal. It’s true, we are all going to die. I have seen more people take their last breath than I ever imagined I would see in my whole lifetime. I’ve held their hands, and I’ve looked in from the outside. I know what the eyes look like when they don’t see surroundings anymore. I know what hands feel like when they are gripping a life stronger than their own. It’s hard to put into words all that I’ve seen in 7 months here. I look at my fellow nurses and nurse aides who have done this for 6 or 7 years and I am completely astounded by the strength of character and the soundness of mind and spirit. I wish I could fully express the level of compassion and empathy these women have for others. If anything has restored my faith in humanity, it has been the staff I have worked with. I have cried with them, I have hugged them and laughed at many inappropriate things with them. I’ve seen their tattoos, their families, their exhaustion and their hope that people are really, deep down, good.

Night shift is wonderful, but not wonderful for my family.

Hospice is wonderful, but taking a toll on me mentally and emotionally.

My co-workers are wonderful, but the high up are sucking me dry.

I must move on to something new. Something exciting. Something unpredictable.

I have so much more to say, and I will say it eventually.

Shine on you crazy diamonds.

xxx

Self sabotage and bad hair days

11 Sep

as of late have accounted many tidbits of knowledge throughout my nursing career, but the other night I was walking down the hall at about 0330, slightly groggy when a patient stopped me in the hallway. She asked me where the linens were and I helped her to the wardrobe to collect what she needed. She then turned around and asked me “What are your credentials dear?” And I had to laugh because the idea of presenting credentials to get a towel was hilarity. But I nicely told this woman I was an LPN, I had been a nurse going on 4 years and the fields I had worked in. She then asked me something I had not been asked before, she said “So, what next?” And I had to mull on this question because the next question was usually “Are you getting your RN?” But “what next” seemed so open, and limitless that I had to think about it a second.

I told the lady I really would have to get my RN license if I wanted to progress in nursing but that I really dreaded nursing school again. She then looked at me and said “Don’t sabatoge yourself honey, you only get one shot at this.” And I swear to you those words from that 80 something year old lady have circled in my head like water around a drain. How many times do we hate our job, hate our town, hate our cars, relationships, etc but instead of changing it, we develop a sense of self loathing? Telling ourself we deserve to be unhappy based on choices we’ve made instead of being proactive in changing the bad, it’s a nasty thing to do to ourselves.

Maybe it’s because I’m a millennial child, a person of futuristic flower child mentality, but I myself, and so many like me value human experience over luxury. I feel like my generation is more apt to base their life on the things they have done rather than the things they have. There is no shame in struggle, there is no solace in the stagnant and it’s okay to be unsure.
The last bit of wisdom this lady offered me was “If you’re wondering, I’m going to wash my hair. A bad hair day is something I try to avoid for sure.” I couldn’t help but to think of her last week when I was getting my hair colored. I smiled.

That’s all I know for now.

Jess

Finding the high road

14 Jul

I’ve really needed to blog for a few days now, but I’m just now getting the time to. Time always slips away on your days off.

Anyways, this week was my first week off of orientation, actually working by myself. Tuesday before work I was scared stupid, but when I got to work, my assignment had no time for nerves. I was very grateful. Night 2 was more stressful but alas, I made it through. As with every night at work there was a lesson learned, but last week someone from my past came into view. This someone wasn’t very nice to me in high school, and honestly I wasn’t very nice right back. Lo and behold, right down the hallway there she was, looking lost, looking sad and looking at me. Here I was at some weird crossroads struggling to keep up the poker face. Something unexpected happened at that moment, in that situation, I realized the only act more satisfying than revenge, was mercy. Needless to say, I spoke to her, I offered condolences for her loss, I gave her a hug and she cried. It was awkward, but I didn’t stop her. Maybe she just needed some familiar face she’d seen in her life and a warm body to stand there and be quiet while she cried. Maybe I met that need for her. And that is the funny thing about mercy, it’s selfless in a moment. I would have done just as well to keep walking, eyes averted down the hallway, but maybe she wouldn’t have. Who knows.

I guess the point is that I felt like I broke a cycle, not with her, but with everyone. Past is past, and the longer time goes on the more we realize how unimportant petty conflict is. Sure you may have treated me badly, or worse, like I didn’t even exist back in high school but the moral of the story is that it didn’t matter in the end. I went out into the world and made myself the same as you did and we reap from our own crop. There’s no person responsible for your happiness anymore except yourself. God, I wish someone would have told me that in high school.
No longer are the days we are dictated by clubs or party invites or who our date is to prom. The people who are still your friends from those days make an effort to stay in your life, to attend important events, to get to know your children and that feels incredible! The ones who don’t make an effort, well, it’s their loss. Anyways, I plan to update later this week (fingers crossed)

