UWS Revisited.

This morning was my début as a guest speaker at the University of the West of Scotland, talking to the first year student nurses about my personal nursing journey, and why I think care home nursing needs a fresh-faced and dynamic ambassador. Someone like me for example.

I spoke candidly to the students about my own personal experience, much as I did at my Flying Start presentation. I described how I felt being left behind while my other classmates all secured posts. How nursing homes were a dreaded and undesirable last resort in our inexperienced student opinions and how I have come to realise exactly how wrong we were. I’m now trying to rectify that by campaigning to improve the way nursing homes are viewed, championing student experience within my own care home in the hope that other homes may follow suit and reaching out to other nurses with my personal #allnursesmatter crusade across social media.

I addressed a few common myths which I have encountered regarding care home nursing. It is widely viewed as a stop-gap to tide the newly qualified over until an NHS post is secured. Nursing home posts are seen as an easy option whilst waiting for a real job. Where the notion that my job is easy has come from is beyond my comprehension. There is nothing easy about being in sole charge of a 20 bedded dementia unit and handling all the different co-morbidities and developing mental states of 20 individual residents, not to mention 20 sets of sometimes difficult families to be kept updated and reassured, and then having to manage four junior staff members to a level never encountered on placement. All that and more beyond legible description could very easy be far too much for a fledgling nurse to handle. To clarify: it is not easy by any stretch of the imagination, not even now 18 months in.

The other myth which angers me most of all is the declaration that nursing home nurses lose their skills. Well which skills, tell me, do you think I have lost? Because I regularly take bloods; I give high risk medication like insulin and warfarin; I am in charge of storage, ordering and management of all the medication in my unit; I change catheters, female, male and supra-pubic; I give vaccinations; I give controlled drugs; I assess and redress wounds; I deal with emergencies such as heart attacks and strokes; I give palliative care and have become proficient at setting up syringe drivers. In fact I do everything a district nurse does. I am a community nurse. It is just that I carry out my care throughout a 12 hour shift within the resident’s communal home instead of travelling around the community 9-5. And yet nobody claims that district nurses lose their skills.

I am a community nurse providing care for those unable to continue living in their own home. It is important that we keep people living in their own homes as long as is possible, but if there comes a time when this is no longer viable, they come to me. They come to the nursing home and are assisted to live as independently as possible whilst receiving 24 hour nursing care. We are the next logical step in the chain of community care, yet my job is for some reason not valued and nor is the incredible care quality we strive to provide. If I said I was a community nurse nobody bat an eyelid, yet when I say I am a care home nurse I am met with sympathy and consolation. I am pitied and told I will find a real job soon. Since when did “real” become a synonym for “NHS”? I have a real job, and it is an important one.

And may I remind you all, that scrubs nurses lose their skills too: they lose the skills of nursing conscious patients. A&E nurses lose their skills of running a ward. Gynae nurses lose their skills of nursing men. Does that make any of them inferior? All nurse lose a certain amount of skills, and they become expert in others. All specialisms require different expertise, and this is something to be celebrated. I personally came in to nursing because of the huge diversity available in the field. Care home nursing is not for everyone. But neither is High Dependency, or Oncology, or Acute Mental Health Admissions. There is so much that nurses do from birth to death, from Health Visitors to Hospice Nurses. And we are all wonderful, and we all matter.

Sometimes my friends introduce me and say “This is V, she’s a nurse. She saves lives!” And I always correct them because that is not quite accurate, although I totally could save your life if I needed to. I look after people at the end of their lives. I ensure that my residents live well right up to their last days, and I am there for them at the end. It is my job to make sure they have a good, peaceful, and comfortable death. This is not something that many people are comfortable discussing. It is however an essential, difficult and vital part of nursing. Life is part of death, and looking after people at the end is just as important as it is throughout the rest of their lives.

