An Anxiety Update

It’s occurred to me that I’ve never done an update to let my readers know how I’ve been doing since starting Prozac for my anxiety last August.  I wrote a post back in August about how difficult it was to actually agree to take medication for my anxiety & yet how much of a relief it was at the same time (you can read that post here:  Perhaps the fact that I’ve rarely blogged about my anxiety since then is proof of how effective the medication really has been.  In any case, I’m having a high anxiety day today, & I thought it would be an appropriate time to share my experience with Prozac.anxiety meds

Within a week of starting the Prozac I could tell a real difference in my mind; I just felt a lot more relaxed.  The “endlessly chattering squirrel” in my brain was not banished, but she was quieted a great deal.  And what a relief that was!  I can say with great certainty that handling my husband’s diagnosis of severe sleep apnea last Fall & his subsequent journey into treatment for that would have been far, far more difficult without the Prozac.  As lame as that may sound, I know it is the truth. hello-my-name-is-anxiety

I realize there are some who feel like I have chosen the easy way out by taking medication for my anxiety, & that’s fine.  Maybe it is the easy way out.  But I can assure you that I tried every non-medicinal thing I could think of for the first 25 years of my life (essential oils, therapy, journaling, etc) with only minimal success.  And Prozac has been far from a “quick fix” for me.  If anything, it has just helped to quiet my mind enough that I can actually better utilize my non-medicinal approaches to relieving my anxiety.  For example, since starting Prozac my monthly therapy sessions have become more therapeutic than ever, & I’ve experienced a renewed pleasure & relaxation in writing & music.  Part of me still regrets being “dependent” on a medication to manage my own brain . . . but then I remind myself that this is really no different than being dependent on a medication for blood pressure or any other medical condition, especially if it’s something that you tried to cure with a healthy lifestyle but could not.Anxiety mental health symbol isolated on white. Mental disorder icon design

As I said, I’m having a high-anxiety today, as usual for no particular reason.  It’s just one of those days when I feel more potently my introverted tendencies, when the idea of interacting with anyone other than my husband, closest friends or family, or my dog feels like too great of an effort to bother.  The great news is that with the Prozac these days are much fewer & much further between.  Indeed I can’t even remember the last time I had a day like this.  Trust me, friends, this is great progress for me!

Additionally, over the past 6-9 months I’ve become increasingly more comfortable with the idea of having children in the next year or two.  It may be coincidence of course, but I have to wonder if taking the Prozac & thus gaining better control of my anxiety has influenced this.  If so, I’m certainly not complaining!  The thought of having children is still one that is riddled with lots of questions & a good bit of anxiety simply because it is something I’ve obviously never experienced before & indeed something that for most of my life I was quite sure I never wanted to experience.  However, I no longer feel like I’m completely unsuited to the task.  Like I said, it could just be coincidence, but I can’t help but think the Prozac has something to do with feeling more confident in my potential anxiety party

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this post, but I guess I just want my readers to know that if you’ve struggled with anxiety or depression or any other mental health condition, please don’t feel like taking medication is a weakness.  It isn’t.  If you are able to manage your condition without medication, that’s great, more power to you.  Maybe someday I’ll be there.  Maybe not.  But I’m finally getting to the point that I’m ok with either outcome, whether I take Prozac for the rest of my life or not.  It doesn’t really matter to me.  What matters is that I continue to live a life that is less plagued with anxiety than it was for the first 25 years of my life.  Lastly, to those who have encouraged & supported me on this journey, I can’t thank you enough. anxiety

Also, if you need some inspirational music look (or should I say listen?) no further than this, one of my all-time favorite classical pieces, Pictures at an Exhibition by the great Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky.  This version from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is simply too beautiful for words.  I was lucky enough to find a CD copy of it at the book/coffee store in my hometown quite a few years ago.

Modest Mussorgsky

Modest Mussorgsky


28 Quotes That Prove Russell Brand Isn’t Such an Idiot After All

I don’t remember when I first became aware of Russell Brand’s existence, but I do remember when Katy Perry married him a few years ago & thinking to myself “Doesn’t she know what he’s like?  How could she possibly think marrying him was a good idea?”  This is not to say that I’ve ever been a big Katy Perry fan.  I’ve nothing against her; I’m just not really into pop music very much, although I will say she does have a great voice & she is definitely gorgeous.  RB and KP In any case, until about a month ago I regarded Russell Brand as one of those silly comedians who would say or do anything for a laugh, had no respect for women, & was just a general idiot.  I honestly can’t remember now what triggered me to start researching him a bit more, but what I quickly found is that he isn’t quite the idiot I always thought.  Quite the opposite in fact.  There’s a lot more to him than meets the eye for sure.  Besides anyone who can beat a heroin addiction definitely deserves a second glance.  And if he happens to be gorgeous, wickedly funny, & have a delicious British accent . . . Well, I’m not going to lie, that helps a bit too. Russell Brand arrives at the MTV Movie Awards in Universal City, Calif., on Sunday, June 6, 2010. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello) As I’ve mentioned on here before, people who break stereotypes or somehow prove that they’re a lot more than I initially considered them to be are fascinating to me.  So once I started watching some of Brand’s stand-up comedy & YouTube videos (both interviews of him as well as his Trews clips), I quickly decided that I should go straight to the source, so to speak, & read his own books.  I just finished the first part of his autobiography My Booky Wook, & it reminded me a lot of Marilyn Manson’s autobiography, which I also recently read, in the sense that it was wickedly humorous but also difficult to read at times due to the blunt descriptions of sex & drug abuse.  And yet, as with Manson’s book, I couldn’t stop reading it.  It was ridiculously addicting, as I’m sure Booky Wook 2 will also be.  (That one is next on my to-read list.  I’m just finishing up an Agatha Christie at present, as she is my all-time favorite author.)  There is something about such raw honesty that is incredibly compelling to me, perhaps because it is, above all else, REAL.booky wook So today I thought I would share some of my favorite quotes from My Booky Wook that demonstrate to me how devilishly clever & perceptive Brand actually is, despite his reputation as a junkie Lothario.  I’m not going to edit them (other than to bold my favorite parts) so, yes, there will be cursing.  But it’s more fun that way anyway. ;)rusell brand 2

