My ‘Ah-ha’ Moment: Why I Finally Started Taking Care of Myself

Earlier this week, I was chatting with a friend over coffee and we ended up on the topic of taking care of ourselves. We swapped stories about the ‘Ah-ha’ moments where we finally realized we weren’t invincible and had been neglecting taking care of ourselves.

As we chatted, I realized I had never shared my story with you, my readers!

So whether you are new to the blog or an old friend: Welcome!

Today I want to share my ‘ah-ha’ moment with you. This is the story of what sparked my desire to take better care of myself and how I found my ‘why’.

Hopefully sharing this will inspire you to take those first steps and start paying attention to your own health and wellness. Having a purpose or a why certainly helps me make decisions that keep my health and wellness top of mind each day!

So, without further ado…

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 got a Master’s degree to further specialize my skills and expertise.

I was working full-time in a demanding job that I loved. I embraced the challenges of each patient and was grateful for the variety and complexity of every day.

I felt like I was making a real difference.

That feeling usually lasted until it was time to go home each day. 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 personal life was slowly falling apart. The toll from such an intensive and all-consumptive graduate program left me a shell of my former self.

My long-time significant other and I were distant roommates. Our limited interactions allowed us to pick fights with each other over the smallest of annoyances.

I had friends I hadn’t seen in what seemed like ages. Hobbies? I didn’t ‘have time’. I was depressed and unhappy.

I was surviving on a steady diet of coffee, diet Dr. Pepper, and gum while at work.  My lunch would sit in the staff lounge, untouched. There wasn’t usually time for even a quick bite.

Afterward, I would stop to grab fast-food on the way home. This habit started as a ‘quick fix’ for the really busy shifts. 

I’m sure you know the type. The shifts where you got an unexpected patient admission, or someone coded, or you transferred out two patients just in time to receive two fresh post-op patients. The shifts where things are so busy, you don’t eat for an entire 12 hour shift.

Overtime, my stop for fast food was no longer a ‘quick fix’. It became a habit. My body struggled to adjust.

Soon, I found myself overweight, chronically exhausted and battling frequent migraines. Then, in a culmination of exhaustion, stress, 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, and you awake to see all of your coworkers standing over you, evaluating if you have a concussion, it’s not a wakeup call, but a blaring siren. Loud and incessant.

I needed to reevaluate my life and make some changes. I’m talking big, uncomfortable, purposeful changes. My health and career depended on it!

After several tests, a couple of scans, and many blood-draws later, it was discovered that I had Mono. 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 normal.

Having such a public ‘event’ 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 had to face the very things I had become so good at avoiding. It got uncomfortable, and very ugly before it got better.

Not working also meant I had lots of free time on my hands. Free time I initially used for worrying and stressing.

Pep talks and teary-eyed phone calls with my family helped. Being brutally honest with myself about how I was feeling and what I wanted out of life was crucial. Keeping a journal to help organize my thoughts helped.

Facing my current situation head-on with absolute honesty helped me find a new why and take the first steps toward change.

I moved out and moved on from my roommate situation. I started regularly seeing a therapist for depression. Something I wasn’t aware I had but after my recent battery of tests and screenings, it is something I needed to address.

First, I started with medication. Over time, I started getting out into nature. I was exhausted but I would force myself to go outside for five minutes every day.

At first, I didn’t even walk. I would just stand or sit in the sunshine. Eventually, I would take a short walk around the block before heading right back to bed.

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 slowly improving and I was feeling better.

I found that purposeful movement and practicing self-care each day (no matter how small) were the keys to taking back my life, on my terms.

Later, my daily movement would turn into a full-on fitness regimen, but that’s a story for another time.

When I first started this blog, I didn’t want to share my story or my struggles. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t stable on my own feet yet. I was also embarrassed and ashamed about 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 continued journey back to wellness. I see and hear about others going through their own struggles.

Life doesn’t have to be that way. You are not alone!

I also want to ensure my healthcare friends and colleagues remember to take care of themselves and follow the advice we do readily give our 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 our own health and wellness, will better equip us to handle whatever comes our way.

Focusing on our why and remembering our health is also a priority will keep us on track!

My journey toward regaining my health and making wellness a way of life is far from over. It is a conscious effort every day.  Some days I take a step forward, and some days I still slide back a bit.

That’s why I created Wellness in Healthcare. A supportive community where we can share the tips, recipes, setbacks, and anecdotes to help maintain health and wellness. To fight exhaustion and overwhelm.

Thankfully I am in a much better place now. I have found a way of living and thriving that works well for me and hopefully it can help you too!

Wellness is not a straight line and while there may be bumps in the road, we will reach our goals! We are all on this journey together. One day at a time.

Be well!

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