You may not think my cause is relevant to you, but at some stage every one of will have a relative in a care home. Do you not want the care your relatives to receive to be the very best, delivered by wonderful passionate nurses who really are devoted to making a positive difference? This cause is relevant to everyone. Care home nurses should be proud of what they do, and other nurses need to stop looking down on nursing homes. We should have each other’s backs, especially in this day and age.

I will fight this cause as long as I have to and I hope I have made a few student nurses think a little more openly today. I hope I have planted a seed at least, and that I can continue to do so. I am grateful to UWS for giving me the opportunity to speak today and look forward to continuing to work alongside them. I thoroughly enjoyed standing on the other side of the lecture podium today. Not so long ago I was sitting in class with a predetermined plan post reg that went disastrously awry, nearly took my mental well-being with it and has resulted in an incredibly steep learning curve and plans being rewritten. Yet I got here. I cannot tell you the thrill and elation I am currently revelling in after swaggering into to my former uni, not having to park in the student car park because I am a guest speaker and standing in front of a class of future nurses just two years after I have qualified. Things are turning out well, and the future continues to look bright.

Daily Prompt: Transformation

via Daily Prompt: Transformation

Transformation from a lost, art school graduate with no real plan and a baby to bring up, to a competent professional striving towards success and recognition. When I was 21 I could not see a future in art, in anything. So i decided to make one.

Transformation from a newly qualified nurse, desperately hoping academia was going to sweep me up right from the start to a confident, not quite so newly qualified, but still fairly green nurse putting in the necessary ground work with a more systematic and less hopeful approach. When I was 31 I thought I had made the wrong choice again.

Transformation from a defeated and depressed staff nurse questioning everything to a triumphant and victorious self-appointed ambassador in my field. Not so long ago I felt incredibly low. Exhausted, stretched and feeling like nothing could ever change for me.Then all of a sudden things change again.

My whole life has been about transformation. I have always pursued the next project, the next idea, the next level of success. I have always sought to experience and understand everything and everyone around me. My biggest fear is staying in the same place and doing the same thing. My biggest motivation is proving that I can do things when others think I cannot.

I transform myself everyday when I go into work and pile my unruly, mermaid dreadlocks on top of my head and turn my prominent facial piercings into discreet and subtle indications of who I really am. I like to present an outlandish and original external idiosyncratic style but I also know when to transform my self into a smart, credible, professional figure, with just a tiny nod towards my bohemian ideals.

I am currently undergoing a phase of career transition, as I branch out beyond the newly qualified bible which was Flying Start. It is time to stop thinking of myself as just at the beginning of my career, and being  a newly qualified nurse and instead to work towards my long-term goals and dreams. I have enjoyed a recent period of career success and recognition. Some of the feedback I’ve enjoyed has been overwhelmingly positive, I find it difficult to believe it is about me. I sit at my desk and I write, and I will continue to write every day that I am not hard at work in the nursing home. If you want to be a writer you must write every day it is said, and so I must adhere to this.

Long may my transformation continue. I hope I never run out of goals and dreams and progressions, both professionally and personally. When I look back over my achievements and accomplishments I find it hard to understand why I still have this overwhelming feeling of not ever doing enough. No wonder I burn myself out. If I can harness that mindset into channeling and striving for what I want, instead of internalising it and targeting myself, I hope to be able to achieve ever bigger and brighter things for myself. Perhaps the next transformation should focus on acceptance of my success to date?




I Prefer the Term Ambassador to Guinea Pig.

Yesterday I attended my award ceremony for Flying Start at Crosshouse Hospital. I was invited to speak at the ceremony in front of the other completers and the mentors who were receiving their own awards. I was asked to speak because I am the first care home nurse within NHS Ayrshire and Arran to have fully completed Flying Start within the time scale. I thought I’d share my speech online in case anybody would like to read it. It’s not a direct copy as I don’t like to read directly from the page when speaking, so there is always a certain amount of improvisation. But this is the gist.

