Emetophobia plagued me growing up. Then I became a nurse to overcome this irrational fear. Talk about facing s*** head on.
Then I got myself in to street art, namely graffiti where all references to doing so are vomit, barfing & throwing up related.
It’s kinda sick, really.
Category Archives: nursing
Emetophobia plagued me growing up. Then I became a nurse to overcome this irrational fear. Talk about facing s*** head on.
Vernon titled this piece ‘song for Helen’. It’s beautiful. Probably the sweetest thing ever.
The road together has been long and difficult. Since the day when Vernon rescued me from a house of no return, with broken arm and a completely annihilated faith and so carefully & dutifully assumed ‘head of household’ of our newly formed family. Only thing, we had no house. We have slept under a bridge, by the side of a road, in a car…vulnerability became our way of life. often I slept for 4 hours while he guarded and then we switched over. Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would draw from my many experiences as a nurse working the night shift. Thinking back I have never really had a home. It wasn’t until I became homeless did I really consider let alone understand, the meaning or value of having a home. Many of the homeless that you meet ‘out there’ (the streets) say that homelessness is a state of mind and not just a situation. It’s very complex. Of course growing up, our family homes are ‘homes’. But it’s different. We are all so young and typically its an environment our parents pick out. I left the family ‘home’ when I was 18 years old and headed to the nearest city to start my nursing career. My first place was one room with single bed and wash stand. Nurses quarters. I can tell you right away, it was temporary! I felt very alone but at the same time excited about the path I had chosen. Next came a handful of shared flats & houses with other nurses. Sure, they were comfortable, clean, a place to rest & regroup for the next day. But they felt very much like stepping stones. Yes…stepping stones to get to another place.
My spirit became restless and the world called on me to travel, to expand my horizons. I accepted a travel nurse position in Orlando, Florida. That was where I met and married my ex-husband. It was a long, draw out and for the most part unhappy 15 years. Things at ‘home’ were so stressful that I threw myself in to my work. I don’t have much more to say except it was here that the river grew very wide and it seemed as though there weren’t anymore stepping stones.
Somehow I dug myself out of that hole and moved to San Francisco. It is a city that felt more like home than any place had up until then. But my apartment yet again was purely a place to set down, hang briefly, try to sleep and then get back to work. On my off days I spent as much time as possible away from ‘home’. I immersed myself in art & photography, roaming the City for hours on end doing both. I started to feel very lost. Disconnected. Even nursing became very alien to me. As a profession, it had always helped me to belong. Caring for others took my mind off my own worries and concerns. There was always someone so much more worse off than me. I convinced myself that I was strong, independent…in need of noone. I stayed too busy to sit down and actually reflect on what was happening. Too busy to remotely consider the absence of a home (or for that matter, a family) in my life. Maybe I felt like I didn’t deserve one. For whatever strange a reason as that, I will never know.
It took hitting a wall, falling of a cliff…completely breaking down and finally finding the next stone. It was a rock and it was at the bottom. Thats when I met Vernon. Thats when we discovered that we were so alike…that homelessness had been a life long struggle fraught with people that simply did not understand. Nor did they want to…
Clawing your way back to life, to some semblance of existence and to a state of contentment is so hard. So very very hard. But we were two now. Together the impossible started to be possible. No hope gave way to endless opportunites. To a creative flow of dreams and aspirations. I could not remember when I was so inspired!
It took literally losing everything to find a home. A place so warm and inviting and so full of love. A place to look forward to going to and missing a lot when away. A place to just be. Be with my family…be with me.
Not only do we have a home but its our dear studio too. It’s still a struggle. People continue to look down their noses. There’s a certain stigma to being poor, to having nothing but the shirt on your back. You’re viewed as lazy, as though life is easy. As though its OK to give up. I learn everyday from our friends on the street. They teach me a compassion that even nursing couldn’t. They teach me an understanding that can never be learned or studied. They teach me the true value of life, of a home, of acceptance. Of what’s really important and especially of what is not…
Vernon & I have turned our experience and newly found way of life in to a ministry. A ministry of helping and caring, encouraging and inspiring. A ministry that raises the awareness of homelessness, of poverty and the need to care.
Our lifestyle is so simple, our needs are very few. Any extra’s go back in to the community…food, clothing, advice, a ride, a bus ticket, a cup of coffee, a kind listening ear.
During this season of giving thanks, please donate to our cause.
Please. Please. Please.
We offer you original art for your generosity so please visit facebook.com/BirdXRust
>>>God Bless you <<<
A dear friend asked me earlier on this year if I could write about Vernon & myself. Kinda how did we get together…
I have thought long and hard about this one, as our friendship has surely endured tough times and since I promised to never again minimize my own discomforts or anxieties, I mean tough times. More so than most people.
