Commit Yourself To Become Tough-Minded

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Photo by Dylan Siebelink on Unsplash

I’m going through a big career-change. I left a 10-year profession as a Registered Nurse about a month ago. It simply wasn’t the right career for me (please look at my other blogposts for more of the story). At first, “leaving” meant that I was going to pursue “my dreams.” My dreams to become an actress, artist, or entrepreneur, but I’m realizing now, that I actually left to pursue myself.

Over this Thanksgiving week, my older brother came to visit from the Pacific NorthWest. He moved there a few months ago, because he was seeking out change. I love my brother. He is my best friend. My brother and I have gone through a lot together, and I think that is why are bond is so strong. We grew up with parents that didn’t give us unconditional love. Don’t misunderstand, we had a good life overall and are living good lives now, but our earlier years were wrought with parents that were extremely unhappy with being married to one another that it affected our happiness. They were so focused on their unhappiness that they had no time for their own children.

There were always big fights and yelling in our home growing up. It was a dark and dismal time for us, but we got through it together. My mom was never mentally and emotionally present and never really paid any attention to what was going on in our lives. Luckily, I had friends whose parents sacked me lunches every day, Monday through Friday, in junior-high and high-school. If it wasn’t for them, I probably would have skipped eating lunches. My mother was the type of person that never took responsibility for her actions. She always made excuses as to why she wasn’t where she wanted to be in life. She struggles with NPD, and because of that, I’m constantly having to work on my inner-self. I have the tendency to become narcissistic when I’m going through challenging times. I’m extremely proud to say thought that all my hard inner-work thus far has brought me a wonderful personal life – a loving and supportive husband and my lovely dog. But the work doesn’t stop. It never does. You’re never fully arrived. There’s always something to learn. I also give thanks to my Higher Power for raining blessings on me.

When I turned 17, my mom divorced my dad and 6 months later she was off in another relationship with an alcoholic man who was emotionally and verbally abusive. I lived with them for 8 years, from the age of 18 to 26. I never thought to leave their home and dorm during college like the normal 20-somethings I knew (case in point, looking back, there is no such thing as normal, we all have a story) because I couldn’t imagine leaving my mom alone with him for fear that she would end up injured or dead. But that very decision not to leave, turned into my worst nightmare, and over the years of such abuse, I became severely brainwashed. I thought he was the most wonderful person on the planet, meanwhile, I thought I was a piece of crap. My mom was a shell of herself and I too, didn’t know who I was. This is what my environment was at the beginning of my studies as a Registered Nurse.

If you’ve ever lived with an alcoholic, you’d understand that “taking care of others” comes first before taking care of yourself. The guilt of taking care of yourself becomes very real. Every time I remember trying to start that process of self-care, my stepfather would beat me down verbally and emotionally into submission, and I would end up beating myself up for being a “bad daughter.” It was something as simple as going for a run in the morning rather than cooking him breakfast. That way of thinking became my reality as I took responsibility for my stepfather’s every need and outbursts. That way of thinking led me to my first career as a Registered Nurse, because I thought my whole purpose was to help others, rather than choosing a career from a place of truth. As a young nurse, I knew nothing about self-care. I gave all of myself to my patients, my managers, and my coworkers until I had a nervous breakdown (in the medical field, they call it “burn-out” or “PTSD” and it’s actually more common than you think…it seems as though there is a common thread of what type of persons are attracted to the helping professions such as Nurse, Social Worker, Therapist, etc).

Many of my peers did not understand why I was having such a hard time with simply “enjoying” the medical field. My body would detest it. I’d get sick often. I lost a considerable amount of weight. I was drowning in my scrubs. I was extremely unhappy and suicidal. I thought that if I became a Nurse, I’d be free from my abuser, because I would be able to take care of myself financially. Little did I know, when I reached that goal of becoming a nurse, it wasn’t at all what I expected it to be. I was severely bullied my first 3 and a half years as a Registered Nurse. I worked in a level one trauma hospital at a Children’s Ward on a Medical/Surgical floor. Every day, the nurses on my floor would call me names and tell me things such as, “Didn’t you graduate from nursing school? Shouldn’t you know this? Are you dumb? Are you incompetent?!” The first week of my job, I was called into my manager’s office to get written up for something I did not do. My manager told me that the girls on the floor were “terribly worried about me because you were not checking up on any of your patients even though they had their call lights on.” Instead, I was supposedly in the corner, “…on the computer, surfing the web.” In reality, I was running up and down the hallway, checking up on ALL the call lights throughout the night- my patients and my coworker’s patients (as those bullies sat in the nurse’s station eating donuts and reading Cosmopolitan Magazine). A sweet Costa Rican nursing assistant pulled me aside that same night to tell me to, “…be careful and don’t work so hard because the other nurses will try to bully you. They will take advantage of you and you’ll be like a chicken with it’s head cut off.” Basically she was telling me to learn to play the game or else I’d get eaten alive. The nursing assistant spoke up for me and told her side of the story to my manager…but my manager still wrote me up and as I began to learn the culture of this hospital, I realized I was not going to win and it was going to be a long hard battle. I unfortunately had a contract to fulfill as I signed a commitment of 3 years at this hospital for a merely few hundred dollars that the hospital gave me to pay for a few textbooks during school. I learned that this manager” was friends with these bully nurses, grabbing mimosas and socializing together on a pretty regular basis after work. My voice would not be heard. This is how I started my career.

