I thought a lot about writing a blog entry like this. It’s very personal and raw. It’s something I have struggled with, covertly and then, overtly for many years. Acknowledging it was very freeing because as much as I didn’t want to admit it, anxiety has played such a huge role in my life. My sincere wish is that someone who is silently suffering is able to find a mirror in these words and finds a way to get help.
During my early years of nursing, the fears and worries I had seemed normal. Still quite green, thoughts would race like “Will the patients like me? Will I be able to care for them? Will they judge me? Will the doctors think I don’t know what I am doing? Do my coworkers believe in my knowledge and skills? Am I the nurse they want to work with? Am I the nurse they want to follow?” To sum it all up in one word…. exhausting. The constant worries, the racing heart, the tightening in the chest… sometimes, even though I love being a nurse, it all felt too much and the worries and fears became an almost dread like sensation. I just thought it was something unspoken among nurses. Its’s normal to wake up and fall asleep with the same fearful and racing emotions, right? No, it’s not.
I switched from working daylight shifts, to working night turn. Less people, less interaction, less staff and less potential judgement. At the very heart of anxiety for most, myself included, is this feeling that I will make someone angry with me or disappointed in me. How am I letting someone down? It lead me to try even harder than most. I came in early and researched my patients. I would make double and triple sure I wasn’t leaving anything for the on coming shift. Because of this, I was normally given most of the challenging patients since I was always the cool and non frazzled one. But, if they could only see and hear what was going on inside, I worried no one would ever trust or like me again.
Currently, I am a hospice nurse and care for patients in various locations. Before a new admission, I feel that adrenaline laced fear and worry about meeting and caring for these already vulnerable souls. Will I stumble over my words because I am trying to maintain calm? What if they think I am not capable? Will I be able to provide all they need? What if I don’t know something? Will they belittle me for not possessing that knowledge? My bag is full of sheets of resources so that I can find answers quickly. Thank God for texting because I can fire a question off quickly searching for an answer. Sadly, asking for that answer, while being the right thing to do, sends me down another rabbit hole.
The little voice in my head starts yelling about how now my fellow nurses now must think I am dumb and incompetent. Ironically, when they ask me a question, I never think that of them. That’s anxiety for you. Recently, I was terribly sick. Instead of my worry being how will I get better, it was about how my coworkers will be so frustrated and angry with me for calling off. Even though I have time off and even though I couldn’t possibly work as it was unsafe for myself and others, I was so anxious that calling off would cost me my job. Was almost crippled with the thought of finding something wrong with my work. A wrong med sheet or forgotten script kept me up at night. Unreasonable, right?
Just as unreasonable is anxiety in personal relationships. Do my friends really like me or do they just tolerate me? Will they be still in my corner if I open up with what’s going on inside? Do they judge me for gaining weight? Do they hate me for losing weight? Can they see that I care about them but am sometimes crippled with this and that’s why I cancel plans? Will they hate me for that? My hands are clammy just thinking of it all. But, I know I cannot be alone in all of this and as scary as it is, transparency is my new route.
In my heart, I know I am a good friend and coworker. I put my heart and soul into what I do. Always trying to educate myself and become a better nurse. I am a great texter and card sending friend… because there are no worries with those. But, life isn’t about the worries and fears, it’s about living. Medication and therapy help. So does meditation. I hate to admit it, but so does exercise. Also for me, knitting has helped, as does baking, which kind of cross eliminates exercise. The point is, if you are in the throes of it all, there are solutions and help can be found. I like to think I am a work in progress – better than what I was but, not quite where I want to be. That was a hard fought lesson for me to learn. Even perfection isn’t perfect.
So, if you have that friend who always seems to cancel plans or that coworker that might be over stressing, a very likely cause could be anxiety. It seems like the solution would be so easy – just stop worrying. But, as any anxious person knows, it doesn’t work that way.
Be kind to them.
Be understanding with them.
They are fighting battles that they might never reveal.
Be patient not only with them, but with yourself.