Fibromyalgia

I just finished my Population Health course on Friday and it was a whirlwind 5 weeks. I had a great clinical experience giving flu vaccines, doing blood draws, and attending a huge health fair. It was great! The class itself—not so great and I’m glad it’s over.

We take no breaks and dive right into Peds this week. I’ve been anxious about starting this class bc sick and hurt kids really pull hard on my heart but I’ve tried to let those fears go and embrace this experience.

In other, more personal news, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia a few weeks ago. This was a long time coming. And honestly, a huge relief. I now have an explanation for several, terrible symptoms and pains and it all makes more sense. However, explaining this diagnosis to others is hard so I am going to attempt to do that here.

When I was 15, the stomach pains began. I’d get terrible stomach aches and my mom would take me to the doctor and they would say it was probably IBS-C but that official diagnosis did not come until 2011 when I was 27. Yes, it took 12 years for me to get that and a GERD diagnosis which included very little help from my GI doctor and tons of trial and error from me. I tried gluten free diets a few times for several months. I have eliminated dairy almost completely. I have done several food diaries and discovered my triggers and do my best to avoid them.

Then, 5 years ago I became pregnant with my daughter. During the first trimester I started to get migraines. I had never had migraines before so I assumed it was a hormonal thing and, I’m sure it was a huge part of it. When I was starting my 3rd trimester, I began to have the absolute worst pelvic, low back and hip pain ever. I was doubled over in pain, crying hysterically and missing work because moving and walking was that painful. I was referred to PT where I learned I had pubic symphysis disorder (PSD). This is not entirely uncommon in pregnancy especially since I carried both my babies very low.

Over the last year, I have had a huge increase in frequency and intensity of migraines (with and without auras) horrible IBS flare-ups (three ER visits in 2 weeks) insomnia, fatigue (mind and muscle), painful joints and muscles (feels like the flu), anxiety (since I was 19 years old), heart palpitations (PVCs—nothing bad), and depression… For awhile there, I assumed this was from the stress of nursing school and honestly, that’s a huge trigger, but the intensity and onset of all this was really starting to upset my lifestyle. I was missing work, sleeping as much as I could during the day bc I literally had no energy for anything, and feeling a huge lack of motivation to do school work bc of all the above. Despite all this, I never missed a deadline and I made it to every clinical (except when sick in August) and continued to bust my ass in class to do well.

In May, I brought up fibromyalgia to my doctor and he suspected not since I am in nursing school. He wanted to wait until I was done to diagnosis me. I got a second opinion over the last 2 months and together we did finally agree that I do in fact have fibromyalgia. I have been in counseling, seeing OT, doing yoga, stretching, and deep breathing when I can. It’s a long ass road before I have any type of control over this and for some, this is hard to understand. But it’s just the way this is. I have joined a few support groups online and I’m learning other ways to cope and deal. I’m on a couple meds to help, including a magnesium supplement which has helped a ton but still, not a cure. There is NO CURE for fibromyalgia. It’s management and trial and error and every person with fibro has different variations of what I have. But all theses puzzle pieces of symptoms fit together and this is what I have. Like I said, it’s a relief. But I’m still 7 months out form graduating and getting through the day sometimes is hard. Balancing activities and learning how to not over do it is a huge work in progress.

I’d love to hear from others who deal with this condition. It is REAL. This is real pain I and many others deal with (5 million in the US). Just because someone can’t see my pain, doesn’t make it any less real. Thanks for reading. 💜

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birth

I am moving into my last week of Maternal-Newborn and feelings are bittersweet. I want so badly to stay right here in my comfort zone of birth, babies and mothers; however I must move forward into new classes to finish out my degree. I’m down to 8 months of school left and I will officially be a RN, BSN! Wow. That is so crazy to write! I have been on this road now for FIVE years. YES, 5! I was pregnant with my daughter when I started my pre-recs and the month I graduate she will turn 5.

The beginning of August was rough. I was so excited to have started clinicals in the hospital! But I had come down with a nasty virus that turned into a sinus infection and I missed two weeks of school and clinical! My heart was broken! I was miserable and also, I turned 33 so I spent my birthday not feeling so hot. A few days before my birthday, B took me to a tattoo shop and I got a tattoo I have been wanting for years! I had not decided where I wanted it until just a few days prior and I can honestly say I am so happy with it! What did I get?!?

