Tell The Truth: Shame

My experience at Catholic University of America was full of pain. I was hurting. I’ve talked extensively about all of the things I felt was done to me there but I did not talk about the things I was ashamed of. One of the things I felt shame over was that in Philosophy and theology class, I would often challenge the professors and their teachings. I was very outspoken about what I felt was wrong because what I believed college to be was a place to genuinely and authentically learn. And that is what I was trying to do.

I feel ashamed because in many ways I don’t think those classes was a place for me to learn authentically. They were also seemingly low energy. I felt ashamed because I was a naturally enthusiastic and passionate person and they were…dead…to me. They couldn’t function without coffee, they couldn’t open up unless drunk. I think I felt ashamed to be so open and happy and positive and passionate about my studies when the rest of the people I met were not. Or did not seem to be. The world there was too small for me. Speaking from the heart here. I really hated my time there.

I understand now that I have nothing to be ashamed of. I actually really cared about the content of the course and challenged the information and the teachers because I truly wanted to learn more. I was genuinely intrigued. And even though others might have an opinion about me that is not favorable, I don’t have to feel that it is indeed true for me. It’s about them. It’s about their expectations of me, which I don’t have to fulfill. It’s about what they think about themselves and the expectations they try to place on others and the world around them.

I don’t have to be afraid of the truth of myself. I don’t have to worry so much about every demeaning eye roll because someone wanted to convey a message. The truth of who I really am is stronger than that. For one: I did not die at Catholic University. 2. My ex boyfriend’s friends and family did not kill me. 3. I survived a horrible first clinical experience and got myself out.

Honestly, if it’s one thing I can say about myself it’s that I always always always speak the truth. And that’s what I think saves me every time.

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Meeting The Shadow Self

While in contemplation, I asked to meet my shadow self. This is the side of oneself that has been repressed for buried down because it has been deemed “unacceptable” to the image that an individual tries to convey to society. I decided to take a moment to give this Shadow self space.

I am angry. I feel alot of anger and frustration towards my family for not being what I had hoped. For not giving me all that I needed to grow. They take advantage of my goodness and often look for ways to show me up. And I am angry at them. I am also angry at myself for allowing myself to do things I never should’ve done. I never should’ve gone back out with my ex. I know it was stupid of me but I did it anyways and tried to convince myself that things were good when it was not. I am angry because I often feel as though i am not where I should be in the physical as well as in the spiritual. I wish I had my own home and a career I genuinely liked. I wish I wasn’t in school anymore. I wish I was a more well-known and inspirational writer. I’m angry because in high school had a lot of “friends” I wish I had told off sooner and confronted. One of whom was blatantly disrespectful and honestly disgusting towards me. I wish I had held her feet to the fire when I confronted her about her behavior. I wish I had more confidence to stand in my own truth during that time. I get angry and jealous sometimes because I feel like my boyfriend prefers his sister or seeks her approval over mine. He did this thing the other day where her clothes were in the dryer for a week, so he took my clothes out of the basket it was in and dropped at the side of the bed and put her clothes in it. I was so angry and I wished he had been more considerate because he never would’ve done that if the roles were reversed. And I feel like acting petty sometimes. 

I’m scared all the time. I’m also really scared of being judged. I’m scared that others will see that I don’t really have that many close friends. I’m scared of being wrong. I’m scared that others will see that I really am, in many ways, incompetent. Sometimes words and statements and phrases go way over my head or make absolutely no sense to me. But I’m so afraid of being called incompetent or appearing ignorant that I say nothing or laugh it off. 

I feel like I’m chronically guilty. I feel things that I always reason I’m not suppose to feel. And I get angry at myself for that. I get angry and jealous when I see my mom taking it her family from the caribbean and treating me like I’m 2nd class as a result of it. I get angry because I realize that what is acceptable to them (having people move their stuff, living all under one roof, etc) isn’t acceptable to me. I feel guilty for being American or being called out for having “American” values because it always seemed like a bad thing. But then why are you working so hard to bring your family here? A better life also means acknowledging that some parts of this culture and its customs work without judging, belittling or putting that culture down, the same way I don’t think your customs and culture should be put down. I feel guilty and undeserving because often times I can’t stand my cousin who lives with me. I hate hearing about all her relationship foolishness or about her education and I really don’t want to drop her anywhere because I think she should know how to drive now and she’s just wasting my time. But then i feel guilty when something good happens to her because it feels like I’m wishing bad on her. I’m just so sick of her crap. 

