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From Nursing to Healing: Why I’m Outtie

From the jump nursing has been a… challenge. As a CNA at the hospital for years after high school, I watched plenty of nurses support, back-stab, encourage, belittle, strong-arm, explain, educate, burnout, quit, love, adopt, grow… you get the idea… I saw it all. And I honestly thought to myself… ‘Uhhh maybe this isn’t for me.’ I thought it for a good long while. And finally, I thought ‘what the hell else am I gonna do? This definitely does not afford me the life I’m trying to live. Gotta make a move.’ So, nursing school it was.


God, just getting in was pretty intense. Huge wait lists- later minimized by a standardized test that asked questions about igneous rock I haven’t thought about since 7th grade and algebra equations I promised myself I’d never go near again, really hard perquisites that had a wait list of their own, and the nagging feeling that my heart wasn’t in it all had me wondering what in the hell I was actually doing. But it was grinding time and grind I did. Working full-time all the way through my program, I sacrificed a LOT of events, people, sanity, money, sleep, and time. I drank as heavily as possible and probably kept Dunkin coffee line in business. But one thing was for damn sure: I am fascinated by the human body, its experience, and its resiliency and adaptability.


I loved the science of anatomy, physiology, cascade effects, disease, and wellness. I quit smoking after I learned what was happening on a cellular level, cut back on coffee after graduating, and dove into my own private understanding of how holistic healing played its part in all of this. I was a broke college adult with no money, so even with my mom’s health insurance, I couldn’t afford shit. I kept getting all kinds of inflammatory issues and flare-ups, I spent almost a year with basically constant UTIs. After about 49458489384 swabs for chlamydia and gonorrhea (and everything else) my doctor finally believed they weren’t from me gallivanting as the town bicycle. Let me tell you how fun it is to have that part of your body not only feeling like needles grating inside but also having a stranger clearly assume a lot about your sex life (eye-roll). They gave me a LOT of credit for all the fun I wish I could’ve been having. With a history of inflammatory issues on both sides of my family, I decided to ask some questions and do some Googling. It took a long time before I found some sites that weren’t complete horseshit or someone trying to talk me OUT of using holistic treatments before I started finding things that worked. Eating intuitively and following most of the Paleo lifestyle cleaned a lot of mess up for me. I added essential oils and supplements that FINALLY kept me out of the doctor’s office peeing in cup after cup, repeating that I can’t have an STD when I wouldn’t let anyone near me with a 10-foot pole, and that my standards don’t include people that would entertain the idea in this disaster of excretory function.


I learned so much about health, wellness, healing, and ‘medicine’ during this time. Obviously, I had a great education that afforded me rationale and knowledge nothing else could provide. But I also learned how out of touch we are with our own condition. And how external we believe our health and wellness are. I learned that no matter how well I know my own body, so many people in our culture will try to convince me they know it best. And not out of malintent, purely out of learned behavior and tradition. We have a way of talking at people and making judgments about compliance and even character before we ask questions and get curious about what’s important to them, what they have access to, what their beliefs are, who supports them, etc. We believe that when something goes wrong in our body, we have to turn to someone else to ‘fix’ it, or, more accurately, put a Band-Aid on it. We have an insane amount of chronic health issues in this part of the world while having access to the greatest technology we’ve ever seen. We have absolutely no clue, as a whole, how our body functions and how every single thing we consume is either fuel, medicine, or poison to it. We leave it to a specialist to tell us, when we know ourselves better than anyone. We stop listening or we ignore our body’s signals altogether, and then look to someone else to turn us on a dime when our body finally sits us down and says “enough, Karen.” We’ve disconnected, we’ve repressed, we’ve become obsessed with all kinds of other things and forgotten about basic wellness.


Now don’t get me wrong, nobody should NOT get medical help when they need it, or quit taking the meds they’re prescribed because they added Turmeric to their eggs in the morning. Shit, I’d be dead if I didn’t have access to antibiotics in my year of misery. But I asked deeper questions. And I still haven’t found the bottom of the rabbit hole (a practice I encourage my clients to adopt as well). I looked for the sources of the problems, not the Band-Aid aisle. I educated myself in ways a lot of people didn’t, and still don’t, want me to be educated. I applied my understanding of anatomy and physiology to supplements, oils, and most importantly food. I followed the chain of events we know to occur in the body when I move, when I breathe, when I eat, when I sleep. And I got WELL. With an understanding of HOW to boot! Western medicine absolutely plays a role and has its cog in the wheel, but DAMN we are SLEEPIN on ourselves out here. All the Eastern practices I used as a desperate attempt to not be in that damn doctor’s office paying lab fees, doctor bills, and prescription costs WORKED. And they’ve BEEN working for thousands of years. Science is finally catching up on the how and why.