I finished university in September 2014 and graduated the following November with a BSc in Adult Nursing. I was working on the NHS bank as an auxiliary at the time, getting my face known around the wards and making contacts. I didn’t have green hair, I took all my piercings out and looked the part for interviews. I was doing all the right things and applying for everything available. Fresh from the student conference where I had presented my third year research project I was filled with enthusiasm and seeking a path towards a career in research nursing, but I needed some experience first. I was constantly unsuccessful. All the feedback proclaimed that I had interviewed well, but I guess there was always someone a little bit better. Gradually all of my classmates got posts. I would see them at interviews and then see their success later that day proclaimed across social media. I felt left behind, every rejection hit me harder and I began to question if it would ever be my turn.

I’ll be honest here. There was, and I believe still is, a culture of inferiority attached to nursing homes. Nobody wanted to work in one. It was not seen as a success. At best it was a stop-gap until you got a “real” nursing post. I vividly remember a friend of mine at the time trying to comfort me. When I told her my next plan was to apply for nursing homes she said “Don’t worry, it won’t come to that!” That phrase echoes in my head now and I feel ashamed that we felt that way. What were we so concerned about? What was so wrong with a nursing home?

Five long months after I qualified I got my job at Clarement Nursing Home, a Bupa home in Ayr. 18 months later I am still working there, and I love my job. It is difficult at times, very challenging and it can at times be extremely stressful. Sometimes I want to run out of the building screaming because my brain is on fire. But it is a valid and essential side to nursing. I work in a 20 bedded dementia unit, which I am in charge of. In fact I am the only nurse in the unit. I have a lot of responsibility and autonomy. My job is by no means an easy option.

Yet somehow I still feel a sense of not being accepted as a nurse, due to the negative image attached to nursing homes. I still sometimes get asked when I am going to get a “real” job, as if you are not a real nurse until you work for the NHS.

Not long after I started at Claremont I received a visit from the force that is Ann Burly, the Care Home Education Facilitator. I was still fresh in the job and filled with enthusiasm, keen to express my designs on research nursing and looking at options to facilitate my dreams with Bupa. She urged me to participate in the Flying Start programme and I was happy to do so. I love studying, and I never want to see the back of it. Of course I was delighted to participate, no question. It was not mandatory for me as a Bupa employee, indeed despite constant attempts to get Bupa’s nurses to engage with the programme none of them had ever done so. I saw no reason to reject the offer of a perfectly useful resource.

I went along to my first study day, excited to see former class mates and catch up, share our experiences of the many different disciplines we had split into. unfortunately it did not unfurl quite as expected. The first hurdle was my lack of NHS login. I could not use the classroom laptops because I was not an NHS employee. despite 30 minutes of wrangling with IT, it was given up and the solution was that I had to go to the library to sit and work alone. I wanted to cry. I think I did cry actually. I felt so rejected. 

Looking back, I know that the intention was never to make me feel that way, but as a newly qualified nurse way out of my depth and seeking support that was how I took it at the time. I already felt inferior, and like an outsider compared to my peers in the NHS and this experience was exacerbating that. I could see the pity in my former classmates eyes when I told them where i worked. I could see their incredulity when I told them that I loved my job. I felt excluded and ostracized. My friend joined at for tea break, after the rest of the class had walked right by without a word. I decided over coffee that I may as well be at home in my pyjamas. There was no benefit to my being at the study day. This was my day off. I did not get time out of contract hours or paid to go the study sessions. So I went home. A day totally wasted. An enthusiastic nurse deflated.

I went back to work and told my Clinical Support Manager about my experience. I had at this point decided not to go back, I would just work on my Flying Start independently, although with no Flying Start mentor in the home in reality I probably would never have completed it. I did not expect my CSM to tell my home manager. I did not expect my home manager to tell Ann Burly, who told Practice Education Facilitator running the study session that day (Susan). And I certainly did not expect, when  I was on shift one day and called round to the front office, for a meeting to have been arranged between all of us. Ann and Susan had come all the way to my home to speak to me and my managers to figure out what had happened, why it had happened and to see if a solution could be found. I was astonished. I had not thought that my participation was that important to anyone. I am so grateful that they took that time to come and speak to me because it made me realise that I was valued, I was included and my participation was important. So I did, I returned.

