It’s funny how plans change. This time last year, I secretly took classes online to prepare for starting nursing school this fall. It was all planned out: I had four classes to take online and would be finished with those by May 2021; then, I would quit my full-time job and start nursing school full-time in August 2021 and have my RN in a year. I wanted to work in critical care. Then, I became the critical care patient. I’m not sure how long after my accident it was, but I remember laying in my ICU bed, immobilized by that halo, and seeing my husband on my right side. I remember simply stating (actually writing), “I’m done. I can’t work in healthcare anymore.” He simply replied “OK” and nothing more needed to be said. He knew I meant it, and I knew he understood it. After everything I had been through, I just couldn’t stand the thought anymore of seeing anyone else suffering. I felt weak; like instead of rising to the occasion and helping someone through it, I would instead internalize it and become crippled by it. I hope that changes with time, but I don’t think I’m there yet.
Instead of preparing for nursing school, I’m now at home all day, riding the depression roller coaster. Since my last post, I’ve had another surgery on my leg that was a lot rougher than I anticipated, and for some reason, I got really down for a couple of weeks. I think the only time I wasn’t a sobbing mess was when my kids were with me. I feel… lost. Everyone else is continuing on with life, and I feel kind of stuck and not sure where I’m going or what my future holds. What’s my purpose? I don’t bring in an income anymore, and am currently very physically limited. I see other trauma survivors on social media making incredible progress in such a short time and I start doubting myself. Am I doing enough? Am I progressing enough or am I being lazy? What should I be doing?
In my last post, here, I talked about how I spiraled into depression and ICU delirium, which REALLY took a significant mental toll on me. Another aspect of that that I’m still dealing with is severe anxiety due to loss of control. I lost control over my own body… and bodily functions 💩. I repeatedly told people that I felt like a sack of meat that people just came and did things to. It could be anything from slamming a laxative into my PEG tube, making me stay under a cooling blanket with ice packs all over me because my fever was too high, but BY FAR what would send me over the edge was anyone coming near my neck to fool with my trach or suction me. I would absolutely freak out! Imagine trying to breathe and all the air is being sucked out of your lungs- that’s what being suctioned feels like. It doesn’t matter if it’s for three seconds or ten; it was torture for me. Maybe I’m just a wimp, but that was my absolute trigger into an anxiety attack! Before my accident, I don’t think I ever had a ‘for real’ anxiety attack, but I definitely had them regularly while I was in the hospital. It’s just my opinion, but I think people use mental health terms too loosely. If someone is telling you a story about how much anxiety something gave them and they are laughing, then it’s just a funny story. It’s not funny at all to me to talk about the situations that made me panic. Not yet at least.
During all of this, I was also battling a liver infection and pneumonia. My fever was staying really high, and my lungs were trashed. I remember having a really hard time breathing with the ventilator settings turned down. I guess they didn’t want to tell me how bad off I was because they kept telling me it was just my anxiety, but I later found out that my husband had been prepared for the worst (again) because they didn’t know if I’d survive the pneumonia. It was truly a dark time, and I’m so glad to be on the other side and able to talk about it. I can’t work in healthcare in the capacity that I had planned, but I hope telling people about my experience can help someone else not feel alone in their feelings. That’s the worst part, I think.
I honestly feel like this post has been all over the place, but in the spirit of transparency, I feel like that’s the way my brain is right now. It’s up, it’s down, it’s really happy, then really sad, and back on the roller coaster we go! It’s a bumpy ride, guys!