You Can’t Pour From An Empty Cup

You Can’t Pour From An Empty Cup

“Your profession is not what brings home your weekly paycheck, your profession is what you’re put here on this earth to do, with such passion and such intensity that it becomes a spiritual calling.” -Vincent Van Gogh

One of the hardest parts about being a healthcare professional is we are constantly pouring into our patients and if our cup becomes empty – we can burn out. In 2017 I was working the night shift at a behavioral health hospital working an average of 48/60 hours a week while attending school full-time. During September 2017 we had a patient who was a high suicide risk. We round every 15 minutes and document what each patient is doing, mood, etc. My fourth day back, I was working on the sister unit next door, but I had to cross over to grab some supplies. My coworker pulls me aside and says ***** hung themselves today. I could feel my lip tremble as I had gotten close to this patient of the prior three days. The following months I was struggling. One of my professors noticed something was up and I was notified by our I-Care team at my university. I received an email to come in for a meeting with an LPC and we sat down and talked. She walked me over to our University Counseling Center and I sat down with a Psychologist who then gave me two options. My first option- I have my roommate pick me up and drive me 2.5 hours away to the closest behavioral hospital that I didn’t work at and I check myself in or my second option, I go to the place that employs me. So, I picked up my phone and called my roommate. She dropped everything and came to my side. I ran home and packed a bag and for the next seven days I was surrounded by some amazing people and I honestly felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Only my roommate knew where I was. I was ashamed of what my family would say – so I kept it quiet. When my roommate returned, she opened up to me-telling she broke down when she got into the car because she didn’t realize what I had been going through/went through in the past. We took a moment talked about what had been going on. Then decided to spend the day in the big city so we went to get lunch and went to the mall before the drive back home. I returned to work and school however that was short-lived. A month later I ended up back to the psychologist telling me to call my roommate. This stay, however, wasn’t as nice. I noticed a spot on my leg that looked like a spider bite at the time, but the staff wouldn’t look at it. After multiple other patients advocated for me, they looked at it. At this point it was about the size of a baseball- it was cellulitis. I was hospitalized for 14 days and they kept pushing for me to stay until after Christmas. I told them this was probably going to be the last Christmas with my grandma because she’s been sick. I got discharged on December 23rd and flew home on Christmas day. Needless to say, I made the right call. My grandma passed away on January 24th.
On March 5, 2018, I attempted suicide. (Check Out – Finding Peace Behind the Pain – For Full Story). My cup had dried up and I decided I didn’t want it to be refilled. The next few days I spent time in a local hospital before being sent 2.5 hours away to a different psychiatric hospital. I stayed there seven days before moving to the outpatient program for the following 28 days. I could slowly start to feel my mood improving as I was taking the time to learn about all the different types of therapy. My cup was starting to fill up again.
May 28th, 2018, I made the move to the city I had been spending so much time in. I left behind everything I once loved; the university I spent the last four years at, my sorority sisters, my friends, the beach, the city I had grown to love, the hospital I spent so many hours volunteering in, the kids I loved from nannying, the memories. But what hurt me the most was my best friend who was there with me through it all- we haven’t talked since I left. I started working at a local hospital and little did I know I was going to start to slip again. Within the first few months my personal life a mess, I was financially unstable and struggling with my mental health I was on the verge of losing my job. I got to the point where I knew when it was enough that I needed to go check myself in and that’s what I did. I continued to see a therapist weekly-sometimes more. Months passed by – each day was harder and harder. I couldn’t get the strength to face my patients less than my coworkers. I was burnt out-I didn’t care anymore.
In April 2019 I accepted a position at a local level 1 trauma hospital. I was excited about everything that I was going to get to learn to see first-hand. Going into healthcare I always thought my passion was going to be in the psychiatric nursing field. What I have learned from working at this hospital, in particular, is psych can be anywhere in the hospital- not just the psych ward. I have held the hand of a patient who’s entire family was just killed in a car accident. I sat beside the patient who shot them self in the head. Took care of the patient who isn’t even twenty years old yet, but was the victim of a senseless act -who now has a Traumatic Brain Injury. I have sat and talked with a patient as I washed the dried blood and glass from their hair. I’ve listened to my patients’ stories and flashbacks from the accidents, from being shot, stabbed, etc. I’ve been there when they are upset, angry, lonely – especially right now during quarantine and no visitors are allowed in the hospital. The stories could go on and on. Each patient that comes to the unit I work on has typically been in some sort of trauma; gunshot, stabbing, car accident, motorcycle accident, hit by a car, hit by a train, jumped from a bridge, etc. Watching these patients transform from the time they reach our unit until their discharge is normally a wonderful feeling. The growth and progress that these patients make are admirable to me. To look at some of their stories and to see the pictures of the vehicles they were driving or hear how the bullet was only 1cm from the heart- then to see them get to go home. That’s why I get up and do what I do. I want to be there for my patients because this may be one of the hardest things this individual had ever gone through and I want to make sure I can support them during this difficult time. I no longer wake up and dread going to work, I look forward to it.
The question you might be asking yourself is what changed? In nursing, there is a lot of specialties; Peds, Psych, Tele, Ortho, ICU, etc. I was consistently seeing the same types of patients and no change. I love to learn and be hands-on and the hospital I was at wasn’t giving me that opportunity to do to. Currently, I work on an orthopedic floor, so I get to see more. I’ve got to watch the doctor’s stitch up a patient who got hit by a car and I’ve watched the doctors irrigate multiple bullet wounds. Dressing changes and packing can be pretty interesting depending on the wound type and how deep the wound goes. Besides being happier in my workplace, I finally have a place to call home. I’m no longer running from my ex or fearing the unknown. Don’t get me wrong, some days I still struggle with my mental health, but I am nowhere like I was two years ago. I just have to step back and breathe, practice my coping skills, and remind myself how far I have come.

This incredible story was shared by a brave human named Ashlynn

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