I was promised that this time there would be no technology problems, I would be able to sit in the classroom with the others. I took my own laptop and I was ready this time. It was a different PEF this time taking the session; Laura. But to my dismay the issues were present once again. The wifi did not reach the classroom, and so I was sent out to the library again. Tears at Flying Start once again. But one key point from the meeting at my work had been the criticism that I never said anything last time, I had just left. So I spoke to Laura and I explained everything that had happened and how it felt like it was just happening again.

She apologised, but then she said something that changed everything. She said to me “Nursing home nurses never complete their Flying Start. They start but they never return. So how can we improve the service if the nursing home nurses don’t stay and then feedback to us?” She said “I hate to call you a guinea pig, but without you going through this process we cannot hope to change anything.” And I had to agree, she was right, and her words totally altered my perspective, although I prefer the term “Ambassador” to “guinea pig”.

So after that things improved. I made the commitment to persevere with the programme. I got over sitting by myself in the library: I’m a grown woman for goodness sake I can handle sitting on my own to study! I got on with it and I completed it. It took me longer than I would have liked and I feel I could have done more, but I have had a very difficult year on a personal level this year which has impacted my nursing development. I’ve had more bereavements than I care to mention and I’m not talking about the excessive amounts of celebrities lost in 2016. In February I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and I think that possibly explains much of my enhanced feelings of vulnerability and inferiority during the first few months of my career in nursing. 

I do not in any way blame anyone for the experience I had with Flying Start. I have overcome the difficulties I faced throughout and I am stronger for it. I am extremely glad that I participated and I have learned a huge amount through the experience, much more than I would have learned had it been a smooth ride. Once again adversity seems to be my main catalyst. I am grateful for the experience and I was delighted to be involved in a feedback panel earlier in the year regarding proposed improvements to Flying Start in the future. I hope to become even further involved with projects like this and I am inspired to continue championing care home nurses. I hope in some way, however small, to have challenged people’s perceptions of care home nurses today and I intend to continue to do so. I still intend to pursue that research career however, and in the future I would like to go in to education facilitation. My next career step will be mentorship.

I would like to personally thank the PEFs who supported me through my journey, the staff at my care home who have supported me and especially Ann Burly who is an inspiration to us all with her dedication and passion. I would like to thank you for inviting me here to speak today. I am proud to have completed my Flying Start and I am proud to work in a nursing home. Thank you.

My talk was a success, the feedback was incredible and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved. I made some exciting contacts yesterday and I hope to see a good career progression next year.




Instagram and the Art of Self Esteem

Following on from Instagram and the Art of Recovery, I should like to pause a moment to consider Instagram and the art of Self Esteem. A quick glance at my Instagram feed and you might decide that I am a vain and self obsessed selfie addict. And on a superficial level you would be correct in your assertion. However I am aware of my vanity and I personally prefer it to my former state. When I was younger I had very low self esteem. I could not see the beauty I had been blessed with. I thought I was awkward and not particularly attractive, so I overcompensated with my enormous personality. I shaved all my hair off at age 16 because I hated the frizzy uninspiring locks I had the misfortune to inherit. I was skinny and underdeveloped because of the life I had just escaped from and I was trying to carve out an identity, and experience all the joys of adolescence that I had been missing out on. Most of all I was desperate to be loved and thought I was unlovable.

Very slowly I grew into myself. My abrasive personality mellowed (honestly!), I grew my hair long and made dreadlocks, and I learned how to love myself. I developed an over abundance of self esteem, and this led to accusations of arrogance, over inflated ego and even narcissistic personality disorder. I tell people that I suffer from high self esteem, and the reason I say I suffer is because of the flack you get for being confident and self aware. Apparently you cannot have an awareness of your own attractiveness without being labelled as cocky and arrogant. However, I am far happier in my excessive self esteem than I ever was when I lived in fear of what other people thought about me. I dress for myself, I behave for myself and I enjoy the way I look. Nobody likes to see a pretty girl thinking she isn’t pretty, although apparently nobody wants to hear a pretty girl declaring she is pretty either. As with so many things we are dammed if we do and dammed if we don’t.

