Rx for a Nurse

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I’ve been at work for 2 weeks, and it’s only been 2 weeks. I’m tired. So very tired.

I don’t really mean it in a physical way- of course I get bogged down by my aches, pains and flares. But that is really nothing compared to the challenges I face emotionally and mentally.

I’m an experienced registered nurse, although the true extent, no one really knows. People, even myself, have to find it out themselves. Like the usual rite of passage, I am doing the job of an assistant nurse first to understand and get used to the ground work. Nothing unusual. But when they threw me in the deep blue sea, I knew I was going to struggle.

There was little guidance, and most times I was left to figure things out myself. I learnt things the hard way- asking and then getting scolded, or making mistakes and being berated. The learning curve of what was not my job scope was steep, and colleagues were sometimes unkind. When I helped with procedures per say, which would take up 30-45 minutes at least, I only asked ONE question about the finishing bandaging, and bam! I got rained upon. Sigh.

Of course I have colleagues who are kind and teach me freely. They trust me with procedures which I should know but by “protocol” should be supervised. They let me assist in procedures. They listen to my opinions of my nursing assessment of a patient and initiate proper interventions.

I won’t speak about personalities of colleagues, because there’s just too much that irk me. But what gets my goat really is that when you’re at work, be professional. If you’re working in a pair, don’t completely forget (and abandon/strand) about your colleague. If you like being as asshole, but I talk to you and treat you with respect, I expect reciprocal respect as well.

Everyday at work, I find myself slumped, tired and frustrated. People will disappoint yes. That has always been true. But I wished people wouldn’t stop me from being a good nurse. Maybe I’m being slighted- incompetent, too much a threat. I don’t know!

All I know is that I come to work everyday, wanting to care for my patients, and instead I deal with shit from colleagues. I hold onto my calling dearly, and let the love for and from my patients sustain me. But sometimes it’s really not enough.

I pray to the Lord to help me with these struggles which seem so insignificant compared to God’s great love and the extensive work He does. I prayed over Palm Sunday in church till I wept, because I care too much about nursing which God called me to do.

But you know today, it got so bad, I just wanted to SCREAM.

Sigh. It’s the Holy Week. By the way, I started a blog to chronicle my journey since I returned home to God after the Treasure retreat. I’ll share it soon.

In the name of Jesus Christ, who was never in a hurry, we pray, O God, that You will slow us down , for we know that we live too fast.

could i really?

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Going back to bedside nursing…

When I made this decision, people asked me if I’m sure if I could. “If I could?” was really the challenge on my mind. The old hungry and fervent Steph would definitely say “WHY NOT???” After all I was “known” to be a “good one” when I was last in the school and wards. But I had my doubts after so much trauma and hurt that i’ve been through.  “Could i really???” was pretty much swirling on my mind, and then it was all “what ifs”.

I left my previous job because of the culture and the management. I was happy with several colleagues.  but the former really got to me. Honestly however, I was not doing well without therapy for 7 months. My regular 8.30-5 job clinic job didn’t allow it. So I told myself since I missed bedside nursing so much, and since I needed the shift hours to go for therapy, why not?

Yeah, why not, Steph?

My parents and treatment team had their doubts. They were scared that history would repeat. And they had every reason to think so. The last time i was in the ward, i was warded for 2 months in between, and then it ended with a year off work, and actually 6 months in the psychiatric ward. So yes. I do not blame them for it.

I could only be blamed. I was still very sick then but wanting to work thinking it would heal me (my calling, remember?). My personality was still very extreme- too perfectionistic, sky-high expectations, seeking affirmation constantly etc. Apparently i just didn’t want to say no to slowing down. It was just more more more. And my parents and treatment team are afraid it would happen again. Legitimate reasons.


I just finished 4 days at work at my new work place. It’s a private hospital, compared to the public (restructured) hospital i used to be in. It’s Sunday and it’s my off day today, and i’m grateful. I needed it.

I used to work with active RA, and to me it was manageable because i was so used to it. Being a nursing student had already prepped me for it. But today i have fibromyalgia on top of RA and nobody really teaches you how to cope with that. Additionally i have been having rheumatism in my hands and feet and they have been unrelenting. And my heart makes me more breathless once more again these days (decreased effort tolerance once more).

