I want to talk about saving face because like...everyone that you talk to expects you to be this strong person. And like...we've always been told that that's what we're supposed to do and be. I know I've embodied that my entire life; for my family, for my sister - it's always been like, "You're supposed to be this really strong person and not show fear, or when you're nervous, or when you're upset, or when you're emotional." Even if it's just simply because that day you just are. And it's upsetting because I go to my job and I smile through people's worst days. I come out of a cardiac arrest and I have to go smile for my next person. I'm forced with my job to be that strong person that everyone needs to feel safe, and I find that I get home at night, and...I'm not depressed, but I'm also not always happy. And I'm so afraid that I should be? Because that's what everybody thinks.
I feel like I'm supposed to always be smiling. And it's sad when I get home at night and the one person I want to be smiling and happy with, my husband, he see's the worst of it. He sees when I'm sitting there and I'm just angry. Especially as women, we're often told, "Why aren't you smiling? Why aren't you happy? Give me a smile..." and I'm guilty of it too, I tell my friends, you know, "Put a smile on!" - my famous line is, "Are you having fun yet?" and my expected answer is, "Yes!" I ask my people at work that all the time and if they say no, I say, "No, no, that's not allowed! You have to say yes!" And so I'm perpetuating it myself.
And it sucks because I get home and I find that I cant be that person that I want to be because I end up being the person that I am. Because I can finally let go. It sucks because my husband does see the worst of it. He gets the brunt of it and it's not even his fault. Over time everything builds up.
I had probably my worst week in nursing about a month ago. I had really sick patients, I felt like a bad teacher for the new nurse that I'm orienting, and it all culminated when I was driving home. I'm almost home, and I hear a weird noise in my car, so I think my car is breaking down. I get out of my car and I smash my finger, it's still healing. I got home and I cried for an hour straight. And I don't cry. I mean...cry when I get angry, but I don't cry like emotional crying. And I cried for a solid hour and I couldn't stop. It was so cathartic but afterward I kind of felt guilty that I did it. And I shouldn't feel that way. I should never have let the stress get to that point, but still.
I think we need to put it out there that it's okay to not be okay. I feel like I'm always pretending that I'm okay for other people, but I can't pretend for myself. But I know for my parents, I'm always smiling, For my sister, she' going through a rough time right now,and I'm her rock. I have to be there for her. And I can't step back and just be emotional. I have to be the strong person for them so I feel like I'm always putting on this front of, "Okay, I'm just a brick wall with a smile. Throw what you want at me, I'll figure it out."
Luckily it hasn't really affected my marriage, but I think part of that is that he has to do the same thing as a fire fighter. Both of us see such significant trauma and significant good, we see both ends of the spectrum. We both have learned how to hide our emotions in public. And he hides them way better than I do, but I think both of us kind of have just learned how to deal with it and keep moving forward. Because that's what we were taught.
I got lucky because he understands not only what I'm going through but why I go through it. Why I keep going back. He gets that it's the job. He gets that it's how I was raised. He understands that it's not just me as a person trying to be fake, it's me trying to cover up that I'm not as strong as I think I am sometimes. Sometimes it's self preservation, other times I think it's just trying to make sure everyone else is okay and forgetting about myself.
I feel like that comes with the territory of being a caregiver, whether you work in the medical field or you take care of a parent at home, and when you become a caregiver you give so much of yourself. It's so hard to turn it off, too. And it's like you just sometimes want to shut it all off and lay down in a dark room and be like, "I'm not going to please anybody today. I'm going to be here, by myself, and lay here, and let myself just be comfortable. And that's okay."
And it's so hard to say that it's okay.