So where does Instagram come in to this? My self esteem became healthier a significant amount of time before I became a selfie addict. However from looking back through historical records (my camera roll) I can see a point at which my selfie game improved and my Instagram began to have a positive effect on the way I saw myself. Now if I’m feeling down I can flick through my Instagram feed and make myself feel better. It might sound superficial to be cheered up by an on fleek selfie, but if it works who is anyone else to judge? I can track my own mental health stability via my Instagram, I can see it in my eyes when I became depressed and I can see it leaving now as I start to recover. I love selfies and selfie taking, and I defend my actions as a selfie enthusiast due to the positive effect it has had on my life and my internal well-being.

I am however aware that there is a darker side to this culture, and that not every ‘gram addict is as stable and objective as myself. I am aware that there is a fine line between a healthy self esteem boost and being unable to leave the house without taking a multitude of selfies, unable to take a selfie without trying many angles and filters, and becoming utterly obsessed with perfect selfies. Where is that line, how does it develop and how can we recognise it in ourselves and our peers? Are there certain markers that predict or trigger a harmless self promotion into a crippling mental illness?

These are issues I am keen to explore and discuss and I would very much like to hear your contributions.

Instagram and the Art of Recovery


I recently read an article about Instagram posts acting as a marker for depression screening in individuals. This caused me to consider my own Instagram activity and behaviour patterns, and how much I have come to personally rely on them to help with my own depressive episodes.

I use my Instagram as an online diary or mini blog. I update almost daily and discuss what I have been doing, how I have been feeling and write very honestly about what is on my mind. When I first admitted that I was suffering from depression I was a little uncomfortable about publicly discussing it and the reason for that was apprehensiveness about how others might perceive my posts. Would they be viewed as attention seeking or cries for help? Contrariwise I recognised the reason I had hidden my depression so long was due to stigma and perceived weakness of admission of mental illness. So I feel I really should try to help defeat that stigma. When I had pneumonia I posted about it, and how it made me feel, so what was the difference with this illness? The fact I had been hiding it so long perhaps? The fact that it is mental illness, and too many people think that you can just shake it off. If you’ve never tried to shake off the irrational persistent notion that you would be better off dead, then you are lucky my friend and I hope you never have to.

When I first told my friends the reactions were mixed. Mostly I was hit with surprise. “But you’re so strong!” was the consensus. Well yes, but that doesn’t make me immune it makes me resilient. One of my friends was astonished. “I though you had it all sorted,” she told me “I always looked up to you. I thought if you wanted something you went out and got it!” I was astounded. I honestly did not know how to respond, and I was hurt. I am still like that, just because I have hidden my depressive episodes from the world does not mean what you thought I was is a fraud. I am still that girl, that strong girl that people looked up to and envied. It’s just that I was secretly battling my own demons more than you realised. I know I am still that girl because after I admitted my diagnosis a few of my other friends were inspired to go to their own GPs and admit that they felt depressed or anxious or just that they needed a little help to cope with life. “If you can do it I realised that I could do it” they said.

Once I begun to get used to the idea of having depression and anxiety I became more comfortable talking about it, and soon I was regularly updating my progress on Instagram. My main aim was to be truthful, and so I post about good days and bad days. I recently went through a period of deep and extreme grief following the untimely and unexpected death of my horse, and very soon after the death of my beloved guinea pig. The grief was almost unbearable, and surprised me with its intensity and prolonged nature, and really I’m still grieving a little bit now, I still have unexpected floods of tears and sorrow. It really halted my life for about six weeks, just when I was starting to feel like I was recovering. It caused a big block in creativity and career development, and not surprisingly so. I do not care who thinks that the death of a pet is not valid grief, I have never been so devastated by anything in my whole life. As I posted about my feelings people reached out to me. It was so wonderful, this support network of strangers and friends and acquaintances all reaching out to me. Some had stories to share, some tried relentlessly and misguidedly to force me out of my reverie and others just told me they were thinking about me, and I am endlessly grateful for each and every one of them. It meant so much to know that people cared and understood and had time in their day just to say to me “hey man, you got this, we are here for you”, that they wanted to help even if they could not figure out how to help.