  1. So anyway, I didn’t want to go to that sexual treatment center, but all the do-gooders . . . insisted, & I sort of, kind of agreed.  Just to shut everyone up, really, & for the same reason that I finally gave up drink & drugs- because my ambition is the most powerful force within me, so once people convinced me that my sexual behavior might become damaging to my career, I found it easier to think of it as a flaw that needed to be remedied.
  2. I particularly dislike preordained happy occasions.  I don’t mind Christmas so much, because everyone’s involved, as long as they’re Christians or lazy atheists, or Muslim but into tinsel.  But I’ve never had a good New Year’s Eve, & I don’t like birthdays, or any other time when you’re meant to be happy . . . For me happiness occurs arbitrarily: a moment of eye contact on a bus, when all at once you fall in love; or a frozen second in a park when it’s enough that there are trees in the world.  I don’t like New Year’s Eve.  I don’t think bliss could ever be preceded by a countdown & the chiming of a pompous clock, unless that’s what death’s like.  [I was reminded of this quote yesterday while my husband & I were biking around our neighborhood & the gloriously sweet scent of honeysuckle was carried on the breeze, & I thought to myself “How wonderful it is to be alive & experience this very moment!”]honeysuckle
  3. In later life, I have come to realize that any expression of love which ends in a yelp probably requires modification.
  4. [In regard to his father]: He taught me that you can get what you want if you refuse to let circumstances defeat you, & perhaps there is no more valuable lesson.  I only wish I’d felt he liked me more.
  5. I was a connoisseur of the Penguin [a type of candy], which came in yellow, green, blue, & red wrappers.  I was a particular devotee of the blue variety, even though all Penguins are the same below the surface, which I think is as perfect an analogy as we’re likely to get for the futility of racism.racism
  6. The need to find out what will happen if I don’t relent or moderate my actions has been a constant source of difficulty & discomfort in my life.
  7. My dad’s philosophy was (& I think still is) that life is a malevolent force, which seeks to destroy you, & you have to struggle with it.  Only those who are hard enough will succeed.  Most people get crushed, but if you fight, in the end life will go, “Fucking hell.  This one’s serious.  Let him through.
  8. For me, it was more important that people knew I had sex than having sex.  That’s daft, if you live for other people’s perception you can never be happy, but this was no time to ponder that existential blather . . . perception quote
  9. In Grays [his hometown] I didn’t possess anything people wanted.  I was trying to spend a fantasy currency from an irrelevant island.
  10. What I wanted was to be in love, to have a companion to look after me- someone to replace my mother.  But before I could persuade anyone to fulfill that function, I found drugs.
  11. Many years later, when I eventually got clean, I was astonished to learn that I actually don’t enjoy my own company.  I always thought I loved being on my own, but actually I don’t.  It was being on drugs that I liked.
  12. Gravity’s hard to dispute, & breathing, but a lot of things we instinctively obey are a lot of old tosh [nonsense].question everything
  13. What I’ve learned- to my cost- on several occasions in my life, is that people will put up with all manner of bad behavior so long as you’re giving them what they want.  They’ll laugh & get into it & enjoy the anecdotes & the craziness & the mayhem as long as you’re doing your job well, but the minute you’re not, you’re fucked.  They’ll wipe their hands of you without a second glance.
  14. I presume that feeling ostracized & alienated from them [his father & step-father], even within my own home growing up, encoded within me a deep sense of alienation.  That’s why in any group dynamic my identity will always be defined as an outsider rather than from within.  This is also the reason why stand-up comedy is the perfect career for me.  Not just because I’m constantly scribbling notes inside my own mind to deal with the embarrassment I perpetually feel, but also because I’m always observing, always outside . . . The fact that I’ve managed to make it funny is bloody convenient, because I can’t think how else I would make them listen.russell brand with dog
  15. Once I finally got a bit of success, it became clear that my internal deficit of sadness & longing would not really be sated by the things I’d always thought would save me.  This realization made me turn to hard drugs- specifically heroin- in an even more concerted way I than I ever had before.
  16. Heroin is a greedy drug, robbing you by increments first of your clothing, then of your skin; finally when it comes for your life it must be a relief.  They’re not present those people: if you talk to them, they just look beyond you, they’re not really there.  That’s why the invisibility of the homeless scoring drugs on Oxford Street is almost by mutual consent: they don’t want to be seen, & no one else wants to see them.homeless
  17. Of all the consumer products, chewing gum is perhaps the most ridiculous: it literally has no nourishment- you just chew it to give yourself something to do with your stupid idiot Western mouth.  Half the world is starving, & the other’s going, “I don’t actually need any nutrition, but it would be good to masticate, just to keep my mind off things.”
  18. . . . international violence being a two-way street & it being impossible to oppress people endlessly without consequence.
  19. The main problem was I had too much status & not enough discipline . . . I’d be all full of acrimony & revolutionary bile- furious at society, but ultimately furious at myself.LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 02: Russell Brand moderates the Q&A at the
  20. They were quite happy to demonstrate social solidarity through Kit-Kats but if you actually bring homeless people into their lives, it makes them uncomfortable . . . Perhaps the reason it [homelessness] continues is that we somehow think of the homeless as dirty & unpleasant . . .
  21. Would anyone sleep with prostitutes if they weren’t able to dehumanize them?  If they understood that prostitutes were women with lives & families & problems & hopes & dreams, would they still be able to empty themselves soullessly & leave fifty quid [money] on the table?
  22. I find the potential for mayhem exhilarating- society’s only held together by a few ideas.  I know those ideas are quite entrenched, & the reason we have a police force & an army is to maintain that status quo, but at moments like this, that whole apparatus can suddenly look quite vulnerable, & I find that thrilling.russell brand riot
  23. People do this a lot.  They don’t seem to realize that the future is just like now, but in a little while, so they say they’re going to do things in anticipation of some kind of seismic shift in their worldview that never actually materializes . . . Tomorrow is not some mythical kingdom where you’ll grow butterfly wings & be able to talk to the animals- you’ll basically feel pretty much the same way you do at the moment.  [So true!  I keep reminding myself of this every time I want to skip the gym or otherwise screw up my attempt at a healthier lifestyle & subsequently losing a few pounds.]
  24. When you live in the psychological space that I did, life is not about confronting reality, it’s about ignoring it.
  25. Perhaps heroin had, similarly, held me in times of trouble.  The prospect of relinquishing it was terrifying.  The only reason I did so was because I was more afraid of what was going to happen to me if I didn’t.

