Staying Strong in the Year of Disillusionment

There has existed a sinister feeling wafting forebodingly in the air throughout this past year working from home at my first real desk job of my career. It jolts out around every corner of quiet intermission between tasks on the computer and checking my emails. “This is not what I thought it would be.” “I do not want this.” “My soul is dying”. This feeling has lingered with me, casting a shadow over my days and weighing me down with a malignant heaviness as it passes through me. It seems to suck the life energy right out of me. “What kind of life is this?”, I think to myself. Every day.

This was supposed to be the next step in my nursing career, finally doing non-clinical work, stepping away from the frenzied roar of the hospital circulation. All of those years of unwavering dread and stress I felt every single day stepping into the hospital, on the floors, in surgery. All the struggle was going to lead to something eventually. It was absolute misery, but I always held the assumption that this was just a passing phase of my youthful 20s. “Nurses eat their young” I heard multiple times in the beginning of my career so I had the illusion that this was just some temporary rite of passage for new nurses. I just had to hold my head down and fight through and eventually it would lead somewhere better. Eventually I would shed this thankless coil of an existence and assume a comfortable life working behind a desk, far away from ungrateful patients and screaming surgeons and frustrated charge nurses and techs, and the increasing demand and expectation of a working clinical nurse. How bad did I have it in my narrow little world where I dreamed of a desk job for comfort?

Nursing was a mistake, hell sometimes I feel that college was a mistake. I don’t regret it, let me get that straight, for the experience has grown me into the person I am today and I am truly grateful that I was even afforded an opportunity to go to college and get a degree. But for what it’s worth, it all eventually seems like it was all preparing me to serve, and not in an impassioned and humble and fulfilling way, but serve in a degrading, demeaning, dehumanizing way. To serve in mental shackles in a sense, without dignity or honor or an acknowledgement of my vulnerability or humanity or even adequate financial compensation for the shit we have to put up with as nurses on a daily basis. It’s a very unforgiving field. I realize I am amongst an army of people like myself who were suckered into a career thinking it was going to be something totally different than what it turned out to be. I feel like so many others sold themselves short. We deserve so much better.

Now, a year into working at home at a desk job in Nursing Case Management, the thought keeps lingering, paralyzing my being, “I don’t want to do this anymore”. I feel like a corporate pawn selling my precious human time five days a week doing something monotonous at best and panic-inducing at worst. So now what?

The anxiety is mounting. I quit therapy a few months back because I had thought I had come to a better place mentally. I mean I did for a time, but mental health, like a drug, is something you have to work towards every day in order for it to be effective. I have been floating in an ever-rising pool of anxiety since I left therapy and this week it finally boiled over. I feel like I’m drowning again. This week I finally had to admit that I am in need of therapy again. It was a humbling experience but I told myself that it’s okay, this is a part of the journey and it is a part of the growth.

In the midst of this struggle, I wonder how much longer I can do this. I am in my mid 30s now and the illusion of a rite of passage or a gauntlet I had to temporarily endure is just that, an illusion. The gauntlet persists because the gauntlet is in my own head. It starts with me. It’s a tough position. I want to quit my job but I need the income and the insurance to further pursue therapy. I feel stuck in this 8-5 grind and it will seemingly never end until I take further time to work on myself through therapy. Still though, I can’t help but wonder what kind of life is this? With all of the potential of being a human and the wealth of experiences we are capable of having, it just feels like we are birds in cages. Why are we expected to grind away doing tasks we are miserably dispassionate about until we can hopefully retire at 65? Why are so many of us in survival mode?

For anyone out there going through the same thing, I am sorry. I know that the trenches of life can be disheartening and soul-crushing. Just getting out of bed after a night tossing and turning thinking about the catastrophes that might befall the next day is heroic. I know what it’s like to take that first step out of bed and take that deep breath of dread and anticipation, and then move forward (even after throwing up in the toilet from anxiety). Or not. Some days are mental health days and if you fortunate enough to be able to take off for a day, do it. Don’t hesitate. It is okay. We are all human. Mental health is important. Your sanity is important. Stay strong and know that you are not alone. Not in the least. No one can fully understand the internal battles we each face every day, but at the end of the day, it’s so important to show yourself some grace. You are still here in this world, life coursing through your veins, your heart beating on. These especially difficult days can have a silver lining to them, for they provide a sense of clarity, immediacy, and honesty that is reflective and mindful in its own special way. Suffering is the trail to something else, perhaps something better. Maybe this anxiety will eventually push me out into new territories. It seems to certainly be leading that way. So, I will keep my head up and just keep moving forward. Keep. Moving. Forward. And plan. And hope. For so much of the time that is all that we have. I love you all, wherever you are. We are in this together.

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