Fast forward some years. I’m an ICU nurse, so I’m jaded and assume waaaay more than is accurate that massive amounts of people are chronically ill, unaware of health in general, don’t care, and expect me to be able to fix them. I absolutely LOVE watching people heal and get better and have a thirst for knowledge about their wellness. I love connecting with the humans I CARE for and the incredible souls I work alongside. They’re most of the best people I know, and their hearts are the BIGGEST. But I definitely have a fucked-up view so much of the time. I burned out a couple years ago in nursing. Had to convince myself to get out of the car EVERY SINGLE SHIFT. Hell, helping my sister and my niece was the only thing getting me in that door most days. But it took a complete overhaul of mentality, viewpoint, and, most importantly, the idea that I wasn’t going to do this forever to get me through the burnout and find a way to love bringing my ass into the ICU every day. ICU is a special beast. You learn hard and fast the best and worst about what’s possible in people, in the body, and in yourself. Covid amplified this times about 243892570238759023857.


I have done CPR on people who haven’t truly been alive in weeks. I have watched us fuck up grief and end-of-life egregiously because we don’t know what the fuck to do. I have watched my coworkers burn out. I have burned out again in a whole new way this time (thank God with a bigger arsenal of tools and tribe). I have watched our culture fear death and attempt to wrap our human hands around the illusion of control over death and mortality my entire life. ICU makes this unbearable. Nobody is ready for their loved one to be gone. Nobody is prepared to grieve ahead of time. But it is part of our process and we do a shit-ass job at having our experience without judgement, attachments, and unrealistic expectations. We try to be there, educate, and help patients and families the best we can, and we still have to torture people because we don’t make the calls. Families don’t get to witness how we cry, sweat, skip bathroom breaks and food to try to save their loved ones because they aren’t allowed in until it’s all over- and even then, it’s for minutes in a mask, through glass. It’s the weirdest, most painful, lonely time not to live, but to die. This isn’t a weight on my conscience, it’s a fucking crisis of conscience.


In all of this time since my last burnout, I’ve been learning and growing and adopting all kinds of new information about health and wellness. How thoughts, energy, the mind, relationships the HOLISTIC picture has a lot more to do with overall health, risk, genetics than most people accept or know. I am so insanely grateful for my nursing education because I can rationalize, critically think, evaluate facts in front of me, research with a solid understanding all of the new information coming my way. And I’m even more grateful for what I’ve experienced that I can’t rationalize or explain with science just yet. Because I can’t unsee what I’ve seen. I can’t unfeel what I’ve felt. It is my truth, and as much as I used to second-guess myself, I don’t anymore. I know what IS for me. I woke up and started listening to more than what I’m being fed. I listened to me, I listened to strangers. And I said, “fuck it, why not?” to things I used to scoff at just a decade ago. And now I have a much more holistic education about health and wellness, and I love that it will never stop being an adventure of knowledge. And now that I know better, I have to do better- for me and for the collective.


With all of the changes in perspective and wealth of experience I am gaining, nursing is breaking my heart to the point that my soul cannot reconcile doing it anymore. A lot of people say it’s this way everywhere. But it’s not. Third world countries don’t have access to most of what we have. And they have a completely different relationship with health and mortality. And I dig it. I love it, it feels like home to me. Having nothing gives them the things inside that we desperately chase with money and media here. Crazy paradox. But I also accept, that is not the case for everyone. I don’t want everyone to quit Western medicine and follow Eastern tradition. We don’t need to die of giardia and malaria or UTIs. That’s silly. But I physically, mentally, emotionally resist and hold no space for bedside nursing any longer, simply because my time on this part of the journey is done.


My soul is kicking and screaming, telling me it’s a new season for me. I have a knowledge that the world needs more of, and it’s time to deliver it. And I am so proud of the people who show up to that job each day and find all the reasons to smile and laugh and love in the face of the hardest situations life can throw any human. They’re killin it! I can’t wait to be in their lives in a new way. Healing in my own way-the way I was born to. I’m so insanely grateful for everything nursing has given me and always will be. And I’m so insanely grateful for everyone who has shined a light on my path so that I can shine mine on the path of countless others.


It’s been SO fuckin real nursing. I’ve given you every last drop that I have to give you. I love you, and always will. I’m OUTTIE!!!!

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