    He wear eye-liner better than I do!  Oh wait, he has his own stylist.

    He wears eye-liner better than I do! Oh wait, he has his own stylist.

  26. I couldn’t go on living like this.  I had to become successful.  “I want to change the world, & to do something valuable, & beautiful.  I want people to remember me before I’m dead, & then more afterward.”  And at this juncture I was finally willing to do whatever it was going to take to bring that about- up to & including giving up drugs.  From that moment on, I really did take things, in the textbook rehab fashion, one day at a time.
  27. I’ve always had the analogy that people who are depressed are often funny in the same way that England is a seafaring nation because we’re an island; because you adapt to your circumstances, & if you’re miserable you’ve got to become funny to fucking keep afloat.
  28. I’ve noticed the Americans are inherently consumers.  They always want to pop pills for mental or physical ailments.

    Like Manson, Brand loves cats . . . Maybe these guys need to meet (if they haven't already).

    Like Manson, Brand loves cats . . . Maybe these guys need to meet (if they haven’t already).

Russell Brand has gotten a bad name lately because of his influence over the recent British elections (encouraging people not to vote), & I’ll be the first to admit that I think such encouragements were ill-advised.  However, his assertion that the current political climates in both Britain & the US offer no good options at present is certainly spot-on . . . As I’ve said before, I love people who question the status quo, who make me think, who challenge all of society’s ideas about what is normal & natural, & who prove that people really CAN turn their lives around in a positive manner.  That is a perfect description of Mr. Brand, & that is why I’ve chosen to honor him in this post today.breaking stereotypes

When 10 lbs Feels Like Mt Everest

This is going to be a hard blog post to write, partly because it’s just a painful subject for me & partly because it’s frankly embarrassing, but sadly I think it is necessary for me to write & share this in order to make the changes I need to make.  Or at the very least I think it will be helpful in holding me accountable to make those changes.  And let’s face it, I need all the help I can get or I wouldn’t be in my current situation.weight loss

What is my current situation, you ask?  The answer is I’m about 10 lbs overweight.  Now I know that in a culture where obesity is basically the norm, complaining about being 10 lbs overweight might sound a bit absurd, but throughout my life I’ve always tried to hold myself to higher standards than the norm, not just in regards to health but with everything.  But the sad truth is that over the past few months I’ve noticed that my clothes don’t fit as well & I just don’t like what I see in the mirror.  I’m hoping no one other than my husband has noticed this, but that isn’t really what matters anyway.  What matters is that I know I’m not as healthy as I want to be (or should be) & I don’t have the confidence I had when I was just a few pounds lighter.change yesterday

I was doing some research on healthy body fat percentages for women, & if my bioelectric scale is at all accurate (it’s consistent if nothing else), then I am only 1%-2% above the upper end of the ideal body fat percentage for women my age.  Additionally my BMI has been fluctuating between 24.9 & 25.2 which is right on the borderline of healthy weight vs overweight.  Now I fully realize that BMI is not a very reliable indicator of true health status, especially for men, but even perhaps for women like me who lift a fair amount of weights.  But nonetheless I know that when I was just 5-10 lbs thinner my BMI was squarely within the healthy range & I can’t help but feel that I was indeed a healthier size then.  Not to mention I felt better about my appearance which inevitably led to greater confidence in all aspects of my life.  Call me vain if you like, but I think that is just biology at work, just human nature if you will.Ideal-Body-Fat-Percentage-Chart3

The upside is that I know for a fact that I am stronger now than I’ve ever been because I can lift more weights than I ever have in the past.  So even though my workouts have been pretty sporadic over the past year or so, I’ve still gained some muscle.  So that’s encouraging.  I’ve also started biking over the past month & I can already tell a difference in my cardiovascular stamina, so that too is encouraging.