So on day 2 i am reminded again of my morbidity when i realised i am dragging my feet. I actually abhor dragging my feet if i can help it. But i learnt long ago then when i do when i work, i’m tired and i’m in pain. Days 2-4, i struggle because my quadriceps are so weak i cannot stand. I literally have to pull/push hard on something to get myself up. It’s embarrassing. But i learnt on day 4, that i have come a long way in that i ‘counselled’ a patient with depression, and i was not at all triggered at the sight of her cuts. I was heartened when she thought was a psychiatric nurse. All i actually was trying to do was to give her some hope.

Something i wished someone would do for me when i was depressed.

On day 4 i continued to counsel another patient with reactive psychosis. I give him things to think about with his wife. Things i learnt in therapy all these years. They were so thankful, i was almost on my knees. I was again only trying to help. My heart broke to see him like that, so young yet stuck in such a rut.

Then for a young patient who seemingly had a massive stroke, he was so anxious for his invasive procedure that i asked him a sensitive question. “Are you Christian?” He was. I told him i am a “Roman Catholic”. Then for the first time in my nursing career, i asked if he would like me to pray for them. They were only too glad. I held his hand and his wife’s. I prayed that his procedure findings would be good enough for him to return to the ward. I prayed for his health so that he could formally get married to his wife at the end of the year. I am not good with open prayers, but he told me it’s ok. We agreed prayers are like conversations with God. He held my hand many times, I guess he was really scared, and he needed reassurance from God, and from a nurse. In the end he did return. We praised God. He was too kind.

So today on my off day i reflect on work. “Can i?” still seems to be the question. But now i strongly believe that with God, all things are possible. Day 4 was a day of compassion, and i have never felt like that before. Deep in it my heart quivers because it knows “hey, it is here again!”. To me, now it doesn’t matter if i can or cannot. I am serving my God, and this is my calling. The calling that was proclaimed to me by God in 2007. I feel renewed, and i feel hopeful. I spoke to my preceptor/nurse clinician to challenge me. They wanted me to go slow because of my depression. I said no. Go ahead. I’ve learnt my lesson. I know when to say that it’s “too much”. I know how to take care of myself.

The matter i feel is not the matter of i can or cannot. This is 2015. Steph isn’t the Steph from 2012/2013. I have bloomed, no matter how little. My love to care and heal still flows in my veins. My psychiatrist thinks i have mellowed down. I am not made of my past. I don’t have to prove myself to anyone. I am starting on a blank slate. I am ready to love.

And my heart is full of love.

unspeakable joy

i just returned home from a 4 day 3 night Catholic-Christian retreat, and i am dead beat.

i would like to first say that i do not what came over me when i picked up the phone to call up the retreat organisers when i knew the application deadline was more than already a month ago. but now know that God brought me to this retreat because He wanted to mould me.

He is the potter, and i am the clay. i needed to seek Him first. then i needed His renewal and reaffirmation.

it’s almost 10 years since my last such experience (i was 16 when i attended the compulsory confirmation camp!). attending Mass everyday, having praise and worship, sharing during group sessions, constant prayer, love amongst each other, and healing…

it’s unspeakable joy.

of course at the retreat, i had to find my direction with God when it comes to my illnesses, especially my self-harming ways. my first step was to declare to myself- “only SHORT-SLEEVES through this retreat, Steph! no more hiding! be you!” and i never regretted it. i grew on a retreat staff, as the priest directed me to her. she seemed to know things about me. subtle things that most would miss out. and her wisdom as a missionary, her visions, as God worked through her, gave me so much joy.

but i am home now. home was the place i cried a lot about in the retreat and now i’m back here. it’s reality. reality bites. and my heart is restless.

i will write more, and i will post photos, hopefully tomorrow, before i start work the day after. i’m going paddling for 2 hours early in the morning. although it makes me physically tired, it makes me happy and it takes my mind off things. and i’d like that before i give myself up to my calling from God.

i love you Papa God!

