Earlier this week, I was chatting with a close friend about the idea of personal wellness. We swapped stories of the ‘Ah-ha’ moments when we discovered our health had been neglected and we ourselves were ‘noncompliant patients’. As we talked, I realized I hadn’t actually shared my exhaustion story with anyone other than close family.
So whether you are new here or an old friend: Welcome! I feel my readers are like family, so it’s time I open up!
Today I am sharing my ‘ah-ha’ moment with you, my internet family. As you’ll soon find out, it’s more of a ‘rock bottom’ moment that led me to take better care of myself and overhaul my life.
My intention in sharing this, is to inspire you to take the first steps and start paying attention to your own health and wellness.
If you’d rather skip the story, but you’re looking for a strategy and framework to take control of your health, your life, and your energy, watch this short video! It’ll inspire you to take action today!
So, without further ado…
Setting the Stage for Exhaustion:
I moved to Boston shortly after college. As a newly-minted healthcare professional, I wanted to work at ‘the big-name hospitals’. The ones I read about in medical journals and heard about on the news.
These facilities were on the cutting edge of research and treatments, who had world-class providers on seemingly every medical team. Boston, in my mind, was at the forefront of new and innovative things in the medical field. It was the type of environment where I wanted to practice.
The city itself had the allure of big and busy, but at the same time felt small enough to be a ‘big town’. It was a place I would eventually call home.
After I moved, I immersed myself in all things healthcare. I also enthusiastically sought out grad school and was working on entrance requirements for a Graduate program to further specialize my skills and expertise.
I was working full-time in a demanding job that I loved and embraced the challenges of each patient. Grateful for the variety and complexity of each day.
Things Get Shaky:
I felt like I was making a real difference, but that feeling faded when I got home each day. My personal life was slowly falling apart.
Homelife had gotten ‘complicated’ so I started working late and picking up extra shifts to avoid going home. My simple 40-hour work weeks soon became much more. Ask anyone; there’s always an opportunity for overtime at the hospital.
My significant other and I were distant roommates. In our limited interactions, we picked fights with each other over the smallest of annoyances.
I had friends I hadn’t seen in ages. Hobbies? What were those? I was depressed and unhappy.
A Quick Fix…
I was surviving on a steady diet of coffee, Dr. Pepper, and gum while at work. My lunch would sit in the staff lounge, untouched. There wasn’t time for even a quick bite most days.
Afterward, I would grab fast-food on the way home. A ‘temporary fix’ for really busy shifts.
You know the type: the ones where you got an unexpected admission, or someone codes, or you transfer out two patients just in time to receive two fresh post-ops. Shifts where things are so busy, you don’t take a bathroom break for 12 hours.
Overtime, my nightly stop for fast food was no longer a ‘temporary fix’. It became a habit. When I worked night shifts, I just opted for the breakfast menu. My body struggled to adjust.
The Tipping Point:
Soon, I found myself overweight, exhausted, and battling frequent migraines. Not to mention feeling alienated from friends, with no time for myself or energy to do anything ‘fun’. Then, in a culmination of being ‘just so tired’, feeling endlessly stressed, and battling a misdiagnosed ‘cold’, I passed out at work.
To say that was a wakeup call would be putting it mildly. When you are lying on the floor in a hospital (ewww), and you wake to see your coworkers standing over you, evaluating if you have a concussion, it’s not really a wakeup call, but more like a blaring siren. Loud, incessant, and if I’m being honest, humiliating.
After several tests, a couple of scans, and many blood-draws later, it was discovered that I had Mono, chronic exhaustion, and adrenal fatigue.
Side note: Apparently getting Mono as an adult is a bit rare and the test was ordered as a last-ditch effort by my doctor because all my other lab work and results had been somewhat ‘normal’, outside the adrenal and exhaustion issues.
Having such a public ‘episode’ at work, followed by the diagnosis of Mono forced me to take time off. Not being able to work meant I no longer had the ‘sanctuary’ of the hospital.
I needed to reevaluate my life and make some changes. I’m talking big, uncomfortable, purposeful changes. My health and, as I would later find out, my career depended on it!
I had to face the very things I had become great at avoiding. Things got uncomfortable, and very ugly before they got better.
Not working also meant I had lots of free time on my hands. Free time I initially used for worrying and stressing. I know, productive right? (face palm). Somehow, I still felt exhausted, despite sleeping upwards of 14 hours or more some days.
Pep talks and teary-eyed phone calls with family helped. Being brutally honest with myself about how I was feeling and what I wanted out of life was crucial. I kept a journal to help organize my thoughts.
If this is you, and you are ready to give up on this whole ‘nursing thing’ I encourage you to watch this video before you decide to leave the profession! Create change, end exhaustion, and take action today!
Triage and Treatment:
Clearly, my current trajectory wasn’t sustainable. Facing my situation head-on with raw honesty helped me find the courage to take steps toward change.
Moving out, I left my roommate situation behind. I started regularly seeing a therapist and taking medication for depression. Something I wasn’t aware I had but, after my recent tests and screenings, it was something I needed to address.
During my mandatory time off, I did a lot of research and digging. I read books, scoured online databases, and devoured as much research as I could find.
I listened to audiobooks, interviews, I even met with a counselor and later, a life coach. An enthusiastic guinea pig and through trial and error, I figured out a better way to take back my life and my peace.
I wanted not just a quick fix, but something that would last, long-term, to prevent this from ever happening again. Nursing is a calling, and I fought hard to stay in this profession because I know it’s worth it.
As I started to feel better, and my medication began working more effectively, I started investing more energy into my health and wellness. My perspective was improving and I was feeling better. The exhaustion was fading and I felt more like myself than I had in years.
Daily purposeful movement and self-care were quick wins along the way to keep me motivated. I was also doing serious internal work which would prove to be truly transformative.
Sharing My Struggle with Exhaustion:
When I first started my blog, I wasn’t ready to share my story or my struggles. I wasn’t stable on my own feet or sercure in my own truth. I was also embarrassed and ashamed how far my life had veered ‘off the rails’.
As I have gotten stronger and more resilient, I feel compelled to share my struggles and my journey back to wellness. Life doesn’t have to be a series of stressful or exhausted moments. There is a better way. I know this because I lived it first hand.
My goal is to ensure my healthcare friends and nursing colleagues are empowered to take care of themselves and follow the advice they so readily give patients.
The world of healthcare will always be busy and demanding. Our home lives will have their own challenges and complexities. Deciding to make ourselves a priority and focusing on health and wellness, will better equip us to handle whatever comes our way. It sets us up for personal and professional success.
A Place for Change:
That’s why I created Wellness in Healthcare and the Ending Exhaustion Master Class. It’s a supportive community to share tips, strategy, anecdotes, and even setbacks without fear of criticism. The goal is accountability to help maintain our health and wellness.
Thankfully, I am in a much better place today. I found a way of living and thriving that works well when applied consistently. I share it with you, so it can help you take back your health and life, so you can thrive!
My journey still takes conscious effort every day. Most days I take solid steps forward, but some days I slide backward. I’m only human.