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Let me ask you a question…have you ever felt like a mouse in a bucket of cream?

animal apodemus sylvaticus brown button eyes

“Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse, wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out.” Frank Absagnale Sr, Catch Me If You Can.

Earlier this month marked one year since my life as I knew it changed, in fact its been approximately one year since many of our lives as we knew it changed and for a long time in this past year I felt like the first mouse. Until recently, I felt like I was drowning and didn’t know if I had the stamina to get back up.

It has been one year since I had CV19 which left me with PTSD, significant anxiety, feeling depressed, and a host of long lasting physical challenges not the least being a new diabetes diagnosis, chronic pain, and pretty unpredictable respiratory function. Next month also marks one year since my brother Scott was violently murdered in Australia and we are still going through the process of the murder trial for his attacker. So you can see why I felt like I was drowning.

I have come to realise that in fact I am the second mouse, its just that the process of making butter has taken longer than I anticipated and those small little steps of progress can seem insignificant until you look back. I know that all those self-help quotes say “The bravest thing you can do is not look back” however I don’t believe that applies to every situation. Sure, it is important to focus forward because that is where we are headed, but how do we learn from what we have been through unless we look back?

green tree

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest” – Confucius.

I decided that I was going to take a Nurses approach to this past year – it’s all about reflection and introspection. We are taught that from the moment we start nursing school right through to our everyday practice and revalidation for registration. I really believe this is a valuable way to work through everything we have all been through this year and whilst some will be successful going it alone, others like myself will need some help.

I have believed for a long time now that its important to show up and I guess in my own personal and professional life I have, Brene Brown has been a wonderful teacher to me when it comes to authenticity and vulnerablity. Up til now I haven’t shared the depth of life here on Intrepid Nurse not because I didn’t want to but because I forgot the value of a “me too” to others that may have felt in the same position. So here I am showing up and sharing how I climbed out of the bucket of cream on a wave of butter.

ASKING FOR HELP

I am a pretty independant person and I used to think (mostly subconsiously) that asking for help was saying that I couldn’t cope with life and that deep down that made me less than “enough”. What I have learnt is quite the opposite, that asking for help when you need it actually makes it okay for others to ask for help too – after all we are all human and need a shoulder from time to time.

I started by sharing my experiences both in a professional format in my job in the manner of a reflective activity, with friends and family in real and meaningful conversations, but also by reaching out for help with a counsellor. I was lucky to get allocated a counsellor (free of charge through the NHS) that was a conversational counsellor and it was on the phone so fit in with my schedule. They helped me not only work through what I had been through with CV19 and the trauma from that but also the death of my brother, which of course then took me down the rabbit hole of my childhood and other things from the past 40+ years. I really did underestimate how therapeutic this was going to be and it has made an enormous difference to how I have been feeling emotionally.

WORK/LIFE BALANCE

I have been working on building a better work/life balance and I must say that the team I work with have been the best support system I have ever worked within. They endeavour to kick me out of work at home time and make it okay for me to prioritise my own health and wellbeing. They are a team that is kind, thoughtful, and I really love going to work everyday – I guess that is why its so difficult to maintain that balance at times too. I have committed to working less or not at all in my own time at home, including switching off my work phone and hiding away my laptop when I finish work (sometimes I leave the laptop at work so I am not tempted – A Level tip I must say).

HEALTH ASSERTIVENESS

I have really felt quite challenged by the health system here from the perspective of being the patient – I have limited choice in my GP, the wait times and accessiblity to certain services are frustrating, and CV19 after effects have many health practitioners stumped. I decided enough was enough and my frustration turned into assertiveness otherwise known as “tell the GP exactly what my expectations of care is and tell them what I want and accept no less”. It worked! I am now referred to the Long-CV19 Clinic, a Respiratory Specialist, I have had scans and tests, and I have more tests and procedures coming up.

I’ve also taken my own personal steps too – I track everything I eat, walk 3km per day (at this point any further leaves me fatigued and unwell for some time), try and get more sleep, and do things that bring me some joy. With lockdown measures easing we are no longer under the stay at home ruling but continue to stay relatively close to home and wear masks when in crowds even outdoors. However this has meant that in the afternoons or on days off we are trying to get out into nature or go somewhere instead of remaining indoors so much.

Yesterday (Saturday) we went to Margate in Kent and were pleasantly surprised. It had sand, sunshine and woodfired pizza by the beach. We sat by the harbour at a micro-pub and drank a beer (Mackenzie enjoyed a hot chocolate), before eating our pizza at the beach as the sun set. It was the most enjoyable day we have had in a long time, and it did great things for all of our wellbeing. Although I will share more about Margate at a later date, I will share some golden pictures below.

We are making a real effort to now come out of the difficult times we have had in England, so we can grow to love England and all the beautiful and incredible things it has to offer. We have started by exploring the “Garden of England” here in Kent, along with spending more time with friends and family as the restrictions allow. Already we are loving the beauty of Spring emerging from it’s wintery shell and Summer is looking promising. We want to leave England when its our time with a deep love and appreciation for our time here.

What I do want to share is that when the chips are down don’t forget to lean on the support that you need, find some joy in every day, and churn that cream into butter.

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