I ran away from an abusive home to get abused and bullied all over again in a career I worked so very hard for. It was traumatic to say the least. I remember running inside the restroom almost every shift, to quietly shed a few tears, to have to wipe them away and walk right back out to the ward and pretend that these predators weren’t affecting me at all. Inside, I felt like I never left my stepfather. Every nurse that called me incompetent, stupid, and idiot, reminded me of my abuser. And yes, they really called me those names. And I didn’t have the confidence to overcome this at the time. I used to get down on myself for not being tough enough to push through this. But now, I realize I did nothing wrong. Any person that has been verbally and emotionally abused, continually for 8 years in their home to then have to deal with the very same thing in their first workplace right after college, would have a very difficult time navigating it all. If anything, this was a blessing. I never liked being a nurse and my circumstances opened my eyes – that, in fact I actually always wanted a different career – a creative one (ever since I was a young kid). I truly loved helping people and still do, but I didn’t like the actual tasks related to medical work. It was very black and white; there was no creativity involved. I was an artist, a creative, and I had a high emotional intelligence that I wanted to use elsewhere. It took years though to finally accept that about myself and to this day, I still struggle to accept it, but I keep trying. My journey has only begun. I remember calling my parents after my first semester of the nursing program, and telling them that this field of study was NOT for me and I knew it inside my GUT…but out of fear and survival, I told myself I had to finish it or I’d never be able to escape the hell I was living in.

One month ago, I decided to leave the Nursing Field permanently. With the help and support of my loving husband, I’m able to do this at this juncture of my life. I knew this day would come one day and I pictured myself jumping for joy as I burned my scrubs at the beach in a fire pit. Let me say, it did not turn out that way. Instead, I was plagued with negative self-talk all over again…all my old insecurities came back and it was as if every bully in my life was inside my head again – telling me that I was a nobody, that I was unsuccessful, that I was a loser. When I was young girl, I always believed that I’d be someone of importance…someone that would help thousands of people heal and become their best selves. Maybe that is still true, but my perspective has changed. I’m learning that my importance in this world – my identity, is not dependent upon what I do or what I accomplish or how much money I have in my pocket. Instead, my identity is who I am on the inside, how I feel about myself when the lights go off at night and when I’m lying in my bed with myself and my own thoughts, and how I feel about myself no matter what I’m going through. I can be the richest or poorest person…I can be pimping it up in a Maserati or cruising in a Pinto – it wouldn’t matter either way…it’s how I feel about my core inner being…my purest form way before I was indoctrinated by society. Without the ornaments we humans dress ourselves in to distract ourselves, we are forced to face our demons. The biggest hero is yourself, but you’re not born that hero…you create him or her. You build that little girl or that little boy up and she or he evolves and becomes the hero you always needed.

In my 7th year of nursing, I was working for one of the top level one trauma hospitals in the LA area. I was making good money but I hated my life. I remember walking down the stairs at the end of my shift after I clocked out, and because I felt overwhelmed with negative thoughts and emotions, I fell down the stairs and sprained my ankle very badly – it swelled up the next day the size of a tennis ball. I kept blaming my upbringing, my current situation, the job I hated…but in reality, it was my thoughts! You are what you think.

One of the things I’ve wanted to do if I ever left nursing was to reclaim my physical health back. Before and during nursing school, I took care of my physical body and worked out 6 days a week. After working 12 hour night shifts for a few years, workouts became less and less and the depression I had from having a soul sucking job made it harder to stay disciplined. I recently got hired at a Pilates Studio and will be working there full-time and I will be getting free classes as a perk. I love Pilates because it strengthens not only your body but your MIND. I’ll talk more about this later in another blogpost. Looking back, I realize that you can be physically strong but if you don’t have mental toughness, you will crumble at any hardship life throws at you. If you have mental toughness, your body will follow…but it takes practice. I also believe you can heal your body with your mind.

I’m changing my life around, one thought at a time. I am not ashamed of my story because everyone has one. If one person reads my story and is inspired, that is an accomplishment. I believe that is why we are here on earth – to inspire and love one another. You may see all these successful people out there, on social media and on TV and think to yourself, “Wow, there must be something special about them. I’m not at their level.” The truth is, they are not special. There is no-one better than you and you are no better than anyone else. Yes, Beyonce included. We are all equal and we all have our greatest potential in the palm of our hands – and it starts within our minds. I’m learning that. I’m learning to focus on me, my path, my truth, my journey, and in the process, I believe I will live out my God given purpose. Whatever is preventing you from having mental toughness, embrace the pain, so you can conquer it. Mine was an abusive stepfather, an emotionally absent mother and father, getting bullied in college and post-college, and the list goes on. You can have all the excuses in the world – and granted I’m not discrediting or diminishing how hard my past experiences were, because they were HARD – I suffered, but I don’t want to believe that those things happened to me so that I’d give up and then die. Instead, it happened FOR me to make me stronger and hopefully inspire others in the process. But first, I’m committing to inspiring myself.

XOXO,

Health, Peace, & Love to You All

Steph

5 Comments Add yours

  1. warriorzworld says:

    check out my blog.. start from the first post, there are only three for the time being…you may or may not find some interesting perspectives.

    Like

    1. Stephanie says:

      Thanks, will do! 👍👍

      Like

  2. More power to you Stephanie!

    Like

    1. Stephanie says:

      Thank you! I was just reading your blog just now. Are you in the medical field? Kudos to you!

      Like

      1. Yes 🙂 I am a Dentist..

        Like

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