However, the bottom line is my waist is too fat.  Unfortunately every single member of my family, on both sides, gains weight right around the waistline.  Not only is that, in my opinion, the most unattractive place to gain weight, but more importantly it is also the worst for your health because belly fat promotes higher blood sugars which promote inflammation which promotes heart disease, among other ills.  Sigh . . . The upshot is that, even though my mom would never wear a miniskirt, she still has amazing legs even in her 50s.  And even though I’ve got a few pounds to lose, I don’t have an inch of cellulite, never have had any, & probably never will, (if I take after my mom, that is, & statistically speaking that’s the likeliest outcome).belly fat

Now I know some people will say I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, but the fact of the matter is I do need to be hard on myself if I want to stay as healthy as I can & feel as good as possible about my body.  My husband & I have been talking a lot lately about having kids & how we can best prepare for that eventuality in the next few years.  One of the things we’ve agreed on is that we both need to be in the best shape of our lives before even thinking about getting pregnant.  We have several reasons for this.

First, we want to set the best possible example for our children so that they too will lead healthy lives.  Second, there is research that shows that the weight/health status of BOTH parents at the time of conception can influence the child’s weight/health status throughout their entire life (in other words, if one or both parents are overweight when the child is conceived, that child will be genetically predisposed to being overweight as well).  Third, we have enough foresight to realize that trying to lose weight & become healthier AFTER having kids is a ludicrous idea.  We don’t want to start out with a deficit so to speak.  We want to have good healthy habits in place so that when the challenges of childcare arise we are less likely to continue with or fall back on unhealthy ways.

Wow, what an inspiration!

Wow, what an inspiration!

The good news is I’ve been in this situation before & resolved it in a fairly short amount of time.  I know there are no “tricks” or magic secrets to losing weight.  It’s actually very simple: eat healthier (more protein & veggies, fewer empty carbs), drink more water (quite often thirst is disguised as hunger), & exercise more (particularly weight-lifting because that boosts the baseline metabolism).  It worked in the past & there is no reason to think it won’t work change

The trouble comes in following my own damn advice & realizing that there is no one to blame here but me.  Yes, there is far too much candy floating around the hospital, & yes, night shift is notorious for leading to weight gain for a variety of reasons.  But I like to think I’m stronger than those temptations.  And yet I won’t be until I stop blaming my circumstances, making excuses for myself, & generally floundering in self-pity. choices

So this blog post is my, albeit pathetic, way of saying no more excuses.  No more blaming my circumstances or anything or anyone else in my life.  I’m an adult with a good job, a wonderful husband, & a nice house, & someday I want to be a mother, & a good one at that (which is not to say that overweight women can’t be good moms . . . obviously I am not that short-sighted).  But if I want that to make that dream come true then I’ve got to live up to my own standards & lose these 10 lbs or whatever it is.  It might not even be that much.  All I know is it feels like Mt. Everest right now.  But people have climbed Mt. Everest, & by golly, I am going to be one of them (in this metaphorical sense only).excuses

P.S. To my friends/coworkers who may read this, please, please slap my hand if you see me eating anything that could be considered junk food.  I sincerely mean that.  I will thank you for it.

You Know You’re a Nurse When . . .

I originally wrote this as a Facebook note about two years ago, but I decided to revise & add to it a bit & share it on the blog today in honor of Nurse’s Week.  This is aimed at all my nursing friends, but I think just about anyone who works in the healthcare field will be able to appreciate, & probably get a good laugh from, many of these.