The same thing happens if I have a bad day for mental health. I post about it, and people respond. Sometimes it’s just a coloured heart emoji, sometimes it’s a kick up the arse and sometimes it is a heartfelt pouring of connection from someone going through the same thing. I don’t post for the comments. I post for the interaction and I post because if I write something down it is more manageable, and if I get feedback for what I wrote it becomes more manageable still. I am packing my depressive episodes in to colourful square internet boxes and hashtagging them relentlessly. This is how I deal with them, and it is helping me endlessly and I will not be made to feel ashamed of something that is helping me back to wellness.

It made me wonder if other people do the same, or if they would benefit from doing the same and a hundred other questions which I am tentatively beginning to research with a view to compiling a paper. I have no excuse not to start such endeavours now my Flying Start is dusted and out of the way. My mind is happy when it is achieving and being challenged, but I think I need to challenge myself more and not wait for approval. I need to do more of this and less self destructive behaviours, and I need to continue recording these adventures on my Instagram and my blog. I found a remedy to what ails me and I need to utilize it entirely.

Onwards: to conference lols and beyond.

I finally completed my Flying Start. After several false starts, many moments of despair and no doubt endless frustration for my mentor, I finally got it signed off. The feeling of relief was tremendous, and later, as the news sank in that I was the first ever care home nurse in Ayrshire and Arran to complete the programme, the feeling of overwhelming pride.

I am very pleased with my achievement, but could not have managed it without the relentless enthusiasm of my mentor and encouragement and support from my colleagues. I wish I had completed it sooner, and I could definitely have done better, but I refuse to beat myself up over it. I have had an extraordinarily confusing and difficult time since I qualified as a nurse. My mental health has been far from optimum and I am still battling with figuring out why and wherefore. The main thing is that I finally completed what I said I was going to complete, and am slowly rebuilding my professional confidence which has been so shattered by my experiences post graduation.

Yesterday I attended a Flying Start User Workshop, and congregated with different users of Flying Start from a huge variety of backgrounds and disciplines, and at differing levels of engagement within the programme. We congregated to discuss our experiences of Flying Start and what we would like to see changed in the proposed new revamp.

I was delighted to be invited and to be able to feedback and contribute, and interested to hear of other experiences from professionals of differing backgrounds. I learned that far from being the only minority group interacting with Flying Start, many other allied health professionals had experienced the same barriers to engagement that I had. Flying Start was, the consensus concluded, written from the perspective of a new nurse working in a ward. There was nothing in there for podiatrists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists or the manifest other health professionals involved in modern health and social care, let alone care home nurses or other community nurse roles such as community nurses, or even midwives.Furthgermore there had been issues with mentors for Flying Start and there was exciting discussion around Flying Start Ambassadors and Coaches. It all makes for a very positive future for Flying Start.

Furthermore I was delighted to feel acknowledged and valued as a participant by those responsible for the production of this programme. I feel excited by the way the programme is moving and honoured to be a part of such a range of competent, articulate, and passionate contributors from such diverse backgrounds.

Yesterday was so productive and exciting that I remembered what it feels like to be excited by my own career. I have woken with a fresh appetite for moving forward, promoting care home nursing as a valuable and necessary proportion of the nursing population, and enhancing my own career. I have not felt this career positive since the UWS student conference, which was a really long time ago now, consigned to irrelevance in terms of career development, but the pinnacle of my own professional aspirations to date. It feels good to be back there and I look forward to maintaining the high with more diligence this time. And so to work: this time the conference lols must be maintained and nurtured in to a  more sustainable and practical outcome. I got this.


