Considerations: This article is a true story of one military veteran’s experience with loss, tragedy and trauma. Although this story highlights how one very strong woman turned trauma into triumph and self care, we know everyone is on their own healing journey.
This is a trigger warning for anyone who is mentally or physically susceptible to pain caused by reading about trauma, war experiences or loss. If this is you, we encourage you to please pick another one of Vickie’s exceptional article’s to read:
HOW TRAUMA HELPED ME FIND SELF-CARE
At twenty-one years old, I experienced my first mass casualty incident while deployed overseas with the military. It was shocking, heartbreaking, and oddly bewildering. It was certainly an event that challenged my training, confidence, and coping skills. Oh how I am thankful for all of it. Gratitude may seem like an odd sentiment, but it was the first time I really felt purpose and impact. Those are two very powerful and life altering feelings.
Then eight wonderful years ago I was deployed overseas and met the two most incredible American army doctors. Their dedication, knowledge, and heart left me in awe. Soon, the ‘med tent’ became my second home and we became family. We laughed, supported, and made fun of each other.
And when mass casualties happened, the call came over the radios and everyone pitched in. Myself included.
The truth is that I never wanted to become a nurse.
What was so special about those moments? Certainly having purpose and impact but also that they were filled with teamwork and a boat loads of heart.
And having heart matters. I remember one particularly rough day, you know, the kind where you just want to sit down and cry. I’m not sure if it was recent losses, hormones, or mercury in retrograde but I was feeling all the feels. The poor medic I was talking too didn’t know what to say or how to fix the situation so he gave me a little stuffed swan they had lying around. It was a genuine moment. I found it so ridiculous to try to fix my rough day with a toy but it worked. I felt better, and I still have that white toy swan tucked away for rainy days.
I want to be able to do that for others. Lift their spirits with little acts of caring. And be a badass with trauma, because really, that feeds the soul too.
So I applied to nursing school and by some stroke of luck (more like my continuous pestering of the admittance department every week), I got in! Now I’m well on my way and about to start my last year in September and it all feels a little surreal.
By the time graduation rolls around, I’ll be in my forties. Life has served me well with challenging experiences and after already having faced adrenal insufficiency head on (and no plan of ever going through that again) – here are four ways I manage my own self-care:
- Sleep is always king: Sleep trumps all in my life. There are no more late nights with friends, ‘all nighter’ study sessions, or irregular working hours. No thank you. Nothing wrong with turning into a pumpkin at 9pm (or earlier!). I will miss a social event/deadline/workout before I ever miss sleep. Find what works best for you, as for myself, I regularly sleep 8-9hrs a night in a room with blackout curtains, no electronics, and a weighted blanket. I know I know you might think this lame, or maybe you’re a little envious? Who knows. Sleep is everything. “Sleep is the best meditation” ~ Dalai Lama
- Be a social queen and change your scene: My social scene used to revolve around alcohol, food, and shopping. Pretty awesome vices in my books…until they weren’t. What I’ve found is that most people are ok when you switch those for healthier more budget friendly gatherings like hiking, game nights, tea dates, or hosting healthy meals at home. Remember the saying, ‘you are the company you keep’? There’s something to be said for how you spend your time as well.
- Even social queens embrace solitude: No doubt that good things happen when you spend time by yourself, face yourself, and become comfortable with yourself. Time alone is precious and a priority in my life. Sure, I take friends hiking and love it…but I also hike alone for those times of inner reflection and peace.
“The great omission in American life is solitude; not loneliness, for this is an alienation that thrives most in the midst of crowds, but that zone of time and space free from outside pressure which is the incubator of the spirit” ~ Marya Mannes
How do I manage with a busy mix of school, work, and Girl Gone Good? By clustering errands during the week, booking days ‘off’ in my calendar, and saying no (to work, socials, and collaborations) often.
Geek it up and became a savings champ: Because finances are stressful and stress equals poor health! Admittedly this is a work in progress but still on track to be financially free by 50 mostly due to following savvy financial and minimalist blogs. There are so many great ones to choose form but my personal favourites are Mr Money Moustache and The Minimalists. Oddly enough, living below my means yet still adventuring as much as possible has become somewhat of an envy to others!
These efforts in self-care are some of what makes going after a nursing degree with my sanity intact possible. It has taken a lot of personal growth, some failures, and plenty of outside help to get to the point of even trying to balance it all.
In my books it is all worth it because what I am chasing isn’t a degree in nursing. What I am chasing after is the possibility to be back in an environment where there is a sense of purpose, impact, teamwork, and heart.
Victoria Walsh is the voice behind Girl Gone Good, a little blog that grew out of the desire to embrace better health and explore the world in earnest. As a military veteran, she loved the adventurous life full of challenges, travel, and skydiving. Trading her combats boots for hikers, a love for mountains, wellness, and a small smoothie obsession emerged. She is currently earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Ottawa.