Ups and downs in life; how we manage them, matters! 

Those who know me will know I’m currently going through some mega changes in life, and I’ve been on this unexpected, exciting journey for a while.

This time 10 years ago, I was in a similar position; major changes were taking place. But they were unexpected, painful & traumatic.

10 years ago, around this time, I was suspended from uni on medical grounds. As a student paediatric nurse, I, like others, was under a lot of pressure. I had moved away from home, friends and family. Wrong move; I’ve since learned that I am a home bird. I was living the student life; eat, sleep, rave, repeat, as the song goes. That’s when I wasn’t on placement. I’d expected that moving away would really help me to build my confidence; having more freedom to do whatever I wanted to do. But the opposite happened really. First I noticed it was one morning when I was walking up the main road to uni. Looking up, I noticed somebody was walking towards me, and I suddenly felt really anxious. I crossed the road to avoid walking past him. It was the little things like that, they started little but didn’t stay that way. I was so self-conscious. Ridiculously so. 

Anyhow, one night, I was lay in bed. I couldn’t sleep, and spent hours tossing and turning. Tv on, tv off, music on, music off: whatever I tried, I couldn’t settle. And I started to feel this strange feeling in my whole body, like butterflys but not just in my tummy. The next thing I remember, I was sat on the floor next to my bed with a dismantled razor blade and small injuries to my thigh. First time I’d cut myself, and I remember just sitting there staring at my leg before cleaning it, covering it and getting back into bed straight to sleep. I wasn’t freaked out at all by what I’d just done; it was almost like it was ‘natural’. 

From there, things quickly spiralled out of control. I started working with a counsellor at uni, and when I disclosed my nightly self-harm routine, she organised a meeting with my GP. He was aware I was feeling low, and had already offered me anti-depressants which I refused. This time, I agreed to give them a try while I waited to see a psychiatrist. This was when I was also suspended. My counsellor informed my tutor, who asked me to see an occy health psychiatrist, who said I needed a ‘break’ from the stress of everything.

It was only a month earlier, before the first episode of self-harm, that I had experienced my first patient death on the wards. I was working with kids with cystic fibrosis, amongst other conditions. It was only my second ward placement, and I’ll never forget the ward manager saying on my first day “if you can get through this placement, you can get through anything”. That should have been warning enough. This particular patient was a 16 year old girl. She was admitted to have her regular IV’s, but whilst on the ward she deteriorated. Tests showed her heart and lungs were not in good condition. She had previously rejected the chance to have a heart-lung transplant, and, as she deteriorated, she changed her mind. Unfortunately, the transplant wasn’t an option though now, she was too ill, too weak and would not have survived such an operation. The best we could do for her now was to keep her comfortable with palliative care. I watched how, over 2 weeks, she went from being a bright and bubbly young lady with a proper teenage attitude, to being a very brave, young lady. Over the last few days, before she lost consciousness, she thanked the ward staff; some of whom had cared for her since she was a baby. There were so many tears. She had asked that she never be left alone: her one fear was dying alone. And finally she was put on bi-pap, before she sadly passed away. 

I was devastated, traumatised at what I’d witnessed. The rapid onset and decline in her health was just shocking, and I saw so much vulnerability in so many people; in her, her family, the ward staff and other patients. I had no idea how I felt; everything was so overwhelming and it was the first time I’d not known how to explain what was going on inside me. This poor young girl should have been looking forward to the rest of her life. She was just 3 years younger than me, and I just couldn’t get my head around it all.

Anyway, this was the start of a journey I hated. A journey that could have cost me my life. 

10 years ago today, I still had hopes and expectations to complete my training and become a children’s nurse. Not knowing that life had other plans for me. I do believe things happen for a reason. I believe that if I hadn’t met this unfortunate young girl, I would still have landed on that journey, just at a later date. Whatever happens in life, I am grateful to be here, and I am grateful to have who I have around me. Most importantly, I’m no longer set on destructing myself; I’m now set on looking after myself and prolonging my life 😯 never thought I’d say that!!!

Moral of this story is: life has its highs and lows. We all have ups and downs, to varying degrees, but it’s how we manage those ups and downs that matters most. Even when you feel you’re at rock bottom, there’s always a way out! Never give up!

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