A fortnight has passed since I had a stern word with myself regarding the lapse in my creative and academic endeavours. In that space my education facilitator has had a stern word with me also, and I feel suitably sheepish and know that I am letting not only myself down, but others too. People who had good faith in my passion and dedication are beginning to conclude that I am indeed all talk. Therefore action is required.

Every day off when I have no other plans, I will from now on open my laptop and work hard on my Flying Start. It is frankly unaccpetable that it remains unfinished. How can I ever expect to do a masters degree when I have not yet completed my newly qualified nurse modules? Flying Start becomes my new priority, along with any other outstanding training modules from in house at my work. Only when they are completed will I be permitted to return to my drawings and musings of prose and fiction. Much as I appreciate the theraputic benefits of drawing and painting, it is far to easy to chose doodling over working hard. I often feel like I work too hard as it is to continue pushing myself outside of work. However my career is never going to progress without further hard work, sweat and probably more tears.

As I drew to the end of my nurse training I had a brief glimpse into an academic world I wanted to join, and I truly thought that I was destined to fall in to that world. I felt like the people around me were pulling me in and that my path had been set all along. “This is where I am meant to be” was my overriding consensus. I thought that after so many years struggling and fighting I was finally about to get my own happy ending.

I should have known better. I don’t even believe in happy endings. I feel foolish for believeing this and I have difficulty thinking about it even now. The essay I so proudly slaved over and tried to publish now seems insignificant and out of date and it stings to think that I was so excited by it. Now it has faded away to insignificance and gathers virtual dust in a digital archive, the date of writing tellingly archaic now.

It is very hard to let go of things you do not want to relinquinsh. It is hard to admit that you are not going to get what you were so determined was meant for you.However at some point you do have to pick youself up and move on. Regroup and plan your next line of advancement. It is either that, or lament yourself away into insignificance, and that would simply be a fate worse than a fate worse than death.

Adventures in mental health.

At some point in between starting my nurse training and my first year post qualification I lost my mind a little. I seem to have lost myself, lost sight of where I was going in life and lost a grip on my reality.

I stopped writing, I stopped pursuing the career of my dreams, I stopped feeling happy and content. I began to feel lost, pressured and afraid. I am not wholly sure of the catalyst for all of this, and as with everything about me I rather suspect a multitude of causes, factors and explanaitons are required.

The pinnacle of this was a minor mental health breakdown which I finally sought help for and as a result I am now prescribed anti-depressants to help me cope with myself. I was diagnosed with depressive episodes and anxiety. I am on daily medication and awaiting talking therapy.

I have been able to talk freely about this happening to some people in my life, others not so much. Some people have been very supportive, others not so much. Whether intentionally or otherwise in both cases is a matter for debate.

Since February this year I have been on a road to recovery. I have been changing my lifestyle by increments in an attempt to reignite the enthuisiasm and joy I once had for life in general and particularly my career. Today I am addressing the lapse in my writing career with the intention of rediscovering that passion and becoming once more proactive towards the future I crave. I refrain  from writing craved, as I feel very disjointed from the person I was in 2014 even thought it was a mere two years ago, but I hope she is still in there somewhere.

I reawaken my blog with the intention of writing in more depth and with more professionalism about my personal career journey. Meanwhile my Instagram has become a more personal mini blog. It has charted the rise and fall of recent emotional turmoils and I am keen to continue this daily chronicle of my life. With both of these projects I will hone and improve my writing skills. I will write and write until i am a writer. And then I will write some more.

All You People Are Vampires.

Perhaps vampires is a bit strong but I have been listening to a lot of Arctic Monkeys.

I have not managed to blog since August. It is mid November. Where have three months of my life gone? This refrain keeps screaming out from the back of my mind, and I keep telling it that things will get better, but I am starting to doubt that. What is it exactly that makes me feel like life is a struggle, like it’s passing me by and disappearing fast into the distance without me?