OXYTOCIN!

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Everyone asks if it hurt-it was uncomfortable but actually painful? Not really. This is on the inside of my right bicep. The line work is incredible!

This special tattoo could have not come at a more perfect time. I was in my Maternal-Newborn class and gearing up to help women labor and give birth! After I was cleared to return to clinical from being sick, I spent 2 days in L&D and saw two beautiful births. One cesarean and one vaginal (no epidural-just some IV fentanyl). Both births made me feel like I was home, like I was right where I needed to be. My heart was full, my mind was growing with knowledge and happiness. It was wonderful.

I have 4 more days in clinical and then this class is officially over. I head into Population health and then Peds for this fall semester.

Thanks for checking in and sticking around with me! Two more semesters and I’m done! 😉

nursing school must-haves and apps

Tulo, my constant study companion.

One thing I used to search for before I was a nursing student was other blogs that talked about what one needs the most to be a successful, organized nursing student. One list does not fit all, but I do think combining different ideas is nice and you can decide for yourself what works and what doesn’t.

It was not until I was a good month into nursing school that I actually learned how to study, at the ripe old age of 31. Seriously. I’ve never been the A student, but I tried my hardest. I grilled my nurse friends about what they did to study and honestly, you just have to figure out what works for you. First, I had to find out how I learn. I knew that I learned well doing things hands-on and was very visual but how am I supposed to translate this into a study method? I realized that re-writing my notes from power points was exactly how I was going to learn best. This was both visual and tactile and skills were hands-on learning opportunities so I combined those things together and came up with a pretty good study method. So here is a list of some of the many things I do and use to help me throughout nursing school. Feel free to share and comment what works best for you.

  • PENS! I invested in tons of pens. Sharpies, ballpoints, and all the colors. Because of all these pens, I also picked up some cute pencil bags from the dollar section at Target. 😉
  • Concept maps: Our instructors gave us a couple formats to try out and the best ones for me are web-shaped. You can google nursing concept maps and find tons of options.
  • Plain white paper: I tried using regular lined notebook paper to write notes, and something about the lines really didn’t work for me. Sounds silly, but really-I now write my notes out on copy paper and use different colored pens to create notes that make sense to me. My fellow nursing buddies have even asked for copies. 😉
  • Laptop: I started out nursing school using a Windows PC and within 3 months it was not working for me. I invested in a Mac and love how I can use apps on my mac and my phone and they sync up. I also got a free Microsoft office download from the school that works with Mac so I don’t have to convert my files from Pages to Word anymore.
  • Printer/Copier/Scanner: I also got a new printer. The one I had previously worked just fine but was way too slow for my needs, it used ink up way too quickly and the scanner didn’t work anymore. Having all three features is a must for nursing school.
  • Evernote App: This app is a note-taking GEM! Especially if you use a Mac and an IPhone. I can type notes up on my computer from word or directly into the app and read my notes while out and about on my phone. I can also add photos, graphs, and PDFs that are important. AND I can share notes with friends–and they can share with me! There is a small group of us who do this and it’s so nice!
  • iStudiez Pro App: I use this app to keep track of my assignments and due dates. I can make different sections for different classes and add what I need. I also have an alarm set up to remind me the day before and the day of. Because of this app, I have not missed a due date! There are so many things to keep track of this helps so much.
  • NCLEX RN Pro App: I paid $30ish for the full version of this app and it is amazing. A few thousand questions in all areas of nursing that are actual NCLEX questions. To pass NCLEX (when I am done with nursing school), it is recommended that you do 50 questions a day–yes, A DAY! I admit I am not that good about practicing everyday but its a great tool to have. There are also special lists about lab values and abbreviations and meds and more that are helpful.
  • Amazon Prime Music App: We have Prime because we use Amazon all the time so you could certainly use Pandora or Spotify, but I personally love Amazon. There are tons of stations on this app and since I commute to school, I MUST have good tunes. I also use this app to find great relaxation playlists and study music. Some of my favorite satations are Alt-J, Hozier, Summer Jamz, 90s Pop, and The Lumineers. These stations keep be going. I love music! Maybe next summer I will be able to go to some concerts!
  • Sleep: Obviously to be healthy, we need sleep. And when I was awaiting nursing school to start, I worried so much about how I was going to get enough sleep. I NEED sleep. Like, more than 4 hours otherwise I have no energy and cannot function. My husband, on the other hand, only needs 5 or so hours and he’s good to go. Part of my self-care and overall lifestyle is needing a good amount of sleep and this includes naps. Yes, I manage to do well in nursing school and take naps! I really didn’t think it was possible but it is and is SO important. I will sacrifice other activities to get the sleep I need. That’s how important it is to me.

