Friday, May 17, 2013


So far, the best lesson I've learned in nursing school came late last summer when, in an effort to self-regulate at the expense of those around me (like I do), I emoted to a then-acquaintance, now-friend about how even though I know I should, I just "don't take criticism well".

"No one does," she told me.

It was transformative. I don't really have any interest in the shortcomings of others, but I am endlessly preoccupied with my own -- a kind of hemianopsia, if you will, that leads me to believe that I am particularly petty as opposed to just run-of-the-mill, human petty. As evidenced by this little personal failing: I am not going to Nursing School Convocation because I do not enjoy watching other people receive awards.

And other reasons! For example, I work Tuesday nights. But to be honest, had I been winning an award, I likely would have tried to call out, because I work, like, all the time, and if I'm not working, I'm traveling to or from work, or attempting to keep my child from eating cat feces/coins/things he found in my purse that can no longer be identified. Sometimes, you just have to change your work schedule/take a sick day/leave your wailing child in the arms of his long-suffering father and hope they don't pass one of those $400 Divorce signs on the way home.

So, if they were to give out awards for being, you know, a selfless person or a good friend (in one of our school's rare incidences of getting something right the first time, my amazing nursing friend L won an award for, like, delivering a baby on her first day in OB), I'd be in the exact same position I am in now.

But lookit: in the same way that my insatiable desire to eat food faded into the background once I started to feed myself, I believe my insatiable need for validation might quiet itself just a little if I can channel some of my stellar list-making abilities into the making of lists that sustain rather than impoverishing my sense of worth. Below: my very own convocation awards list, starring my very own damn self:

The Award for Getting 100% in Pharmacology Before Every Other Grade in the Class Also Got Curved to 100% (goes to): Mandy B!

Most Likely to End the Twin Scourges of Moon Face and Truncal Obesity (goes to): Mandy B!

The Award for Outstanding Courage in the Face of Being Body-Checked by Giant, Angry Med-Surge Nurses (goes to): Mandy B! 

The Award for Most Hours Spent Obsessing about the Distinction between A and A- (goes to) Mandy B!

The Nabisco (Tm) Certificate of Appreciation for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Packaged Snack Consumption (goes to): Mandy B!

So, as a five-time-nursing-school award winner (unheard of!), I'm declaring this day Convocation for Everybody. Because while I suspect that some people I know genuinely enjoy celebrating the successes of those around them while their own efforts fail to generate certificates of any kind, I maintain a kind of Don't Ask Don't Tell policy regarding that level of personal evolution.

I mean, not everyone was born to go around pulling babies out of other people's vaginas. Just because you haven't done anything fabulous doesn't mean you're not inherently fabulous. You should celebrate your damn self, too -- nurse or not.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


oh my God, nursing school.

I've gotten hopelessly sidetracked, like I do, on the issue of how to get CAMBA summer camps staffed. And I think that -- in the interest of saving face by not being there very last one to acknowledge an obvious truth about myself -- I should just admit that my heart truly may belong to CAMBA.

I also care about nursing school, of course. But I've gotten to the point in the semester where no matter what, everything I'm doing is just damage control. There's no longer enough time left to do truly well -- just to (hopefully) do well enough not to hate myself when grades come out.

And I'd rather be blogging, but I have nothing to say, really, because, apart from nursing and volunteering and working and mom-ing and wife-ing -- and being some permutation of Not Good Enough at each -- the big thing in my life is my ongoing nasty schoolyard fight to not lose my everloving mind.

Months like this, I know I'm ultimately going to end up working in community mental health or psych in some capacity. Because, while I'm relieved to no longer be mired in the kind of adolescent melodrama that glamorizes craziness as a topic for earnest Bright Eyes songs or whatever, the adult option -- to take for granted that people just come ready and able to get through the fucking day -- is kind of a Gwyneth Paltrow response to the lives that people actually live. I spend a hefty portion of my workweek interacting with people trying to find work, each with a different reason why they are looking, and I don't believe that some people just handle their internal conflicts better than others. The Vassar grad who is looking for a way to give back to community between her stint with the School for International Training and applying to NYU's public interest law program is not fighting the same struggle as the Peer Specialist working per diem in the housing center where she was a client a year ago.

I've been deeply fortunate, to have had the assistance I've had -- stable, supportive people in my life, adequate health care, an education, consistent work. And still: many, many days, I am going through the various activities to which I've committed only because having something to do is a key part of the only thing that matters, which is to keep from damaging myself in some way over how I feel.

Someone mentioned to me recently that this is not unusual. It should be, though. Not because I personally "shouldn't have to" justify to myself why I've not yet taken my life over my GPA/weight gain/inability to clean the house to my husband's (reasonable!) specifications, but because fruitless expenditures of energy and purposeless suffering are just shitty, no matter the backyard into which they fall.

And while I do think that there is an honest-to-God chemical component to why I feel the way I feel, and while I do understand that ultimately, one has to take responsibility for coping with one's own life, regardless of the unhelpful inclination to see that coping as self-indulgent and to attach a moral imperative to hurting and depriving oneself, I also think that the society we live in is emotionally dis-abling. It is very hard to be mentally healthy in a world that celebrates so much that is pyschologically and emotionally damaging. I suspect this is the case regardless of the particular brain chemistry and coping strategies one holds. I know it is the case for someone who hovers on the edge of requiring formal therapeutic intervention, as I have for most of my life.

If it is this hard for me to just keep getting through the day, when the material circumstances of my life are ones of almost dizzying privilege: what is it like for this candidate who I just turned down for an $8 an hour job because of her shoddy work history? What is it like for this patient, who is seventeen and whose parents have committed her to a nursing home? What is it like for this subway passenger, who just lurched at me and my child, apparently unsure whether she wanted to assault us or ask us for money?

And how does one make it easier, and better, for all of us? Because that narrative about individual self-sufficiency and just trying harder sounds like a intellectually lazy senior's college essay right now: a clattering of words unfettered by content or meaning. And because of that, my efforts to keep my own shit together, removed from efforts to create a world in which the keeping together of one's shit is prioritized and respected as both an individual right and a social good, are similarly meaningless.

I want to live in a world in which I don't lie awake tormented over fears of poverty or age or illness, because the poor, old, and sick aren't abandoned and shat upon. I want to live in a work in which getting a B doesn't necessitate self-harm, because people, myself included, are considered to have intrinsic value. Most of all: I want to live in a world in which my own crappy and nasty behavior towards myself isn't given such a wide berth, because nastiness and ugliness, in general, aren't excused as the occupational hazard of being so very Busy and Important and Urban.