IMG_1462I am a little slow with my morning words.  But I am sitting here, finishing my Chai.  I’m still in my pyjamas but I have combed out my bed head.  I am surrounded by sunlight.

Sheba comes running into the room.  She has sensed our furry neighbour out on the deck. She rears up on her hind legs, barking out her greeting.  Mr. Fur Ball yips back in return. He enjoys this!  Sheba is reprimanded and runs away, crying to her favourite man.

I am still mourning  Dr. Sophia Yin’s death.  Can one mourn someone they have never met? Then I learn of another tragedy, the death of Ron Francis, an RCMP officer.  Such serendipitous moments for me.  Clearly there is a message for me.  I hear Gracie Heavy Hand‘s voice saying:  Stay calm.  Be brave. Watch for the sign.

I hear the message.  I am brave.  I see the sign.  I have moved on – away from the scene of the traumas and stress.  I am not wallowing and glorifying how well I am doing despite all that – any more.  I am not living as if everything is an emergency and there is no time.  I am out of the fire.  My body forgets at times.  It comes on alert with a trigger, the adrenalin pumping, heart pounding, getting ready for the fight or flight.  It’s okay.

It has had to operate on alert mode for so many years.  It will take time to unlearn the response.  I have time.  I don’t have to pull up my socks and get on with it.  I can weep, I can get mad.  I can take a nap.  I can fall apart, knowing I can put myself together again.  I can just be. There no longer is a raging fire, just the dying embers.  They will go out.

In the meantime…

IMG_4923I can listen to the silence of this morning.  The dogs are no longer barking.  The sun is warm on my back and Sheba as she lays next to me.  I can honour and appreciate Dr. Sophia Yin’s work that she’s left behind.

I can continue to work on my goal and tap, tap out my words in 15 minute segments, in a one-inch picture frame.  I can write that book – a line, a page, a story at a time.  I can do different.  I can learn new tricks.  There’s plenty of time.

How are you doing?  Do you have any beef, passion or insight you want to share?  Writing it out is a great way to dissipate angst and open your chakras.  And you just never know what can follow.

I’ve done my rant.  Time for my 15 minute slow jog with Sheba.  The sun beckons.

SMILE THE WHILE – my postcard from the edge

I am ready, sitting here with my morning Chai.  I’m still wearing my bed head.  It brought me luck yesterday.  We, the Chinese, are very superstitious.  The Mad Hatter in me has helped me to rant and chatter – to let loose.

Today, I am going to be brave.  I am going into that one-inch picture frame that Anne Lamott speaks of.  I am going to look at my life when I was a nurse.

Yesterday I came upon a blog about the death of Sophie Yin, a 48 year old veterinarian who died of a suicide.  Was the death a result of compassion fatigue?  That is the question.  More importantly, what is compassion fatigue?  Here’s what wikipedia says:

Compassion fatigue, also known as secondary traumatic stress (STS), is a condition characterized by a gradual lessening of compassion over time. It is common among individuals that work directly with trauma victims such as nurses, psychologists, and first responders. It was first diagnosed in nurses in the 1950s. Sufferers can exhibit several symptoms including hopelessness, a decrease in experiences of pleasure, constant stress and anxiety, sleeplessness or nightmares, and a pervasive negative attitude. This can have detrimental effects on individuals, both professionally and personally, including a decrease in productivity, the inability to focus, and the development of new feelings of incompetency and self-doubt.[1

I have already recognized and acknowledged that I might am a sufferer. I am sure that I am not the only one among our staff.  As I look at the long list of symptoms in individuals and organizations on the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project, I’m nodding my head and going uh huh, uh huh.

meIt was a bit of a surprise to me that I didn’t ‘fall apart’ till after I had retired.  I had no time while I was still working.  The show had to go on.  The tread mill ground on ever so steadily.  I HAD to perform, however broken I was. There was always tape to bind me up.  See!  Smile the while….

I was prepared for this business of ‘retirement’, or so I thought.  I knew there would be an adjustment period.  But after a few weeks, a month, I would be basking in the land of the happily ‘retired’.

How naive I was!  The ‘breakdowns’ that I never had time for found time and me.  Anxiety claimed me.  Life became HARD.  And I didn’t know how to explain it – to anyone, including myself.  There was always that STRESS theory.  Who wouldn’t be stressed after being immersed in saving lives and slinging bedpans for over 30 years?  30 years of STAT, Code Blues, ringing call lights, patient abuse, doctor abuse, managerial abuse, 12 hour shifts, night shifts, day shifts…..Or so it seemed.

Am I ranting?  So sorry!

I had not understood stress at all.  I had been asleep behind the wheel all those years.  My post retirement meltdown was probably the best thing that happened to me.  I finally understood.  It stopped me cold.  I had no more emergencies nor Code Blues to run to.  No one to rescue but myself.  I had to get out of the fire.

The stress had been built up over the years of caring.  I had lost sight of myself, always looking outward at others’ needs.  I felt others’ pain but numbed my own, as if I was not worthy of my own concern.  It was not good.  I prided myself on how much I can handle, how little sleep I needed.  How foolish I was!


I’m losing my concentration.  My right brain is clamouring at me.  I feel my dendrites rising on end.  Perhaps it’s best I close off.  Tomorrow is another day.  With a fresh left brain I might be able to talk about my year of recovery.  Till then – smile the while, but care for yourself.