Submersed in the culture.

The best way to learn a foreign language is to be submersed in the culture.  You need to order your breakfast, ask where the toilets are, and pay for movie tickets in the native tongue.  Medicine is the same thing.  You can’t dip a toe.  You have to dive in.

closeup

If you’ve never been to nursing school, it’s nothing like college.  This is hard.  You study (yes, even the really smart people who never have to study have to study) like a maniac, then get up at 5 in the morning for rounds.  You take care of actual live human beings and try really hard not to fuck up and hurt them.  You work until you want to cry some days.  You run every time there is a bedpan to empty or a bed to change because you have to prove yourself.  You have to want to succeed and you have to prove it to your instructors and the hospital nursing staff.  You clean up puke without gagging, you do procedures that hurt the patient and you don’t cry.  You suck it up and keep going.  Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning.  Then I remember that drama isn’t going to help me, so I get out my books. 

This piece is called “Waiting Room.”  It is hand embroidery with cotton and linen floss on a scrub smock from the Army hospital where I was born.  This shirt used to be a deep burgundy, but it has seen countless surgeries, lives and death.  This shirt has seen blood and vomit and tears.  It’s been washed too many times to count.  Now I see the blood and the scrubbing and I watch to see how it will change my colors. 

I’m just plain grateful to be a part of medicine.

5 foot 2, eyes of molded plastic

I’ve been a little busy.  I’m in clinicals 3 days a week and working my butt off studying for two tests a week.  I mean I’ve literally been working my butt off.  I’ve lost 48 pounds.  I average over 10,000 steps per shift at the hospital.  My pedometer doesn’t measure moving patients, making beds, and generally shaking in my boots as I try new skills on actual human beings.  Then I come home and run (okay I jog) a few miles. 

I’ve managed to finish these two pieces.  I’ve always wanted to do portraits of Pez Dispensers.  They have a personality all their own.  I was playing with the concept of hero worship when I decided to use repuposed USAF uniforms as backgrounds.  They turned out okay!  I really can’t believe that I found the time to finish them.  They are headed for a show in Chicago this November.  I’ll post more details when I get them. 

In other news, I found out that I have Addison’s Disease.  I’ve probably had it for over 15 years as my body slowly attacked my adrenal glands.  It’s rare and incurable, but very managable.  My body quit making cortisol, the “stress hormone.”  You can’t live without it.    The symptoms are:  fatigue, weakness, dizziness, hyperpigmentation (my armpits turned coppery brown), low blood pressure, hypoglycemia and…depression.  I was weak and sick and exhausted.  Now that I’m taking steroids to replace what my body wasn’t making, I feel so much better.  The medication makes me hungry, but I am exercising so hard that it doesn’t matter.  I’ve also started taking some thyroid hormone.  I’m finally on a level playing field and it’s amazing what I can get done in a day with a functioning endocrine system. 

Life is good.  I wasn’t lazy and dwelling on my depression.  I was really fucking tired.

That said, I had issues.  I still have issues.  I can’t just give up on exploring my emotions because I found a physical reason for my overwhelming fatigue.  I know that a lot of you still have depression that won’t have a “quick fix.”  (It only took 15 years!)  For years and years doctors treated me like my exhaustion was my fault for not going to counseling enough, exercising enough, for eating too much sugar, because I didn’t drink enough water, because I didn’t forgive people fully, because I lived in the past, for feeling sorry for myself, for being too negative, for not wanting to get better, because I’m such a hypochondriac, etc.

I don’t think that anybody should suffer for years because medical staff act like the illness is the patient’s fault.  I was tired of hearing how my fatigue was due to my noncompliance and piss-poor attitude.  I follow doctors’ orders.  I blamed myself.  I struggled.  I sincerely hope that you don’t put up with it, whether your problem is physical or emotional.  Nobody deserves to suffer.  Keep trying.

Ode to a Spoon

Ode to a Spoon, originally uploaded by alexcateye.

“Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.”

Zen Proverb

My life is full of simple tasks that bring me joy. I make art. I keep house.

Thread needles
Start washer
Wipe tables
Read stories
Brew coffee
Pour soymilk
Scrub toilets
Cook dinner
Nag children
Plan artwork
Sew dresses
Stir batter
Take asprin
Charge cellphone
Make clutter
Lose scissors
Play Tetris
Pet dogs

That’s my version of Zen. I’m not really calm or enlightened, but I enjoy my small tasks and appreciate what I have.