Sunday, October 21, 2007

Time for a Break, Damn the Torpedos

Quite recently, I wrote that burnout had come to visit, and I was uncertain of what to do. That despair of not knowing has given away to the simple realization that something had to be done, and that has led me to make the decision to take a unpaid leave of absence in the interest of my mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical health. For a hard-working, dedicated, and relatively codependent nurse, the decision to do something so dedicated to pure self-care is nothing short of a miracle (and I think my wife would agree wholeheartedly). But a leave of absence is something whose time has come, even if the bank account may feel quite differently.

Nurses are reknown for working until they drop, giving their all for patient care, and going down with the proverbial ship, damn the torpedos. Well, I have realized that the multiple torpedos of chronic pain, depression, grief, and reactivated PTSD are enough to warrant some serious self-care, and I'm the only one who can make it happen (with a little prodding from "The Missus").

When unfathomable stress couples with an untenable workload, no accrued time off, and personal issues crying out for succor, a decision to abandon self-care at such a crucial time is tantamount to suicide. As I have felt myself slip into a coma of denial and stress-induced despair, there has been a simulataneous realization that if I do not intervene on my own behalf, more debilitating chronic illness---beyond my current health challenges---may force a permanent leave of absence in the future, complete with permanent disability and loss of function. Therefore, in the interest of self-preservation and my own well-being, something has got to give, and work seems like the best candidate to be jettisoned.

In terms of my own attachments and aforementioned codependence, concerns over the well-being of my patients and my colleagues abound. I worry over how my colleagues will cope in my absence. I experience anticipatory guilt over the burdens they will bear. I worry about my patients, their feelings of abandonment, as well as the fact that after a five-week break, I just may not be able to face the rigors of my challenging job anew. All that taken into consideration, there is no denying that I have no choice but to choose my own health over any mechanism of denial which I can fabricate. The time has come, and I have to take a stand for myself.

There is a huge leap of faith involved in taking a step towards healing. There is also an enormous well of self-preservation that begs me to act before it's too late. Luckily, I have the support and wherewithal to be able to relinquish a month's pay in pursuit of personal healing, and I am grateful for that luxury which many others could never achieve. I hope to use my time wisely, and make some decisions from a place of calm.

I intend to use this forum to process my experience, describe my struggles, and elucidate the path upon which I'm embarking. Please come along for the ride---I could use the company.

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