It has been over a year ago that we ran off together from a crazy alcohol and violence soaked lodging house and found ourselves on the street. My arm broken. My health in a poor way. We have stuck together through it all. Joined at the hip. Siamese if you please.
Our lives have followed such similar paths. We have endured the same bumps in life’s road. We have made the same mistakes. Share identical neuroses. A double bipolarity.
I left the library in tears the other day. I had been looking at my huge catalogue of photography that really took off when I moved to San Francisco and filed for a divorce from my ex husband.
The photos of me don’t lie. I am now a mere shadow of the confident vibrant chick roaming the planet happily armed with a camera at all times. I’m amazed at myself. I was everywhere! There wasn’t one graffed wall that I missed.
I had so much energy. I ran up the Pacific Heights hill from the Marina TWICE a day! I wanted to be the best and greatest artist and photographer in the world.
I couldn’t sleep. I needed to self medicate to even get a nap. I started to burn out, screw up at work. Argue with people.
I have since realized with the help of a couple of caring and dedicated professionals (and the wonderful Paul E Jones author and fellow bipolar of ’the up & down life’) that this was indeed a manic phase that lasted a year or more.
It’s so hard to remember when the tide turned.
But I hit a depression.
Not just a ‘I feel blue day’ but a whole body lethargy, an unbelievable feeling of complete & utter worthlessness and hopelessness.
Every day I thought of suicide. And I thought this was normal! Doesn’t everyone feel this way going through a divorce?
When life gets a wee bit hard ?
When things don’t work out right? I didn’t know what was wrong! And I’m a medical professional! A nurse for God’s sake! I had truly worn myself out trying to figure myself out.
Thats the problem.
Always overly analyzing my thoughts, actions and reactions. Its something I simply can’t turn off.
Except with drugs.
The divorce was an incredibly painful drawn out experience, as I was looking at paying him alimony for 10 years.
10 years! It seemed like a prison sentence!
I fired my lawyer, emptied my accounts, defaulted on bills and spent like crazy. I indulged myself in a million things that I hadn’t had during my marriage to an emotionally abusive control freak.
I tanked. So bad I wound up addicted to heroin and coke for 2 years. It could have been longer, I really can’t remember. But the physical scars are there to remind me…day in, day out.
The emotional scars a constant regretful companion along for the ride. For the rest of my life. I was fired from my job. Alienated myself from my family and friends.
I have been around and around the mental health care revolving doors. detox. counselling. crisis stabilization units…
I wound up quitting by myself and I have done well. It would be a lie if I said I had been totally clean for the past 18 months, but there is no way in hell, heaven or earth that I could go back to that kind of misery.
Barely existing from one fix to the next. Sticking myself for a vein 20, 30, 50 times. Eternally circling the drain…
I have called myself many things over the years. Stupid. Idiot. Addict. Junkie. Fool…
But, you know what? I’m alive!
I now call myself a survivor.
And with Vernon,
We are soul survivors…
I have long prided myself on my strength. My independence. My fearlessness. As a nurse I ploughed many a headlong behind and in to tragic pulled curtains, blood splattered gurneys. I stared deep in to gaping wounds, infected limbs, tattered minds…
So, I don’t sleep well at night. Quite frankly, I’m scared. Beyond belief. strange manifestations. black ribbons recoiling upon conscientious sight. I have no idea where this stems from, only that it does. I toiled the night shift for many years at a couple of hospitals. Sunrise an overwhelming relief that yet another night ended and everyone still breathed. I’m not sure which came first. That too doesn’t matter.
I boldly migrated to America not knowing a soul. I marvel that I did, unsure if it was really me. Arriving with two small suitcases and a big smile. If I feared anything back then, either it was easily brushed aside as being plain old silly or it definitely wasn’t worth remembering at all.
I never needed an extra push. Always ready to jump right in.
Hand held high. Me, me, me….(now the truth be known)
My Mum raised me to be curious. Fearless. Outgoing. There was so much she couldn’t do growing up. Nan being a single mother, post WWII London when she was a mere 8 years old. So much she could only dream of doing and she wanted it all for me.
Don’t get me wrong…I am thankful for so much. My family. My childhood. The people who enter my life, making a lasting impression, always challenging me for the good. The people around me now. Helping me through this odd time of displacement. We define ourselves so assuredly throughout our lives. Wife. Mother. Nurse. But what happens when the role no longer applies?
Bringing me right back to me. To taking care of myself.
I haven’t done such a good job there.
I failed myself miserably.
There’s no being easy on myself today, no way.
I’m straining to see something…
find a reason…
what I’ve completely forgot.
It’s not the why’s or the wherefore’s…
Only the who or what I was supposed to be.
I’m struggling with this today.
Anyone who knows or has spent anytime around me is all too familiar with my passionate revolutionary spirit and love of debate.