  • You constantly find yourself staring at people’s veins at the gym, the grocery store, the mall, basically everywhere.  Furthermore, you have to stop yourself from telling strangers “Hey, nice veins!  I’d really like to start an IV on you.”  And maybe sometimes you have actually said that . . .nurse porn veins
  • You can’t imagine ever going back to the dreaded 9-5.  Then again maybe there a few nurses who actually miss that kind of schedule . . . But I know I’m not one of them.
  • You work the majority of holidays, & the only time you’re jealous of your 9-5 friends & family is on those holidays or snow days when everyone else is relaxing & you’re working.  Then again, our 3-day work-weeks are pretty freaking amazing, & I for one wouldn’t trade them for snow day
  • Every time you see an abbreviation on a truck or advertisement that has a different medical connotation, you can’t help but laugh.  For example PSA (public service announcement) makes you think prostate specific antigen.  PTL makes you think pre-term labor & CBI makes you think continuous bladder irrigation (these are both abbreviations I’ve seen on tractor trailers or delivery trucks).
  • You feel really guilty whenever you find yourself complaining about some stupid annoyance in your life because you immediately think about the sick patients you care for whose lives are so much harder than your own.
  • As a consequence of the above observation, you constantly find yourself prioritizing your life & focusing on your friends, family, & pets & spending as much time with them as possible & generally making the most of every day of your life.  I swear we really do have the best job in the world for so many reasons!
  • You truly believe you learn more from your patients than they will ever learn from you.  To be clear, a lot of times the lessons you learn from your patients are “Here’s how NOT to live your life,” but such lessons are still important.mistake cartoon
  • You have gone running into your patient’s room because of the crazy heart rhythm on their telemetry only to discover that the patient (who may well be in his 80s or 90s) is masturbating . . . or actually having sex!  Trust me, I couldn’t make this crap up if I tried.
  • You have had patients ask you out on a date, for a massage, & for all number of completely inappropriate things.  And subsequently you’ve had to remind said patients that you are a professional nurse, not a call-girl or potential girlfriend/boyfriend.
  • You constantly have to remind yourself that taking care of yourself is absolutely vital to being able to care for others.  This can be as simple as taking a bathroom break before it becomes a real emergency.
  • You have to remind yourself that you do not need to record & measure your own I&O (intake & output, that’s what you drink & what you pee, for you non-nursing folks).I&O
  • You have seen & touched every part of the human body.  Every single part & on people of all ages.  And on way too many people to count!
  • Medical TV shows are basically unwatchable because all you do is scream at the TV every time you see an error (shocking asystole) or something that is just painfully unrealistic (like doctors giving medications or performing their own MRIs).medical tv show
  • You have come to realize that there are some things that only nurses can really understand.
  • You understand that the old adage “attitude is everything” really is true.
  • You have realized that you cannot & will not change the life of every patient you meet.  But you understand the value of trying anyway.
  • You often find yourself sharing stories from work at the dinner table only to realize half-way through that not everyone has the stomach of a nurse . . . Oops!gross story eating
  • On a related subject, you can stop half-way through eating your lunch to go collect a stool sample.  Then after washing your hands you can go right back to eating & never think twice about it.
  • You can diagnose C. Diff & GI bleeds based solely on smell.
  • You have witnessed countless times how the sweet little old lady who the day-shift nurse described as adorable can have quite a different personality at night.  Sun-downer’s is real, folks.sundowners
  • You have held the hand of the dying & watched people breathe their last breath. And you have felt incredibly blessed to be able to share in these very special moments.  You have come to realize that there are fates SO much worse than death, & you have guided families in understanding this also.
  • You have cried at the death of a patient you only knew for a few days or even a few hours.  You have hugged the families & provided comfort to them while your own heart is hurting too.
  • You have learned that what people DON’T say is just as important as what they do say.
  • You know how to set aside your emotions & get to work when a Code Blue is called.
  • You constantly find yourself assessing for “falls risks.”  This includes when you’re out in public shopping or running errands.fall risk
  • You have realized that a good nursing assistant is your best friend & can make such a vital difference for you & your patients.
  • You learn something new every time you work, & it’s awesome!
  • You have realized that you will never know it all.  And that’s ok.
  • You have also realized you will never please everyone.  And that’s ok too.
  • You have a really dark, twisted sense of humor that non-nurses often find disturbing or just can’t understand.  But you realize that this is absolutely vital to surviving the insanity of today’s healthcare field.nursing humor 1
  • Just when you think you’ve seen it all, someone goes & proves you wrong.
  • You can’t remember what you learned in nursing school & what you’ve always known.  Like doesn’t everyone know the difference in type 1 & type 2 diabetes?  Oh, maybe that isn’t common knowledge.  Did I know that before nursing school?  I honestly don’t know.
  • On the same subject, you are continually appalled at how little the average person knows about their own body.  For example, you’ve seen women insist that they have a prostate!  It’s no wonder our country is so unhealthy!
  • Every time you get sick, you think you’re dying because you’re trained to think “worst case scenario” for everything.  However, this doesn’t mean you actually go to the doctor, just that you have random thoughts of appendicitis every time your stomach hurts or meningitis/brain tumors every time you have a headache, etc.nurse mommy
  • People you rarely or never actually talk to send you Facebook messages or texts asking about random medical questions, sometimes about rather “sensitive” subjects . . .
  • You have some of the best coworkers in the world from whom you have learned so much & with whom you have shared at various times both laughter & tears.

And I could go on & on, but I’ll stop because this post is probably already long enough.  Happy Nurse’s Week to all my awesome nursing friends & coworkers!  :)

8 Essential Characteristics of a Good Nurse

As this is Nurse’s Week, I’ve been thinking about a few different posts I’d like to write in honor of my profession & the many wonderful nurses I know.  While driving around town running errands today, I started thinking about what I consider to be some of the most essential components of a good nurse & decided this would be a good way to start off my blog posts in honor of this special week.nurse pic

*Disclaimer: Obviously, these are all MY OPINION, so feel free to take them with a grain of salt, so to speak.  But these are all based on my (almost) four years of nursing experience.  Also this list is most applicable to HOSPITAL nurses as that is the only type of nursing I have actually done thus far in my career.  (I was exposed to various other forms of nursing as a student, but as far as an actual job as an RN, I’ve only done inpatient nursing.)  I daresay many of these are applicable to all forms of nursing, but in general the list was written with inpatient hospital nursing in mind.