I’m angry because I feel like my mom’s family pushed me out of the house I lived in for over a decade and my mom didn’t do shit about it. I’m angry because I feel like my mom chooses everyone else in her family over me, her only daughter. And I wish I could tell her to suck it to her face or ask her why she does this and get a genuine answer. But I won’t. I never will. I also feel chronically guilty because I really don’t want to spend much time with most of my family anymore. Whenever I go back to my mom’s house I realize how closed off and cut out from their lives I feel and I wish I had a home to go back to when I leave her place so I didn’t once again get the feeling that I just don’t belong. I’m always worried that I just don’t belong. That no one really, actually likes me, that I’m shitty at my job, that people think I’m weird or full of it, that they’re always looking to trip me up. I’m insecure. 

Sometimes I feel like I fake my sensitivities. This whole empath concept came to me when I first discovered this woman online who had this Chinese boyfriend. This was during the time I was conducting interviews trying to understand why so many black males did not like dark skin black women and often proclaimed they liked white and asian women more because of whatever reason they had. Of course the answer would always go back to “it’s just a preference” because how can anyone protest a person’s tastes, right? It was always ignorant bullshit to me but further affirmed the idea that i wasn’t good enough. Anyways, this woman and her husband, I just admired their relationship and the way she spoke. People seemed to love her and flock to her. She was so charismatic, enthusiastic and dynamic in her online communication on forums. She called herself an Empath and sensitive to energy. It was around the time that I realized I was an INFP which at the time made up only a small percentage of the population which made me feel lonely and special at the same time. The description didn’t fit me 100% because I wasn’t sappy. So I decided to try to fit the description of the INFP to a ‘T’ and researching and hearing about the Empath title, and wanting to be like this woman, made me decide to absorb those traits. Like I said, I really wanted to belong in my newly diverse environment where I felt completely out of place, disconnected from the Divine, and just all out depressed and not good enough. This woman’s portrayal of herself online became my Persona. It wasn’t actually real. But it did seem to work for a time. 

There’s a part of me that feels somewhat ashamed of myself because I wasn’t always honest, even with myself. I did so many things that I really did not need to do and I judged myself so harshly for not living up to others expectations. I wasn’t taking myself into account. I’ve had so many personal experiences that because they didn’t “fit” with the experiences of others I buried it under and sought validity for them from people who couldn’t understand because it wasn’t their experience. I judged it so much. As much as I judge myself. I just could not allow myself to feel wrong, angry, ashamed, scared, ignorant, different, unique, jealous, guilty, insecure, confused, vulnerable.

I’m working now to be whole, to come to terms with all of me and to give them spaces to exists.

 

Tell The Truth: The Fire Turned to Ashes

During therapy, I told the truth about all the anger I felt. I explained that the solid boulder I felt in my heart had transformed into a fire that burned throughout my chest. I could see the flames. My therapist instructed me to invite the energy of my mother into the fire and tell her everything I was feeling. I did.

I wish you had the courage in yourself to advocate for yourself. If you did, you would’ve had the courage to advocate for me. I wish you had more love for yourself so that you wouldn’t have projected all of your self-disdain onto me, your daughter. 

That was all I had to say. My therapist asked how I felt and what images I saw. I didn’t know how to explain it at the time. I needed to process. I simply said I felt sore. All the areas that the boulder blocked, all the areas that had burned with flames were gone. I imagined eschar being removed from a wound so it could heal. I didn’t tell her that. What I saw was ashes. Throughout all the areas where the fire had burned, in this seemingly vast wasteland, ashes were now in its place.

One of the things I asked my therapist was whether or not healing meant having to be ‘best friends’ with my mother. I do know (or use to know) people who are best friends with their mom. I told her how I noticed that my cousin often goes into a baby voice whenever she speaks with her mom and that she tells her mother everything. While I thought this was cute, I didn’t want to have that kind of relationship with my mom. I wanted to be able to keep some things to myself if I so chose to. She said that was okay. The truth is that in that moment I sought validation for who I am and what I wanted. She asked if I could honor that. I said yes and felt relieved.

My therapist asked what it is the little girl in me needed as it is possible for me to give her what she needs. I said a voice. She needs to be heard, she needs to continue to tell the truth, be sincere, be authentic, she needs validation and a support system that works for her. Lastly, she needs to advocate for herself. I asked her why these people treated me this way. She said from what I told her it seemed as though they saw me as being strong and resilient and could handle them. I can see this. My original thought is that they tried to break me. But I realize now that they were all cowards. They were scared and taking their fear out on me because I was the most vulnerable.

 

 

Tell The Truth: Day After Mother’s Day

I am chronically angry. In public I smile and say hello, I’m polite, im helpful and I’m nice. But deep inside, I’m angry from years of having it communicated to me that I don’t matter in some way, shape, or form. I’m angry because for years I have been told that in some way I am wrong. This never stopped.

I remember my experience in the NICU where I use to work in DC. All I felt there was anger and distrust. I remember trying to talk to them about what I thought, how I felt, what I needed. Again, it seemed like it was communicated to me that I didn’t matter and I didn’t belong. I tried to stick it out like I always do, forcing myself to stay in situations where I often can feel and know I’m not wanted. Because that’s what the strong girls do right? You don’t let people make you quit your job. But I never worked in a place where I felt so much anger and hostility. Only one and I vowed never to return.

I remember the patient care manager in this NICU. Under the guise of keeping it real she would unleash so many insults, threaten me and say I’d be blacklisted from the hospital for 7 years and that other institutions talk. If she only know how much I had disliked this place. But I didn’t trust them there. I tried and would always be cut off. I felt like I was the outsider and I didn’t belong. And the truth is, I didn’t belong. I didn’t like the energy I felt there or how those who had been there a while would all team up to talk about any newcomers who weren’t exactly like them in some way. I didn’t like that everyone knew each others business and people were constantly gossiping or knew about each other’s personal lives. I wanted out. I used my options.

My family looks at me like I’m a complainer. But the truth is I’m trying to be heard. When I look, I realize that it’s not my ‘family’ I’m angry with. They hurt me for sure. But most of my anger is directed towards my mother for not being the support system I needed as a child. The truth is, since I’ve begun to untangle, I realize that she couldn’t be that support because she still isn’t able to truly support herself emotionally. She’s only now beginning to learn and her voice gets stomped out by the bullies of the family (her two sisters). I realize that all the pain she exacted upon me is what she either had put on her or what she put on herself. She couldn’t do any better. Even when I try to point it out to her, she couldn’t hear me, maybe because as her offspring, my voice didn’t matter if hers didn’t. But that doesn’t make me any less angry. It only makes me hate her more. I can’t imagine seeing my little 10,11,12,13,14,15,16 year old girl cry and hearing her say how her father’s refusal to call her or spend time with her for years even though the two of you are in a relationship makes her feel neglected and abandoned and turning to my daughter and basically blaming her for her absence and neglect. How is she suppose to feel? She felt invalidated and worthless. That’s how she felt. And ended up with a boy who further made her feel invalidated and worthless.

I’m angry because I realize that the little 6, 7, 9, 10 and 13 year old in me mattered just as much as the me I am today does. I’m angry because I realize that I always deserved a voice and was entitled to my own opinion but the grown ups around me didn’t see it that way. I was ‘wild’, I was ‘different’, I was ‘rude’, I was ‘weird’, I was a host of names but these people were not nice and allowed others to do and say not nice things to me. They didn’t allow me to have a voice, they didn’t treat me like I mattered so much as they didn’t want me to make them look bad. Shame. Guilt. Control. That’s what I grew up in.

Grandma, even though I can’t remember a single bad thing about you, I can’t help but feel as though somehow you contributed to the cultivation of all of this. But in my heart, my mother plays the biggest role. I don’t like her. I don’t respect her. Yesterday was mother’s day and I was even more angry with her then than today. Sometimes I feel like I’m just waiting for her to die so I can finally stop feeling like my very being is wrong and like I don’t matter. She keeps me tied to people who constantly seem to try to make me feel like I’m wrong and don’t matter. Why God why?

What is Normal: Belonging

My counselor suggested that I revisit that 11 year old girl who went through a myriad of transitions at once and experienced a lot of pain as a result of her resistance to those changes. She asked what it is that girl, me, needed at that time. That 11 year old girl, I, was angry. Very angry. In many ways she’s still angry. She wanted belonging, validation, and respect. None of which she felt she truly received. But she blamed herself. I think deep inside she wanted to know that she was good enough and that nothing was inherently wrong with her.

The 11 year old girl came up with a lot of reasons why she wasn’t wrong and the rest of the world was the problem. And this was how she coped for years. I think my encounter with God was always humbling but confusing. When I no longer saw the world as being “the problem”, when I felt like I did everything “right”, I again began to question what was wrong with me. This is where I am now. This is what I feel, how I often feel. Like I don’t belong.

I’ve been trying to write myself a new story for years. I’ve been trying to create a new script. I do remember growing up feeling like I had to change who I am in order to fit in. I remember opting not to change, to remain true to myself, even if it meant feeling lonely. But that wasn’t always easy.

Many times my feelings of anger are aimed towards my family that I often felt only supported me so long as my changes weren’t too outside their own comfort zones for approval. My desires weren’t “bad”. Just not acceptable. I realize that even to this day it influences my life.

Most recently, I developed very strong feelings for a man who smokes marijuana. I like him more than any man I’ve met so far. We just click! But I kept destroying the connection because my mother would not approve of the fact that he smoked marijuana. I dumped him. In my heart I think I do regret it because the feelings I have for him are very real.

One of the things I did notice about myself during this time of reflection is that I actually know who I am and what I like and want. I’ve just been afraid to acknowledge it because I deemed many of my wants or feelings or thoughts to be unacceptable. My counselor suggested acknowledging how I feel without judgement. So here it is…

I want to be in control of my life

I want to be heard

I feel I’m a natural born leader

I would really like to reconnect with that guy

I feel myself to be strong, loving, supportive, insightful, intuitive, independent, pretty

I see myself happy

I see myself as an advocate for myself

I see myself growing in the direction of my dreams

I know where I truly belong…it might not be exactly where I am right now

I Ain’t No Mother Theresa

I want to come clean about some things. For the last year, I’ve been writing a lot about my feelings (which I now know is what many call “Burnout” or “Dark Night of the Soul”). I recently mentioned that I got into graduate school and I’m going. I’m so glad to be continuing my education. That said, I am also filled with dread at the thought of going to work another day as a bedside RN.

I knew, by sophomore year of college, that I did not like what I was studying. My vision in life was to be a spiritual nomad, not to work in the hospital. The most I ever wanted to do was work in a clinic, possibly abroad. I thought I’d have more autonomy as well. And I didn’t. I chose to work in the hospital because everyone said this was where you get the most clinical experience. But my desire had never been to work with the sick and dying. I never aspired to be Mother Theresa or Florence Nightingale. Not once. Ever. In my life.

quote-emily-bronte-proud-people-breed-sad-sorrows-for-themselves-144339When I agreed to continue down this path, that’s when the panic attacks ensued. I was so scared of being wrong, or making a mistake, of embarrassing myself and my family. It all went back to Pride. I remember being in nursing school sophomore year not studying, not paying attention because my heart and soul had left interest in the profession long ago. It all felt wrong. But when I was given the option to quit nursing school and drop out of college, not knowing what the future held or what my options were (social work and psychology were not interesting to me anymore), I panicked, rolled up my sleeves and studied like no body’s business. I even made it into the honor society. But I knew, from the panic attacks, the weight gain, the general lack of self care, and the fact that my heart often wanted to focus solely on the spiritual or on meditation or escapism, that this was not exactly for me. And it didn’t get better when I agreed to work in the hospital.

Being there, I felt like I didn’t have enough decision making power and I’ve always loved having the freedom to come and go as I please. Many RNs talk about loving the camaraderie they experienced as a bedside RN. In truth, I never truly cared for it. I have made friends here and there in the profession but I never really cared for camaraderie when all else feels wrong to me.