And that is where I will leave off. There are other little things I’m sure that I cannot think of, but this is a pretty solid list of what I need on a day to day basis to get through nursing school. Like I said, it is not easy, but it is fun and will be more than worth the hard work and sacrifices when I’m finished.

halfway through maternal-newborn

Back when I started this blog years ago, I assumed that once I was in nursing school I would be able to document my everyday life as a student nurse. HA! There are just far too many other things on my plate to worry about and this blog, and writing about what I have been up to, is the least of my worries. However, I still want to be present here. It is not going to be enough, but it will be something.

Since June, I have been in maternal-newborn/OB classes and it has been wonderful! The learning and labs have been so fun and truly light up my soul with passion as I have learned so many new things. A few people (seasoned nurses) have gently tried to tell me that *maybe* I will change my mind about becoming a labor nurse and midwife someday. I kindly tell them that my passion grows daily for women’s health and that has not changed in the least. If anything, being in the area I am passionate about has only made me more excited and hopeful for my future as a nurse.

Despite my strong passion and excitement for this class, the last month and a half have been pretty insane. I had to take a med calc exam THREE times. We only get 3 chances and the mistakes I made the 2nd time were so silly. Three chances was all we are given and thank GOD I passed the exam on Thursday! Focusing on that exam and on the second exam for the class (yesterday) eat up any free time I have outside of family time and work. I truly felt a huge weight fall off my shoulders as I passed that med calc exam. I feel like I can really focus and enjoy the class more. The stress surrounding that was so bad my migraines and other physical pains resurfaced. And there is nothing like pain to make you want to curl up under the covers despite how much work there is to be done.

Nursing school is just as hard as I expected it to be. There was not a moment leading up to starting nursing school over a year ago where I thought “Nah, this won’t be THAT hard…” Nope. It’s hard. Getting through it requires so much self-discipline, focus, and support. My support comes straight from God, my family and very close friends. Self-care has been incredibly difficult for me to make a priority. I know that sounds bad. How can I possibly take care of others if I am not taking care of myself?! Trust me, this is a huge work-in-progress. In fact, writing here is one of the things I cam doing for myself. I know that I will wish I had spent more time documenting nursing school, so better late than never. 😉

On Monday, I start 4 weeks of maternal-newborn clinicals in the hospital. I am so excited! I cannot wait to put my hands on a pregnant belly, feel for positioning and contractions and connect with a family as they welcome their baby! I’ve been to several births, but only has an observer and never as the nurse. This week is going to be epic!

well

I seriously suck at blogging while in nursing school! As I have said many times, it is not that I don’t want to. I do think of things I want to share but at the end of the day, I have other things I need to do, like play with the kids or sleep. Choices, here people.

Since my last post in February, I made it out of Mental Health alive. And that is not a joke. That class was by far the hardest I have ever taken. I did well on exams, not as well as I wanted to, but I never worried about not passing. The problem was the emotional heaviness of the class. I was smacked hard in the face by the reality of how messed up the mental health care in our country is. It literally blows my mind and makes me crazy mad; I can barely even talk about it without getting anxious.

Speaking of anxiety, I had gone several weeks without a single panic attack and then between weeks 5-6 of the class, I had 3 in one week. So much for my mind and heart to handle at once. I realized then that I can handle the usual mental health chat that I will have with my patients as an assessment piece of the plan, but I am no where near cut out to be a mental health nurse. Just like there are nurses who would never want to do labor and delivery, I am the nurse that could never do psych. I did briefly touch on this in my last post, but not in the same amount of detail as I am now. It took me awhile to process what I experienced and learned.

