Often times I’ll have people say to me, “You’re much stronger than me. I could not be an ICU nurse. I don’t know how you do it.” Sure, blood and guts are not some people’s forte, and dealing with life and death are difficult. However, that doesn’t mean that ICU nurses are immune to everything. We definitely do get grossed out by things, and we do feel emotional at times. We are a strong breed, but chances are on the inside we feel sadness, loss, and grief just like everyone else.
If I have a truly sad case at work, I will put on a brave front. After all, if your patient’s family sees you upset, chances are that’s going to make them REALLY upset. We are the healthcare providers: fearless and strong…on the outside. We have to control our emotions because if we didn’t mistakes could happen and things could get missed. This behavior is necessary. No one wants a scatter brained nurse. Most of the time we must think methodically and objectively with little room for emotion.
However, as most of us know, bottling up emotion is unhealthy. And continuing to do so CAN (not always) result in anger displacement to people around you, self medication (i.e. drinking alcohol, pain killers, etc.), depression, anxiety, and addiction. It’s dangerous not to express emotion. Bottling it up reminds me of a liter of cola that you shake and shake and shake. Eventually that sucker will blow.
Ok, in these previous blurbs I’ve said ICU nurses put up a strong front at work but really can be sad on the inside. And I’ve also said bottling up emotion is a bad thing that can lead to destructive behavior. These two things are like oil and water. They are quite contradictory and perhaps very unhealthy when combined.
What do I do to deal with the two? Well, I have to admit I do push feelings aside at times. Processor gets overloaded and it becomes a memory dump. Thank you human nature. I also wouldn’t be human if I didn’t admit that I do displace my emotions at times to others that are undeserving. I know it’s not justified, and I feel terribly after the fact, but I think it’s safe to say it’s human nature sometimes.
On the other hand, I think I’ve gotten better over the past four years with dealing with hiding that grief and sadness from work. I’ll vent to my parents or sister via Gchat. God bless them for listening to me. Music is good too. Let me turn on some Florence + the Machine or Mumford and Sons. Such good lamentation tunes for me. Or dance. Call me crazy, but a little lyrical doesn’t hurt anyone. Lastly, video games. Pwning noobs is a quick fix to take my mind off of things. Distraction can be good therapy but not long lasting. But thank you Diablo III for letting me kill things and then getting frustrated with you because I have so little gold. Just a side note Blizzard Entertainment….but hey, this isn’t the forums. Back to the topic on hand…
To everyone: we nurses are definitely strong. But don’t believe that stoicism on the outside when grave situations happen. We hurt on the inside just like everyone else. We go home and shed tears on your behalf, pray that things will work out, and thank God for our loved ones and health.