I saw this pop up on Facebook recently and every red light went off in my brain. Nooooo!
Always here, right? I’d like to see five of my friends post this message (Not share) to show you are always there if someone needs to talk. I think I know who will.
There are a lot of expats here doing wonderful things, supporting charities, giving locals skills so they can raise their standard of living, running spay/neuter clinics which have drastically decreased the stray animal population, helping orphans and the handicapped, shipping in donated medical equipment, cleaning up beaches and other areas…. I’m sure I know only a small fraction of what people are doing.
Thats really wonderful but unfortunately, not for me. I was a nurse for decades, often battling burnout and the stresses of the job. I dropped out twice to recover and regroup. I wanted to be a medical professional all my life. I wanted to be useful, to do something to help others, to make a positive impact in my little corner of the world. I feel I did that and I touched countless people, and hopefully made their journey a bit easier. I also learned a lot, especially the value of health and life itself and how quickly that can all change.
Nurses must walk a very fine line. You can’t connect with people without caring but if you care too much, you crumble under the weight of it all. I’ve been present at many births and many deaths, profound experiences that I’m grateful for. The hardest though, for me, is the suffering of the patient and the family, usually as they make slow progress towards death. You do what you can but you are basically helpless.
Buddhism helped me enormously, not that I’m a great Buddhist by any means but still, it helped me see life as a deep and peaceful thing with waves only on the top. Sometimes the waves knocked me down and my emotions got the better of me, but knowing it’s only surface disturbance helped. I was able to care about my patients better without letting their suffering rattle me as much. I learned that it’s ok to just let things be, to just be there even if you can’t alter the course of their path.
But, even with all that, by the time I retired I was totally drained dry. I haven’t even mentioned the deteriorating US health care system, the tons of documention required to get paid and prove we aren’t commiting fraud, and the constant push to do more with less. Along with the patients and their issues, I got to watch the increasing stress of my fellow nurses and coworkers as they struggled to provide adequate care and keep the office doors open.
I thought when I was away for a while, I’d start to regain my emotional energy but it’s been well over 5 years and it’s not happening. I feel guilty that I can’t contribute much. I can’t be one of those people who is always there when someone needs to talk. I think one of the hardest things for women and for nurses is learning to take care of ourselves first. We are always putting everyone else’s needs ahead of our own and sooner or later we pay a steep price for that. I value my friends and appreciate them in my life. I want to be there for people. I’m just limited in what I can do. I suppose this is something we all need to figure out. What level of involvement is healthy for us?
Ok, I’ve said my piece and I hope I wasn’t too obnoxious to my friend on Facebook 🤭