All that to say, I did get through the class. I wouldn’t say it was fun, but I did it. And now I am done with health promotion and just started evidence based practice and leadership (two separate classes that are working together as far as content ant assignments go). For health promotion, we spent two weeks at the refugee center providing basic health info to people who really didn’t know English or have an idea of what health factors they needed to be taking care of (blood pressure, blood sugar, pregnancy…). I created the most bad-ass poster board on prenatal care. I will share a pic later–I wanted to make sure the board and class had been graded first before I shared any of it.

Finally, I did a 9NEWS Health Fair and that is something that Denver puts on all over the front range. Before the event, I was asked by my preceptor if I would like to help assist with the pap and breast exams and OF COURSE I said yes! Little did I know how absolutely incredible it would be.

I worked one on one with an NP who made sure that I was not going to leave without seeing ever single cervix that walked in the door. The facts, advice and guidance she bestowed on me was priceless and I am certain I will not see anything like this in my OB rotation. I may, however, not even see these things until I am in midwifery school!

So what did I see? I saw 11 cervixs’. All over 40 years old. The NP first asked the patient questions like their sexual activity, history, and if they had children. The women were open, honest and made me laugh. I was giddy inside! Of the 11 women we saw, one cervix had a polyp, another woman had an ovarian mass (I felt it from the outside), several women had a retroverted uterus and every woman had gone far too long without a proper mammogram. I did not do any of the actual exams–I filled out paper work, prepared the specimens once the NP had gathered the cells she needed from the pap smear, and gave hugs to these brave women who were advocating for their health.

There was not one moment where I thought something was gross or felt like this wasn’t for me–just the opposite! Seeing the GYN side of women’s health only helped fuel this fire inside of me. The passion I have is unlike anything I have ever experienced and I am so grateful for that day and for the NP who took me under her wing and taught me everything I could ever know about assessing a vagina and cervix. Pretty awesome!

I’m now two weeks into EBP and Leadership and these are classes that are geared specifically for the bachelor side of nursing. This is where nurses who were interested in management or being charge nurses would really need this information and honestly, I am not the biggest fan yet BUT I do love using EB material especially when it pertains to women’s health, pregnancy, and childbirth. Unfortunately, we are not researching anything in that area but it will be good practice.

On a personal note, these last 5 months have been hard. I’ve had a number of physical ailments and have had a hard time managing my overall health while keeping up with the family and school and life in general. I am not sure where or why these things are coming from but I am hopeful I will find out soon. I have a very important appointment with my doctor next week so positive vibes for answers would be great. Without going into detail too much, pain all over is what I am dealing with. Abdominal, head (migraines), neck, joints, fatigue…the list goes on.

Until next time….

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stressed out

I’m 8 weeks into my Mental Health class AND my 3rd semester as a nursing student and stress is really taking it’s toll. I thought I had a handle on it, but I’m going to real. Real honest. I’m on the struggle bus. My physical health has taken the brunt of the stress and so I am doing everything I can possibly think of to minimize the stress, cope, and get through this.

First of all, this is no surprise to me. I knew that nursing school would be stressful. Even more so with a hubby, kids and a job. But I can only juggle so much at once and a ball will drop eventually….Trust me, the irony is not lost on me that I am taking mental health and struggling with my own sanity! 😉

To cope, I have been seeing my therapist, practicing yoga, meditation, journaling (away from the internet), and taking time for myself. This is all very hard to implement into an already packed schedule, especially when I would rather sleep than do anything else. And sometimes, I do sleep. My body is saying I need it so I do it. The weather was so nice for the last couple weeks so being outside, even for a short amount of time, was nice. Now it’s back to cold and snow. 😉

This is the reality of nursing school. In no way am I complaining. I LOVE what I am doing and where I am going. There are some very exciting classes coming up (community health, Peds and OB (SQUEEEEEEEEE!!)). Mental health, in one way or another, affects each patient I will be caring for. If anything, some gentle encouragement that I am doing a good job, that I am going to make it work, that I am not going to fail and that I am going to be an amazing nurse are all nice things to hear. Also, prayers and just positive vibes.

I got this.

The stress, it will NOT have me. (work in progress…)

Some helpful resources: