I think it’s Tuesday but it could be Friday or maybe it’s the Monday after the Tuesday that I thought it was. I haven’t slept in days, possibly weeks, and have been living off caffeine pills and Adderall.
Nursing was explained to me as some sort of fairy tale where you are the striking hero in the face of evil villains that go by the name of illness. Unfortunately, since my short time out of nursing school and in to the real hospital world, I’ve felt more like a drowning fish; an animal in its own environment struggling to survive due to complete consumption of the world around them.
I didn’t struggle in nursing school or even in our clinical studies. While my fellow classmates stayed up all night to complete homework, I took pride in my consistent schedule and self-care first philosophy. Breakfast was never ‘on-the-go’ and my all-nighters consisted of a solid 8 hours of sleep. Yet somewhere between graduation day and day 32 on the job, I lost those self-care techniques and resorted to self-medicating.
It started out innocently enough when a co-worker saw me yawning a few more times than normal while assisting with ambulation of a patient. Despite my generally consistent sleep routine, I was exhausted. It was the first time someone offered me an Adderall. I had no qualms against caffeine pills but Adderall was a step up that I had no interest in partaking in.
It was in my best interest to be polite to my new co-worker. It was lonely enough to have moved from a heavily populated close community of college friends to brand new town with little company other than my cat. I didn’t need to reject any offer of friendship. I took the pills with a sheepish smile and yawn.
The pills made their way in to my scrub pocket and didn’t surface until the next day when I could barely keep my eyes open during morning briefing. Without taking notice of which was which, the capsule accompanied a swig of coffee. Almost instantly I felt a jolt in spirit and heart rate. I finally understood what they were talking about with being able to stay awake all night to finish a paper. If I was a good student before, this would have made me the best.
My college campus was often referred to as ‘The Bubble.’ It was difficult to get off campus without a car. There wasn’t a need to leave often as everything was onsite. Meals were provided and regular events made community life entertaining. Students worked for dining services, maintenance, or administration. Those looking for disconnect from the school had he opportunity to work for a small business attached to the main building. College was a sanctuary without bill pay, cash exchange or fear of being broke. I ignored the stories from my off campus classmates that spoke the horrors of grocery shopping, paying rent and worst of all, people with differing opinions.
I imagine the unexpected reality of living outside the bubble hit me harder than I anticipated. There wasn’t a grace period to reality. One day I woke up to a prepared meal in the cafeteria and the next I ate cereal on the floor of my hollow apartment, miles from the comfort of familiarity.
I think back to the exact moment when I decided to escape the exhaustion. I wanted to be the best. I was held back by my inability to get to the familiar place of college. My schedule, my bills, my loneliness; it all contributed to the intensifying urge of normalcy. I took the chance to be right-minded by implementing serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in to my daily routine.
Only when I killed her did I see the result of my selfish movement to end fatigue. She died at my hands, by my actions or rather, lack thereof. I was told not to speak to anyone as we approached the trial but that proved difficult as I transitioned from nurse to patient.
To be continued…