Having spent 25 years in the profession of nursing, I have basically seen it all and a lot you wouldn’t want to.
Quite frankly, my crash and burn from arguably the noblest of devotions to duty and my God-given calling on this planet was because of precisely that. I really did…’I cared, too much’ and its an impossible way for one of God’s humble servants to live…
I was a terrified teenager when the docs in England finally decided to remove my tonsils. I suffered countless days sick from school, extremely happy to be on the settee at home, reading fiction, comic books and the works of Hardy, Orwell, Longfellow and Laura Ingalls Wilder…
Already my curiosity and love for American history , life and culture was very evident for I found myself engrossed more and more in American literature…Faulkner, Hemingway and Fitzgerald…
So the night before surgery, a dedicated caring, forever youthful third year student nurse took me under her wing and kept me busy helping make tea, talk to other patients and distracting my neurotic countenance from having a downright meltdown there on the ENT ward…
I do not remember her name, but at the age of 18, I proudly announced to my Mum that I wanted to go in to nursing.
After, she spluttered tea and a horrified ‘what?’ at me, I kinda saw her point. She had to spend countless hours calming me down, talking me out of a panic attack, a child riddled with good old garden variety agoraphobia (of which my grandmother suffered) and specifically emetophobia (a dark secret I have kept to myself and one that really cramps your party going style!).
But, ”Helen” she said “you’re so squeamish, how will you cope as a nurse?”
I never could answer that but confronting my fear, irrational or completely rational (you be the judge!) certainly helped and I thrived on helping and caring for others for many years.
My nursing experience and knowledge made it possible to travel to America and I worked at Florida Hospital in Orlando for many years.
I specialized in pediatric oncology nursing and developed a thirst for continued learning and research about better, safer treatments, symptom control and cures.
It wasn’t long after entering the US to nurse that I started to witness a trend towards the over prescription of medication, tests and procedures by doctors…
The world of pediatric oncology proved to be the only exception with the documented improvement in cure rates and survivorship programs. So, naturally it was a field where I felt I could honestly and with a clear conscious, care for my patients and their families.
Otherwise, we’re out there, legions of nurses, techs, aides…chasing our tails; drawing blood, over medicating, over testing and preparing elderly people (or any age for that matter) for crazy procedures and surgeries…
It’s exhausting…try a 12 hour shift on a saturday night. Anywhere…the pediatric unit, the emergency room, psychiatry, geriatrics…
You would not believe the psychological impact on a 50-60 hour a week, night nurse from a little town outside of London! Folks, it wore me OUT…
So when Vernon returned to the car this morning, smiling broadly about the headlines of the Tennessean today : ‘patients need less testing, treatment doctors say…’ www.tennessean.com
…it was in beautiful acknowledgement of my rant earlier on this week about countless painful and costly procedures and surgeries and the fact that many have suffered because of the greed of the medical establishment.
Oh! and I know, I have heard it umpteen times from the doctors…’well, we have to cover every angle’, ‘what if the patient sues?’ ‘we have to rule that out’ and ‘what about missing something, how about mal practice?’…
and believe me, even though they look like they know what they are doing, act like it, seem to give-a-damn,
Don’t be fooled…
Hmmmm….do you really want me to start talking about the medical mistakes I’ve seen? Probably not and I choose not to dwell on the innumerable, avoidable, unavoidable and downright tragic…
Instead when I think about my nursing years, I try to concentrate and reflect on the joy of caring for children, working side by side with outstanding pediatric oncology practitioners, seeing the positive results of my work and dedication …
But tucked right behind all those warm and fulfilling memories is the fact that healthcare reform in America is a VERY long time coming…
(ex-RN and former IV drug user) now spends her time livin’ laughin’ and lovin’ the arts, namely writing, drawing and photography…
I wanted to share with you my favourite of all poetry by Longfellow ‘A Psalm of Life’
What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist
Tell me not, in mournful numbers, "Life is but an empty dream!" For the soul is dead that slumbers, And things are not what they seem. Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; "Dust thou art, to dust returnest, " Was not spoken of the soul. Not enjoyment, and not sorrow, Is our destined end or way; But to act, that each to-morrow Finds us farther than to-day. Art is long, and Time is fleeting, And our hearts, though stout and brave, Still, like muffled drums, are beating Funeral marches to the grave. In the world's broad field of battle, In the bivouac of Life, Be not like dumb, driven cattle! Be a hero in the strife! Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant! Let the dead Past bury its dead! Act,--act in the living Present! Heart within, and God o'erhead! Lives of great men all remind us We can make our lives sublime, And, departing, leave behind us Footprints on the sands of time; Footprints, that perhaps another, Sailing o'er life's solemn main, A forlorn and shipwrecked brother, Seeing, shall take heart again. Let us, then, be up and doing, With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing Learn to labor and to wait.