Furthermore, I am by no means 100% faithful to all of these points all the time.  I’m as human as everyone else, naturally.  But these are things I sincerely try to live up to as much as I can because I know they are (some of) the things that make a good nurse, & as with anything else I do, I want to be the best nurse I can be.

These are in no particular order.nursing humor

  1. Organized: Organization is key to being a competent nurse. The great thing is that everyone’s idea of organization can be quite different.  My report sheet & routine don’t look like everyone else’s, just as everyone else’s report sheet & routine don’t look like mine.  And that is just fine.  The point is that you find a system that works well for YOU.  I strongly encourage new grad nurses to get started on this very early in your career or otherwise you’ll always be a few steps behind.  As nurses we are responsible for monitoring vital signs, lab results, diagnostic test results, the mental status of our patients, & myriad other things, not to mention keeping up with & double-checking doctor’s orders, again among other things.  Obviously none of this can be done efficiently without a good organization system.  Show me a disorganized nurse & you’ll show me someone who is probably displeased with her job & who drives her coworkers (& quite possibly her patients) crazy . . . I’ll leave it at that.  P.S. Here’s my report sheet, in case you need something to help you out: Nursing Report Sheet
  2. Adaptable/flexible: One of the first things I learned about nursing, thankfully while still a student, is that being a nurse requires you to be extremely adaptable & flexible. Not only do patients’ conditions change constantly, but so do hospital policies, routines, & equipment.  Just when you think you’re getting up to speed, something will change.  Trust me.  It is just the nature of the healthcare field.  There is no question that the constant change in healthcare contributes to the high stress level nurses experience, so if you don’t handle change well, you will probably be a dissatisfied, easily burnt out nurse.change quote
  3. Willing to learn: Following right along with the above point, as nurses we are constantly asked to learn new things. Whether it’s new equipment, a new computer system, or a new medication, there is ALWAYS something new to learn.  While this can be frustrating at times, it’s also one of the things that (to me) makes nursing fun.  I for one could never be satisfied working in a stale, unchanging environment.  As someone who has always loved learning, the very dynamic nature of nursing is just one of the many things that I believe makes this such a fulfilling career for me.learning is work
  4. Assertive: This is one that hasn’t always come naturally to me but that I’m pleased to say I picked up on fairly quickly (I like to think so anyway). Being a nurse means you will inevitably deal with angry patients, disgruntled physicians, rude family members, inefficient hospital systems, & all manner of frustrating things.  Most nurses, I’ve found, are naturally kind people who long to please others & make others happy.  Considering the caring nature of this profession, that is logical.  However, we must strive to never allow our desire to help & please others to turn us in to doormats (partially because that inevitably leads to burn out).  As nurses, we have to advocate for our patients, many of whom cannot or will not speak for themselves.  I’ve found that being assertive with doctors, patients, families, management, etc is the best way to both advocate for my patients & retain my own mental sanity.  It’s not always easy, for sure, but clearly nursing ain’t a career for the faint of heart.  (Can I get an “Amen”?!)assertive
  5. Thick skin: Ooh, here’s another one that definitely didn’t come naturally to me. Trust me, I have more than once cried when a patient, family member, or doctor spoke harshly to me, usually in the bathroom or at the nurse’s station after the fact.  But slowly I am learning to be a bit more thick-skinned.  You have to or you will not survive in this profession.  If you’re a soft-hearted new grad like I once was & wondering how you’ll ever learn this skill, trust me, it will come with time & experience.  I imagine it’s kind of like being a parent: you can’t take every temper tantrum personally & you have to pick your battles or you’ll lose your mind.  Additionally I’ve found that if I make it obvious to “testy” patients & family members that I’m not really ruffled by their behavior, quite often they calm down very quickly.thick skin tender heart
  6. Empathic: Not disregarding the above point, it pretty much goes without saying that an essential characteristic of a good nurse is empathy. There’s a fine line between having thick enough skin to survive in this field while also maintaining an empathetic heart.  And it’s not an easy line to walk sometimes, trust me.  But it can be done.  Perhaps one of the greatest things I learned in nursing school is that people who are hurting do NOT actually want you to provide them with a solution to their problems.  What they really want is someone to listen to their story & validate their pain & suffering.  This can be as simple as listening with an open mind & saying “I’m sorry, I know this has been difficult for you.”  (As I’ve found, this is a great skill to learn for your personal life as well.)  As nurses, we must also remember that our empathy needs to extend not only to our patients & their families but also to our coworkers & even ourselves.  None of us is perfect & we have to learn to forgive ourselves for not always being the perfect “angels of mercy” we strive to be.empathy
  7. Resilient: This is one I’ve come to appreciate more the longer I’ve been a nurse. Being resilient basically means you’re able to recover & bounce back from the hard times.  As nurses, we witness all kinds of terrifying events that inevitably leave some scars on our psyche.  Because of this it’s inevitable that we’re going to have some bad days/nights as nurses.  It just can’t be avoided.  In order to recover from the bad shifts, we have to have outlets that allow us to mentally recuperate.  For me this comes mostly in the form of music, writing, & of course venting with my fellow nurses.  I also volunteer with a local hospice group (not as a nurse, just as a regular volunteer) which I’ve also found brings me a lot of joy.  Additionally, I see a therapist once a month to work on my innate anxiety issues.  Even though much of my anxiety has very little, if anything, to do with my career, I still find it helpful in handling the inevitable stress of working in the healthcare field.resilient
  8. A warped sense of humor: When one patient is screaming for pain meds, another just pooped all over the floor, the monitor tech is calling to say your third patient had a run of V Tach, & your admission just arrived, you better have a warped sense of humor or you’re going to run out of the building in tears. I’m serious.  This is something I didn’t totally appreciate as a new grad, as most new grads probably don’t.  You just can’t know the insanity of being a nurse until you’ve done it.  The things we laugh at would probably make the average person cringe, but then again the average person isn’t a nurse. And if you don’t learn to find the humor in the crazy things we see & deal with on a daily basis, you won’t survive in this field.  It’s as simple as that.sense of humor nursing