Jess

(Ps: revenge is still sweet 😉 )

The death angel

20 Jun

So I’m gonna be brutally honest and say that today was mentally and emotionally draining. I’ve never quite experienced some of the things i’ve had to do today. Today I delivered the news that a loved one was dying to a family. Today I had to look into their tired eyes and tell them it is all down hill from here.That was me. How do you look at the person who delivers that news? In my orientation we talked about stereotypes of hospice and its employees, one of the stereotypes was that hospice nurses are “angels” and compassionate and super human to deal with the hardest situations, but really, we’re the death angels. We deliver the worst news with the kindest words. The hardest pill to swallow with your favorite drink. We play this balancing act between reality and transcendence. We must look into the souls of people who have loved and cared for loved ones to the point of exhaustion and help them realize their work is done.

I’ve recognized some things about death and dying today while working with a nurse admitting patients to our care. I thought in order to make it through this job you had to separate yourself with the situation and only deal with the objective data you’re given. But in reality you can’t be a good nurse with this stance. I realized you have to treat death as a part of life, a rite of passage as much as being born. The parallels are unnerving. It’s more important to be comfortable with the journey no matter how stressful and cumbersome it may be with each family. I’ve learned what it means to show humanity in painful situations and to remain your composure in an upsetting environment. I never thought I could do any of these things but here I am, on my couch , for the most part, intact.

I was on the shuttle leaving the markey cancer center today and I saw a man next to me rip his hospital bracelet off and say to his pre-teen daughter ” I hope I never see the inside of that place again” the daughter responded ” me too dad”. He put his arm around her for the rest of the ride to the parking garage. He was strong for her sake. I then thought of a daughter I talked to upstairs fall to pieces in the hallway and then compose herself before going back in her dad’s room. It’s funny how we have to be strong for each other like that. Family shows love in solidarity. It never changes, it never falters. Love is hard and soft at the same time. And so, I must try to be as well because telling the truth is showing compassion. And compassion is the heart of nursing.

 

That’s all I know for now.

Transition time

4 Jun

Just so you guys know, by guys I mean anyone waiting with baited breath for the past two years on my next mediocre blog about my semi glamorous life, I realize you must surely be ghosts. Anyways, I’m feeling a little wonky today because it is my last day at the job I’ve worked for the past (almost) two years, I feel slightly distressed that I didn’t blog about some of the hilarity and tragedy that I’ve dealt with but maybe it’s for the best. Today when I was taking all of my decorations down I couldn’t help but think to myself about how far I had come with gaining the trust of these people who are my patients. At least half of them downright refused to let me take their blood pressure. I guess that’s the quality of trust you have to gain around here and yet here I am starting over, at a new job with different expectations and different people to let into your life.

I’ve received some cards, a nice going away banner and true, honest thanks from many of my patients praising me for the care I’ve provided them with. However, if I’m being honest most of these people have taken just as good care of me as I have them. I can never forget the patience and great listening skills they have demonstrated while I ramble on about how I only slept 2 hours or how my baby is now eating cereal/smiling/crawling/walking/talking. These people have listened to every tiresome milestone throughout my pregnancy and with the birth of my child with compassion and understanding. How many times have I came into this job tired, cranky or uninspired and went home feeling like I serve some greater purpose? So many.

I also feel like I have given of myself to them. And to my co workers. My co workers could never be replaced in a million years. Salt of the earth y’all. Quality human beings. I can only aspire to be that person at my new job. I want to be the person my current coworkers have been to me. They have lifted me up and fed me. Literally and figuratively. They have kept me mentally healthy and sane. They have also said “maybe you should go get some medication for that”. Ha! And, I did. (:

I’ve also received wide encompassing encouragement accepting a job with Hospice. I’ve received just as many “God I couldn’t work there, I’d be so depressed” or “Jeez I just couldn’t do that in a million years” type of statements. I have to say, pre-nursing Jess would have said that too. But what I’ve learned in the very small amount of time I have been a nurse is that I have know what it means to be human and what it means to be humane. I know with all certainty that we will all die. Everyone. I also know death as an objective clinical scenario. I know that death can be painful and uncomfortable and terrifying. I also know it shouldn’t have to be that way. I want to make that transition as smooth and as easy as it should be. People deserve to die with dignity and in a way that is suited to them. They deserve to die clean and groomed and tended to. There is nothing at all upsetting or depressing about any of those things. I surely hope if I don’t die suddenly I die in those ways. I’ve also learned that not all people are good people, or people I want to be around but I have to be empathetic and efficient in my care. Just like my patient told me just today “You really can’t ever change people, or the things they’ve done. You can just love them.” How true.

I have rambled on and on long enough, but I hope to use this thing more often, I’ve missed it.

Blessed be y’all

Jess