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“You’re a sweet girl,” a patient once told me. “Thank you, I try,” I replied. “My dear, if you’re not sweet, there’s no way you could try to be.”
When you’re ill, the people who care for you become your guardian angels.
They’re the ones who will help you get as strong as you can, to make the most of a difficult situation, to take away as much pain as possible. When I was hospitalized for my ED three years ago, I was convinced that I was not worth saving, that I was a waste of time and space. I had spent many years shrinking myself in direct proportion to the steady decline of my self-esteem. Treatment was difficult for me because I didn’t believe myself worthy of the compassion, patience, and dedication everyone was showing me.
But the thing about people believing in you is you start believing in yourself too, if you allow it to happen. Slowly, their persevering kindness helped me make the first small steps in my recovery. Steps became leaps. There were relapses, but I was always able to recover my previous ground due to the support they showed me. With time, I learned that I am the person that they saw – the tenacious, spunky girl who will never, ever give up. That is me.
The identity they saw, dimmed by my eating disorder, was able to be ignited and sparked to shine with brilliance due to their constant reassurance.
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When I was well enough to consider returning to work, I decided to go back to school to become one of those caregivers. I trained to become a lab technician and worked my way into a position as a phlebotomist – taking blood and having tons of direct patient interaction.
I thoroughly enjoy the life experience, knowledge, and perspective that my patients bring me. I know that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the influence that they have had on my life. I must admit that it isn’t often that I look at myself in the mirror and ask what it is that I give back to them. But when I truly examine it, it’s overwhelming just how much of an impact my struggles and recovery have on the caregiver I am today.
I have learned to never underestimate the value of a pleasant and cheerful greeting accompanied with a genuine smile. I think that having blood drawn is rarely seen a pleasant experience, but I would like to hope that an inviting presence, nearly interminable patience, and a cheerful demeanor help the skeptics to feel a bit more comfortable. While my patients are with me, I do try to chat, to get to know them, and to make it clear that I’m listening when they speak. Whether it’s allaying their fears or laughing at a story about their grandkids, I know it’s these conversations that make the experience a positive one for them.
I also think there’s something to be said about the understanding I can lend to my patients. No one likes to be sick, but few know how it feels to actually be deathly ill. I’m infinitely grateful to have had a large amount of control over my own ability to recuperate. Most of my patients don’t have that control. Their lives hang in the balance as they pray treatments and surgeries will be successful. Often, we see them while they’re in medical limbo – when they could get better or worse, and only time will tell. I feel like I can emote the true empathy I feel for them. I can mindfully reflect with them, as I comprehend those fears of the unknown.
My recovery has instilled in me endless optimism, which I can share liberally. There is nothing more heartwarming than a genuine thank you from a patient for a humble moment of reflection or a hopeful wish of well-being that I always try to convey with the utmost sincerity.
But the thing about working in the same hospital where you received your treatment is that you interact with patients following your same footsteps through the recovery programs. I’m glad to have reached a place in my journey where I’m not easily triggered because giving back to these ED treatment patients is incredibly fulfilling for me. My interaction with them is minimal and limited, but during those short bouts of time, I try to bring as much normalcy to their day as possible. I’m full of greetings of “Hey girl, hey!” yet I know how to steer clear of uncomfortable questions or lines of conversation. While other less certain healthcare workers might be seen as distant as a cause of treading lightly or otherwise possibly seen as brazen as a cause of overstepping the lines of appropriate conversation, experience has equipped me with the tools to help make them a more welcoming and approachable environment. I don’t often mention that I was an inpatient myself, but I am proud to be a recovery advocate and cheerleader when I can be.
My ED closed my mind. I thought inside the box and was rarely capable of expressing true emotion. Overcoming many of my struggles has allowed me to open a new window of my soul, one where I am blessed to be able to care for, interact with, and truly understand others on a deeper level.
Caring for my patients has led me to be able to care for others in my life as well. The willingness to see wellness in others has spread to friendships and support communities. However, the feelings remain the same, a soulful wish to extend an unwavering hand in support.
Giving back through a parallel of the care shown to me has become the strongest foundation of love in my life, a trait I know will never fade.
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The opinions and information shared in this article may not represent that of Libero Network Society. We hold no liability for any harm that may incur from reading content on our site. Please always consult your own medical professionals before making any changes to your medication, activities, or recovery process.