If you’re reading this & you’re considering entering the nursing profession, I hope you’ll take this post seriously.  If you don’t feel that you possess any of the above characteristics, frankly I’d suggest going into another field.  Naturally none of us is born with all of these characteristics or possesses all of them 100% of the time because, as I said, we’re all human.  All I can say is I’m so thankful to have worked with so many wonderful nurses over the past four years who have demonstrated these characteristics to me & helped me develop them as well.  If you’re one of those nurses, or one of the many fabulous nursing professors & clinical instructors I was blessed to learn from, & you’re reading this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.thank you

Nothing Is Sacred

When I was a teenager, I remember hearing a Southern gospel song that prominently featured the following line: “God said it, that settles it, & that’s good enough for me” (or something very similar to that).  At the time I was still very much enmeshed in the conservative Baptist culture in which I was raised, & yet even then I remember feeling there was something a bit unsettling about those lyrics.  As a budding adult who had always loved science, indeed all types of learning, I suppose it was the blind faith those words implied that scared me.  As I’ve grown up & moved away from that culture, I now look back on that song with true horror.  I have no idea who sung it or what it was called, but I’ve never forgotten those words, probably because they so perfectly sum up the way so many Americans still feel about religion, among other subjects. skeptic quote

As I was telling a friend a few days ago, I think what separates me (& the friend to whom I was talking, as well as my husband) from a lot of people is the fact that there is nothing truly sacred to me in this world.  What I mean by that is that there is nothing that is beyond question.  From religion to politics, the government to the military, my career to my relationships, there is nothing in my mind that is not open to questioning & rational debate.  I believe this is one reason I feel such a disconnect with so many of my fellow Americans, particularly here in the South.  I also find that many people have the impression that those of us who are skeptics are cynical a$$holes who hate everyone & everything.  Please believe me when I say that could not be further from the truth.  Or actually, don’t just believe my words, let my actions show it to you (for those of you who know me in real life, that is).george bernard shaw quote

As an aside, looking back on how I grew up, I find it really scary that church services never (or very, very rarely) featured a time for people to ask questions.  Instead we all sat there quietly in our pews (with the exception of a few hearty “Amens” scattered here & there) & listened to one man preach to us.  If that doesn’t sound like indoctrination & an imbalance of power, I don’t know what does.  I’ll never forget a particular sermon in which the pastor railed against a group of high school or college athletes who met President Bush & had the audacity to wear sandals to the event.  Even then, I remember thinking this couldn’t possibly be something Jesus would give two hoots about, but looking back I’m even more horrified, as this now strikes me as simply ludicrous.  Not to mention, I can’t help but question whether the pastor would have been nearly so perturbed if the president had happened to be from a party whose name started with a D! . . . Oh wait, there I go questioning things again. thomas huxley quoet

When it comes to politics, I find that many of my fellow Americans are afraid to question the current wars in the Middle East because doing so is “not supporting the troops.”  I for one fail to see how this is at all a logical argument.  Because I do value the lives of our troops so highly, I do not want to see them used as pawns in the hands of a corrupt government scheme to involve ourselves in the affairs of countries who want nothing to do with us, the end result of which is simply creating more & more people who hate America.  Seems to me like we our efforts are just backfiring tremendously.question everything

I could give dozens of more examples of how I feel so many people do not want to question the status quo, but I’m trying to be brief & concise & not stray too far from the subject at hand.  I also realize I am being sacrilegious & generally a bit of a heretic here, but I’m slowly getting to the point in my life where I’d rather be truly honest about my beliefs than just smile & nod to keep the peace.  I for one know I am going to raise my kids to be skeptics too.  Frankly I feel like I was a born skeptic; I just kept it under wraps for a while because I felt so guilty for being this way.  Now I realize what an incredible advantage it can be to be a skeptic in a world that is constantly trying to sell us something, from the latest new gadget to political schemes & religious fanaticism.  Indeed, when I have children someday, I intend to raise them to be eternal skeptics & to question everything.  Everything, that is, except my love for them. skeptic quote 2

P.S. To anyone who truly does think my skepticism makes me a deluded heretic, feel free to pray for me or whatever makes you feel better.  Just know that I’m happier & more at peace with life than I’ve ever been.  Cheers!