“sleeping beauty”

i’ve known fatigue for a large part of my life.

fatigue is a well-known symptom of RA, yet very misunderstood. of course having gone undiagnosed till 17, i was always labelled as “lazy” and everything similar one could label me for being tired.

then came depression. there was fatigue too. i was even more tired. insomnia came and plagued me. i went through so many sedatives in the past years and my sleep is still disturbed.

oh then fibromyalgia!!! how exciting! in all seriousness sometimes i’m so tired i can’t function. all the fatigue just compounds upon one another.

i have reached this point when i’m going out and i cannot predict if i can stay awake throughout the whole trip, or even half the trip if i’m lucky. the times when i do turn drowsy, it’s like someone drugged me. my eyelids start to droop, my head is heavy, and i really need to sleep.

remember me mentioning how i fell while walking because i fell asleep? before therapy a few days ago, i was waiting at an eating area drinking my coke zero. i was so tired i kept falling asleep. alas i totally succumbed to the fatigue and when i woke up, my FRINGE WAS SUBMERGED IN MY DRINK. that same day i was also tired to the point i’m walking like a drunk. if you asked me to walk in a straight line, i can’t.

my family has made fun of me. called me “sleeping beauty”. i have fallen asleep eating my dinner watching tv, while i rested my dinner on my chest/tummy. i have said “i’m taking a short nap!” and ended up sleeping for 3-5 hours.

in the recent light of events (escalation of events actually) and my struggle to stay awake, i saw my GP and she thinks it might be narcolepsy or obstructive sleep apnoea. sigh. so i’ll need to go see a neurologist/sleep specialist to figure it out. i just wish my psychiatrist could give me some Ritalin to tide through this period till we get this sorted out.

there has to be a reason for my crazy fatigue. it cannot just be compounded fatigue can it?!

so frustrated.

500

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it’s been 500 days out in the wild! again, i did not expect this, and chanced upon my days counter a few days ago. i got a spanking new Naish Alana Stand-Up Paddle for myself! it was a really good investment really. :)

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the top photo in the collage is where i learnt stand-up paddling (SUP) for the past 2 lessons. it’s located in Changi, and it was quite a challenge as a beginner to paddle in the open sea. the bottom 3 photos were taken the same day i bought my Naish paddle. it’s a beautiful and light carbon paddle. ladies’ paddle, of course!

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he above 3 photos were from the first lesson. i’m on the yellow board in long sleeves (rash guard!) on the left most for the bottom 2 photos. we managed to see a family of sea otters that day! it was amazing!!!and to my utter surprise, i liked being in the sea. just not when i swallow sea water when i fall over.

i have not done any sea sport for more than 10 years, and even when i did, it was because of school camps. but i’m very glad i tried SUP. i’ve taken a liking to this sport, and will continue to SUP for a long time to come!

again, 500 DAYS!!!

i feel sad today because…

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i used chopsticks like i always would, for dinner today. it’s my first meal today. it’s just noodles, easy. yeah.

but when i got in halfway through my meal, i said sorry to mum because i was taking a break from eating. my fingers hurt too much. my MCPs and PIPs felt like they were flaring. then i realised i am sorry not sorry. i don’t owe anyone an apology just because i went at my own pace.

picked up the chopsticks to finish my dinner again. mum was done and i was feeling guilty. my fingers hurt and in my mind whirls every single possible reason why this is happening again. my fingers were crooked by the time i finish, my face in a grimace. i had to straighten out my fingers with my left hand.

why is this happening when there is little/no disease activity going on right now???

ok shit yes whatever RA throws at me, i’ll get emo like fuck.

*verge of tears again*

wimpy rant

tension headaches
neck aches/pains
back aches/pains
fatigue
ANXIETY
all my meds
nausea
dizziness
aches/pains that don’t go away
more fatigue
more headaches
ANXIETY

i feel like i’m in hell. no i feel like this is worse than hell. i don’t know what the fuck is going on and i’m spinning on the merry go round like the fuck i enjoy it. AND LIKE THE FUCK OPIOIDS DO ANY SHIT FOR ME. i cannot do it anymore. i’m so tired i can’t sleep because my neck hurts and i’m nauseous and headachey. i don’t know why i can be so sleepy and drowsy for a stretch, and then tired but awake for another. whatever can be tried, i have already tried. so this is futile.

i take the paracetamol, the tramadol, the oxycodone for the pain, but it’s still all there. i take metoclopramide for the nausea, cinnarazine for the dizziness, eperisone for the muscle aches and tightness, rub diclofenac gel everywhere. i spam caffeine to keep myself awake but i still sleep. i take flurazepam to sleep but i’m still awake anyway. NOTHING IS WORKING. and then i pop and pop and pop lorazepam because i’m anxious everyday. all these on top of my usual meds.

i don’t know what’s going on. just give me my life back. if this is fibromyalgia at its best, please spare me. RA anytime. really. oh my goodness me. i cannot tolerate constitutional symptoms well. aargh.

i’m such a fucking wimp.