I became a registered nurse pretty young, naive and optimistic about what the career path held for me.
I knew that I had unresolved trauma from my childhood that I needed help for, and felt like I should “deal with,” but was also aware I was not ready to receive that help.
I then witnessed friends and family, as well as my patients and their family members, undergo unimaginable situations. My nursing education prepared me for the challenges and physical demands of the job but I was unprepared for the intensity of emotional and spiritual strain one experiences when caring for others. My emotional energy diverted to focusing on holding myself together while trying to have a good personal quality of life, despite the things I saw on a regular basis. Don’t get me wrong, nursing is a calling and I am proud beyond belief to be one, but continuous exposure to trauma, despite the good days, wears on your soul.
I saw so much more heartache than I ever thought was possible to exist in this world. My own trauma seemed so trivial compared to these major events I watched people go through and overcome. Who was I to complain and cry about things that had happened to me, when other people had gone through so much worse and come out so much stronger for it??
Ultimately, what led me to a counselor was not my own demons, nor my career. It was trying to make myself love a man who was not right for me, even though I wanted him to be. I thought I could go in and discuss one singular piece of my life, and instead she unraveled the rest of my tangled mess.
It wasn’t until after several months of regular appointments that I was able to begin to slowly rid myself of the guilt of constantly pushing away things I felt like I should be dealing with (like my childhood trauma). The greatest thing she ever said to me was, “if the box is closed and you’re doing okay with the box closed, leave the box where it is, and you can open it when you’re ready.” From this I learned that just because you feel you need to deal with something doesn’t mean you have to, and that’s okay.
We talked a lot about my personal relationships, and my work, and what I wanted out of life. She gave me a direction and a path to take. And she gave me permission to keep my childhood box closed, to not open it if I didn’t want to. The reason I went to counseling was not some of the biggest take-aways from our sessions; I left some things alone but I was able to tackle other things I didn’t even know I needed to. (pro-tip, you can’t force yourself to love someone).
Counseling might not be the answer to your mental health like it was for me. Our journeys are all different, but I sincerely hope that you know there are options available, it starts with talking about it.