Why Choices Matter

The longer I live, the more I realize that life really is what you make it.  I don’t want to get too political here because that’s not what my blog is about, but all this talk about McDonald’s employees demanding to make $15/hr just makes me realize how important it is to make good choices in life, my point being that working at McDonald’s is a job that is intended for teenagers, college students, or others who are just trying to supplement their income.  It’s not meant to be a CAREER.  It’s not meant to be a job on which you support a family.  As cruel as it may sound, this kind of job just doesn’t require anywhere near the skill or expertise to justify paying someone $15/hr.  And if you think it does, trust & believe that if the minimum wage is really increased to $15/hr, the fast food moguls will very quickly find a way to replace human beings with machines or robots that do not require salaries or benefits.  That’s just how capitalism works, folks. mcdonalds

But this isn’t a post about minimum wage or workers’ rights or anything like that.  Rather this is a post in which I want to reaffirm my belief that as adults we alone our responsible for the trajectory of our own lives.  Now obviously we cannot control everything that happens to us.  We can all think of dozens, if not hundreds, of examples of bad things happening to good people (& vice versa), & these examples all serve as evidence that the world can, at times, be a most cruel & unjust place.  On the other hand, whether we like it or not, if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s quite clear that for the most part our lives turn out the way they do because of the choices we make.  Let me be clear in saying that this does NOT mean we should not have compassion & empathy for those whose lives have turned out less than desirable.  Far be it from any of us to look down on anyone else because of their station in life. choices

However, I truly believe that if we want to help ourselves or anyone else, we must first realize the power we each have over our own lives.  This is both scary & empowering.  It’s scary because it requires us to admit that many of the problems we face in life are actually the direct result of bad choices we have made.  On the other hand, this realization is very empowering because it awakens us to the power that lies within us to transform our own lives.  It means that we are NOT just slaves to the whims of fate or the circumstances in which we happened to be born.  We are not just pawns in the hands of some insurmountable “destiny” or “providence.”  When it comes to helping others, perhaps the best way to describe this is the old quote that goes like this: “Give a man a fish & you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish & you feed him for a lifetime.”destiny choice

At the risk of offending a lot of people, I’m going to just put this plainly, as I see it.  I think a lot of the world is in turmoil because people are waiting for a savior; they’re waiting for God to fix their problems & the problems of the world.  The old cliché “Good things come to those who wait” is nonsense.  The truth is good things come to those who works their butts off & never take no for an answer.  In reality, WE need to fix our own problems because we actually DO have the power to change our lives.  Furthermore, if we each have the power to change our own lives, then it follows that collectively we have the power to change the world.  I’m smart enough to realize that there will never be a utopia on this planet.  But I’m also optimistic (or maybe stupid/naïve) enough to believe that the world CAN become a better place, if only we claim the power within ourselves to make it so.good things quote


When all is said & done, I truly believe none of us can blame anyone else for our position in life.  Certainly our parents, families, friends, & the society in which we live influence us in many ways, some good, some bad.  But as living, breathing, thinking adults we alone are responsible for our own decisions & for living with the consequences of those choices.  Trust me, I fall into the trap of trying to blame other people or life circumstances for my own short-comings more often than I’d like to admit.  That’s just part of being human.  The point is not staying in that trap but rather being honest with ourselves & learning to hold ourselves accountable for the decisions we make.  It’s not an easy process & it’s one that takes a lot of practice & a lot of self-discipline.  But if we want to succeed & enjoy this crazy journey called life as much as possible, it’s a process that is absolutely essential.

In summary, here’s my challenge to you (& to myself obviously):  Be brutally honest with yourself.

1.  What is it about your own life that you dislike?  

2.  As hard as it may be to admit, what choices have you made that have led you to your current position in life?  

3.  What could you do differently to obtain a better outcome?  

4.  Lastly, as we all know “no man is an island,” who can you enlist to help hold you accountable for making better decisions?  As we’ve already discussed, ultimately you alone are responsible for your own choices, but it sure does help to have a friend walking along with you.

Here’s to soul-searching & asking the hard questions.  Cheers!

"Life is like a railway track: a bend of an inch & a distance of many miles."  ~ rom "Jab We Met" (my favorite Hindi film)

Life is like a railway track: a bend of an inch & a distance of many miles.” ~ from “Jab We Met” (my favorite Hindi film)

If you need a little inspiration on your journey to taking full responsibility of your life, check out this empowering song from the amazing new Halestorm album that just debuted last week.  (The entire album ROCKS, by the way!!)  This song was in fact the major inspiration for this post.

You need this album.  You really do.

You need this album. You really do.

I am through with this
`Cause I am more than this
I promise to myself
Alone & no one else
My flame is rising higher

I am the fire
I am burning brighter
Roaring like a storm
And I am the one I’ve been waiting for
Screaming like a siren
Alive & burning brighter
I am the fire

I don’t believe I’ll fall from grace
Won’t let the past decide my fate
Leave forgiveness in my wake
Take the love that I’ve embraced

I promise to myself, me & no one else
I am more than this
I am the fire

I am the fire
I am burning brighter
Roaring like a storm
And I am the one I’ve been waiting for
Screaming like a siren
Alive & burning brighter
I am the fire (Link to the video with lyrics included)