When the Odds are Against You, Remain Strong

Written by: Lauren Sharp, RN, BSN, PMHNP-Student

 

Before Nursing

Since I was seven years old, I wanted to play professional tennis. Unfortunately, life did me no favors. My parents divorced when I was thirteen, and, suddenly, my parents became different people. My mom turned into a heavy drinker and my dad became withdrawn and mentally absent. As a result, tennis moved to the back burner and my survival mode was activated. Fortunately, I did have strong core group of long-time friends who acted as the one source of consistency throughout this period.

During these difficult times, my mental health was at an all-time low. I was constantly anxious, battling OCD thoughts of counting or hyper fixation, coping with ADHD, and other insecurities. It resulted in many sleepless nights and depression. I was still playing tennis; just not with the level of dedication required to play professionally.

At the time, I felt that to focus more on tennis would be to the detriment of my friendships. I felt I couldn’t afford to lose that one constant in my life. That being said, I still loved the sport. Each day, I went to my athletic club to work out, practiced tennis for 2 hours, ate dinner at the athletic club, went home and repeated daily from there. In hindsight this kept me busy. I worked with what I had at the time, and I was able to secure a scholarship to play Division II tennis. Sadly, I was very unhappy at the school and transferred to Michigan State University for the next academic year. 

Nursing School

In 2015, I was accepted into Michigan State’s traditional Bachelor of Science nursing program. During this time, my mental health continued to worsen. I was always anxious, barely sleeping, and not doing well in school. The anxiety got so bad that I blacked out during an exam and unsurprisingly failed it, forcing me to fall back a semester in my program.

I will never forget the meeting I had with the professor of that class following the exam. I went to her sobbing my eyes out. Explained I would lose grant money, and expressed my immense disappointment that I wouldn’t be able to graduate with my friends. She responded to me saying simply, “maybe this isn’t for you”.

I sat there in disbelief feeling dismissed. I always knew I wanted to help people. At the same time, I doubted myself and thought that maybe this professor was right. As the last day of registration for the nursing class approached, I seriously debated changing my major and calling it quits. But I didn’t. I registered, and in 2019 I graduated from my program and passed boards on the first time around. However, despite this breakthrough, my anxiety was only temporarily at bay.

In the Nursing Field

My first nursing job was night shift on a respiratory step-down unit. I learned so much during this time both as a nurse and as a person. I dealt with difficult colleagues and discovered that the old saying holds true: nurses eat their young. My treatment at the hands of the older nurses fueled self-doubt.

To make matters infinitely worse, COVID happened, which was a hard time for everyone. After nine months, I was able to transfer to the pediatric intensive care unit. There, I had the best preceptors a novice nurse could ask for. But I continued to ignore my mental health.

I was having panic attacks, crying constantly, and dreading going to work. I could barely sleep during the day after my night shift because of racing thoughts. Something had to give, so I took a job administering the COVID vaccine to nursing home patients in Michigan. When that ended, a colleague recommended a job at a Psych hospital.

Initially, I was hesitant because I didn’t love my Psych rotation in nursing school. However, to my surprise, I fell in love with it. I realized other people struggle too and that it’s okay to talk about it. However, the panic attacks continued, the crying persisted, and I endured several trips made to the ER. One day I finally gave in. I confessed to my mom that I was not okay. The next day I got help.

My Life Currently

Since 2022 I have been in therapy, and it has been life changing. I learned coping skills, practiced EMDR, and adjusted my medications. I’m able to regulate my emotions, stay calm, handle stress, and mitigate my anxiety. The depression has even almost resolved.

I rebuilt my internal validation to such an extent that I had the confidence to apply back to nursing school to be a Psychiatric mental health Nurse Practitioner. I want to enhance my knowledge and be able to help people on a holistic level in a way that only a nurse can offer. One of those ways is starting Glimmer Psychiatry.

Glimmer is a beaming light of hope, which I aim to instill into people on their mental health journeys. At the same time, I hope that in sharing my personal experiences it will help to serve as an example of what it is to not give up regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in.

With Glimmer I want to give people a platform to feel safe to share their mental health journey. It’s so important to feel heard. For most of my life, I never felt that way. My platform will bridge the gap between limited mental health services and the increased public discussion surrounding mental health. I think when you are passionate about something, nothing can stop you. Hopefully, in the future, Glimmer can also become a physical place for people to go for their mental health care.

 

Social media tag: @glimmerpsychiatry

 

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