As a nurse I am humbled everyday by the adversity of people and their ability to survive difficult situations. Many of my patients have chronic health problems that keep them coming back to the hospital with their frequent flyer card in hand. Most come in for some sort of internal organ failure. We often joke that our floor is also known as the “failure floor”. Every organ imaginable that can fail finds its place on my unit: heart failure, kidney failure, liver failure, respiratory failure, etc.. Many are unable to use any of their limbs due to some sort of neurological defect or from diabetes which often leads to an amputation or two (or three or four).
Others suffer from so much pain, they plead with us to put them out of their misery. And how would you like it if someone had to wipe you every time you went to the bathroom? I could go on and on, but you get my point. What kind of life is this and how on earth could I feel sorry about myself over petty things!?
So as I’m walking into their room, I am reminded that I can walk on my own two legs. I can eat, talk, bathe myself, use my own voice, live a life free of pain (at least physical pain), and I can go home every night, sleep in my own bed and kiss my boys goodnight every night. I’m truly blessed and fortunate to be me! So why do I insist on my pity parties when I feel like nothing is working for me?
This is when I stop, look around at all the beauty around me, smile (even if I don’t feel like it- it’s good for those muscles and often you can trick yourself into feeling better!), get my journal out and write. I write and write and write. I think of everything in my life that I’m grateful for. I’m grateful for being able to breathe, for being healthy, for having two amazing boys, for having an amazing career, and for having the ability to love and be loved. I know I may be fortunate to have a good job and this is often what brings people down, but I still can feel sorry for myself. We all can. And we all do.
This brings me to the story of a patient of mine who was the happiest loving soul I have ever met. He laughed at everything! He smiled the instant you looked in his room. He was so full of life and put me to shame for ever being in a bad mood. I know he was only on my unit for a short period of time, but I just knew that this guy knew something that the rest of us didn’t. He was just so darn happy! But in reality, his story is quite amazing! He was 47 years old and was shot in the face when he was 19 during an accidental hunting accident that left him a quadriplegic (unable to move any of his limbs) and spoke with an electronic voice box since he didn’t have any vocal cords. He was completely reliant on others for his care. But I didn’t gather that he felt sorry for himself; at least not in the short period of time that I worked with him. He was such an inspiration, and I think about him often. This was not the only patient who inspired me though. I could write a book on all of the greatness I have encountered as a nurse, truly!
Back to the list. This is good practice for anyone and everyone. It helps get you out of funks, gives you ideas and inspiration, helps you sleep better at night, and most importantly, helps you realize how great your life really is, no matter what! When your life seems bad, just remember, the spirit in you can and will survive. I’ve seen firsthand how strong this can be, with me and my patients. At the very least, be thankful that you can breathe on your own. Some people can’t even do that! Just saying :).
What are you grateful for?