The truth is, I’ve been exhausted ever since I started nursing school. And it’s because I refuse to listen to myself if my desires weren’t ambitious enough. I’ve kicked myself many a time for dreading the thought of working in the hospital  when that’s where the “real nurses” work (yes, I’ve heard others say this). I’ve come down hard on myself for not wanting to party it up with my colleagues on my days off…ever. I’ve tried to ignore myself and my feelings of anxiety when I think about having to go to work or for my indignation towards performing certain tasks. I’ve swallowed those feelings and did the work anyways. But it never negates that those feelings are there. Everyone around me are often the first ones who encourage me to “stick with it”. But “stick with it” isn’t what I need right now. The truth, the real truth, is that I dislike bedside nursing and never wanted to deal with the acutely or critically ill.

primarycareI’m writing this here because I need to confess this to myself. I don’t know what I’m doing anymore. In truth, I might never have known what I’m doing. But the last few years I’ve felt increasing disconnect from myself and while I’ve worked to reconnect with myself in 2015 to now, I still don’t think I’ve found my path. Maybe it’s growth. Maybe it’s because I’ve had experiences that have opened me up to so many new possibilities that life seems increasingly more gray than black and white. But I have no hope that bedside nursing will get better for me. I dislike it. I also don’t know if attending graduate school will yield better results. What I do know is that it’s an option. I want to work in primary care. Nothing sicker than that. No more than 3, ten hour days a week unless I have absolutely autonomy and control over my life and decision making ability, something which I did not have as a bedside RN.  While it’s very ambitious to want to deal with the most critical cases in healthcare, I think it’s only truly ambitious if it’s something you really want to do. I don’t and have been resistant to it my entire career. The funny thing is, I remember in college someone asking me why I didn’t apply to work in the ICU and I told them, “If I ever take a job in the ICU, know that I’m moving in the wrong direction for myself.” The funny thing is, I applied for a position in the neonatal ICU.” I’m glad I didn’t get it because I don’t want it.

What I do want to do is get out of the bedside before the end of the year and focus primarily on graduate school. My focus this year, before work, before ego, before ambition and people who embody all three of these things, is stress management and moving on from burnout. I burnt out. There’s a reason for that. I’m sick of ignoring everything I feel and know to be true of myself simply because it requires radical shifts in behavior or thought.

 

Communication Styles: Are You Passive?

difference-between-aggressive-passive-and-assertive-behavior2

So the picture above is a reflection of the three main communication styles. I am passive. I wrote in my previous blog that I am in the Esteem phase of my development. This is why. It’s funny because I think I’ve known all along that I had self-esteem issues. But in college, I went through a “there is no self” phase while not really understanding what that meant in addition to experiencing hardships. Instead of beating myself into silence, I should’ve been seeking ways to empower myself, especially since I was in an environment that seemed to be working it’s damnest to leave me feeling defeated.

I’m now in a position where it’s important to speak up. Also, I’m not a little girl anymore. So it’s very important that I learn not only to advocate for myself at work and in public but to also communicate in a way that’s clear, concise, honest, and effective. If I’m not, I now feel that I’ve defeated the purpose of communication. For this reason, I’ve begun to do conduct research on assertive communication styles. I’ve read these before and many of these I already know but it never hurts to be reminded. It’s not enough to just be aware of this information, but rather it’s important now that I utilize it.

I’ve been paying attention to how I am in public settings. During my mid-point evaluation, I found myself slouching, crouching my shoulders, whispering, staring at the ground, sometimes avoiding eye contact, blushing. I also noticed myself tensing up and clenching the pen in my hand. I had the same kind of behavior during the rounds with the MDs and Charge nurse. This behavior communicates shyness, uncertainty, insecurity. Now contrast this with how I am when communicating with my family, I am relaxed. During this time, my expressions and my words align and I project my voice in a way that allows me to be heard and understood. This is effective communication. I’m still reading and researching looking for new tips and reminders on what assertiveness is and looks like because I think I would like help in this area. And my goal going forward is to implement these. Reducing my nervous laughter, and just working on speaking up and projecting my voice.