My job is hard, much harder than I ever imagined, but I enjoy the challenge nonetheless and I do love my job. It takes so much energy every shift to achieve everything necessary and the pressure can be vey high. I had adopted a coping mechanism for not stressing myself out, and simply accomplished as many tasks as I could in twelve hours without going home to a sleepless night induced by feeling inadequate. Unfortunately someone put that strategy to bed by suggesting that I do not accomplish enough, even implying that I do not do anything. Amazing how one sentence can cause you to question your whole ability. I now feel like I am underachieving in my job, my confidence is in tatters and I feel like no matter how much I do it is not enough.

The following week, higher management presented me with gift vouchers as a reward for my hard work, my passion for Flying Start and willingness to persevere in the face of adversity. This has led me to discredit much of what had previously been said to me, but I still cannot shake that feeling of not being good enough. Especially when I already feel that way about my nursing ability.

I have felt that way since my third year of training, where fortunately I discovered research and academia and I thought I was destined for something else. I really thought my life was steering me towards my happy ending and my dream job. It would appear I am not yet through with learning lessons. I feel as though I have hit a brick wall however.

I hardly have time to write a blog, never-mind having the time to research and write a paper. Even if I do manage to write one, how am I going to manage to get it published? I feel like I am not achieving anything. I go to work, I sleep through my days off, and I moan about how I feel all the time. I am boring myself, but I feel like I have had my sparkle sucked out of me, bled dry by various situations converging upon me to encroach on my happiness. On good days I try and do what little I can to progress towards my end goal, and on bad days I question whether any of this was worth it. I sometimes think I was happier mucking out stables.

Unfortunately I do not know what the answer is, I guess to just carry on and keep trying. I imagine this is all part of a long lesson and eventually the path will become clear to me. I never expected nursing to be this hard, this draining, or this emotionally undulating, and I am not sure whether this feeling is normal or not.

Like I said, perhaps vampires is a bit strong, and I do not blame anyone else for the way that I am feeling. I thought I was more mentally resilient than this though? Or perhaps it is the pressure of forcing myself in to a box into which I do not really fit.



Lol at the end.

Remember when lol meant laugh out loud? Me too. If you think it still means that, your friends are probably less passive aggressive than the rest of the internet.

A recent investigation into our social media habits discovered that we actually type ha ha ha ha or use laughing face emoji when in genuine hysterics. Lol simply does not invoke the image of abject hilarity it is sometimes necessary to convey. I personally find the need to inform my peers that I was driven to an “actual lol” by something particularly funny which has happened, because lol just ain’t what it used to be.

Lol has in fact become the weapon of choice when someone wants to say something biting to you but they do not quite dare. Lol takes the sting out of your witty, yet potentially hurtful, probably because it is too truthful, comment. Lol at the end of a sentence allows you to pretend you were making a joke when you were actually having a dig. Lol at the end is the signature of the passive aggressive.

I try to only utilize lol at the end when speaking to particularly sensitive or less internet savvy individuals. I have in the past refused to use lol at the end and ended up with too much drama and fallout from people taking things the wrong way. I would like the internet to take me the way that I am in real life: deadpan and hilarious. But things are always difficult to convey textually and not everyone is as interested or up to date with language evolution inspired by the internets.

I love the way the internet has evolved language. I love words and I love playing with them. There’s a fresh generation out there who think that we have always spoken this way. They are responsible for much of this language modification, and I feel we should listen to them and observe them and enjoy what they are doing with it, instead of turning into the generation of losers that moans about them wrecking things. That’s how it works yo, history repeats. We are young and cool and hip, and everyone disapproves of what we are doing with the place. And then suddenly we are old and disapproving and nobody says hip anymore and it is all very confusing so we criticise it, and scorn it, and become the disapproving older generation. I don’t want to be that guy. Can’t we all just play nice?

As with every situation though, there can always be that step too far, and recently a friend of mine was told, by a youth, that she was “cuter than nachos” with and accompanying photo of some nachos to illustrate the point. No. Stop right there. Nachos are not cute and this is not how you pick up women. Please stop with your appalling similes. I like most of what you kids have done with the internet, but this is just too much. And about this matter I am more serious than nachos.