Not too long ago, I watched a video of Dave Grohl’s keynote speech at SXSW – the one where he admits that PSY’s “Gangham Style” was one of his favorite songs – and he said something that resonated with me. Referring to Kurt Cobain’s death, he says that he just “turned the music off” for a while. It’s not something that I would have normally thought twice about, but I actually took a moment to wonder how long it had been since I had really listened to and lost myself in music. I really only gave it a second worth of attention, but I did turn the music back on, so to speak. However, I never really let go of the question of when I turned the music off in my life. I finally had my epiphany last night. It was nursing school. I could trace a lot of my anxiety and depression back to nursing school.
See, here’s the thing. Never in my life have I failed at anything that I’ve actually tried at. I’ve never been shy about giving things up. I know that isn’t really the most redeeming quality about me, but I’ve just never been one to put much effort into something that I didn’t really want to. But I thought I wanted to be a nurse. In reality, I just wanted to be a midwife. If you really dig down into the heart of the matter, you could even say that I wanted to be a midwife as a way of compensating for the trauma that I went through during C’s birth – but, I digress. At the time, I didn’t really understand the legalities of nurse-midwifery versus lay-midwifery and I didn’t really take my personality into consideration…but I wanted to help people. And I was following what I was told would be a good path for me.
Ugh, I ramble. anyway, here’s the thing about nursing school. They have a different grading scale from the rest of the school. What is still considered *your* “A” falls into a “B”, “B’s” turn to “C’s”, and so on. Well, I made it halfway through nursing school when I received my first failing grade*. How they handle this is they make your repeat the semester, but you only get one second chance. This was my first “Oh shit” moment. Not only was I faced with the very real prospect of getting kicked out of the program, but I was also getting threats to pull my funding from college because I received a “D” for my final grade. I was freaking out. I managed to get my funding together for another semester and I figured I would have this one in the can since I had already covered the material, right? Wrong.
I struggled. Hard. I guess I was devastated. Here, I had actually put forth some effort, and I had failed. That had never really happened before and I didn’t know how to handle it. I was also worried because I had PLANS and flunking out of nursing school was going to fuck up my PLANS. And somehow, the PLANS became my focus. I lost sight of why I went into nursing in the first place. I lost sight of the wonderful and amazing things I had learned during my time there. I began to focus on the negative. The instructors were inconsistent. We were without a director. The place where they had us take our exams was inadequate. I didn’t like working at the particular hospital I was placed in. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Then the inevitable happened. I started tanking tests. I quit caring about my work. I had no motivation to do anything. AND, my anxiety issues increased. I was having daily panic attacks. I was getting sick. It got so bad that I went into therapy. I eventually took my therapist’s advice and dropped out of nursing school, but in reality, I was already failing. Quite spectacularly, at that. I was devastated. I was ashamed. I felt like I had let everyone down.
To compensate, I lied about it all. I told people, with a wink and a smile, that I had realized that “nurse Ratched” (my husband’s affectionate? nickname for me) had no business tending to the ill and I was following my passion instead.
The thing is, I took it extremely hard. The worse thing is, I allowed my perceived failure to mold me and take control of me. And I just gave up. And I began to fill with bitterness and anger and self-loathing. I quit reaching out to loved ones and friends and I began to close myself off from them. I quit taking care of myself, both body and soul. I quit caring. As a result, I would get even more disgusted with myself. It got so bad that I even quit looking in the mirror. I couldn’t bear to look myself in the face anymore.
When I first got diagnosed with leukemia, I was in shock. It took me a long, long time to accept what was happening to me. I think the worst thing about it all was that I thought I had brought it upon myself. That my self-hatred had somehow manifested into cancer. I was diagnosed December 1st, 2011. Up until this past month, I have held that belief. It was one of those irrational beliefs that I just wouldn’t let go of and it worried me. It embarrassed me. So I never really told anybody. I mean, what kind of person thinks things like that, right?
I’ve finally started to open up to P. He listens to my confessions and worries and fears and let me cover his shoulder with snot and tears while I work myself out. He doesn’t judge. He just helps guide me through my thoughts and feelings so I can begin to understand myself. And when the occasion calls for it, he entertains me when I wake up in the middle of the night to work out an epiphany.
My most recent one was regarding my nursing school experience, my crippling fear of failure,and how those two things tied together – more importantly, how I had been allowing these things to control and dictate and shape my life.
These are all things that came barreling into my head in the middle of the night last night. And since then, I’ve been overcome with a feeling of peace. I’m a little bit in awe at how simple it was. I feel like I just learned Rumpelstiltskin’s name. For a long time, P has been telling me that I needed to identify the problem. I thought he was full of shit.
I like my crow served well done with a side of greens.
*By the way, that “failing” grade…The one that sent my whole world crashing down around me…it was a 74.4 (I had to have a minimum of a 75 average to pass the class). Technically, a “C”. Here I had fallen into this cycle of depression, I had given up, over what I had PERCEIVED to be a failing grade. If you really simplify it and put it into NO BULLSHIT terms, I gave up on life over a fucking “C”.