The End of My Travel Nurse Adventures….or so I thought
Last year I decided to stop travel nursing. I accepted a job in Dallas, TX. After falling in love, I couldn’t leave after my contract had ended. It was so exciting, though because—I put my name on a lease, bought furniture, signed up for cable and internet; these were mundane, everyday tasks that I hadn’t been able to do during my travel nurse adventures, and they thrilled me. I envisioned myself as Joanna Gaines.
My overpriced apartment was going to be ridiculously cool and farmhouse chic. I had fancy artwork on the walls and trendy pots of succulents (they were fake, of course. RIP to all the plants I ever touched). I proudly displayed candy in clear glass jars on my bar and hung patio lights on my porch. I was convinced that I would be so very content because I was finally in one solitary place. The problem was my solitary place turned into solitary confinement.
I was alone and standing still for the first time in years.
And I felt hopelessly smothered and constricted. It felt like I was gasping for breath, but the air wouldn’t come. I succumbed to the depression that I been subconsciously running from for years. I was unable to lift the weight of my body from the solace of my bed. The curtains that Jo-Hannah Gaines had carefully color-matched and picked out were drawn completely shut to block out the light. The couches that Jo-Hannah Gaines had excitedly bought were unused and collecting unfolded laundry. The flowers that Jo-Hannah Gaines picked out to add that perfect final touch were falling apart and rotting. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t eat. I cried. I slept. I stayed in solitary confinement for weeks.
After much encouragement from my family
I sought out a doctor. It was hard for me to tell this stranger that I was trapped in my own head and couldn’t get out. I felt so ashamed of myself walking into that appointment. I was formally diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and prescribed medication to take daily. They told me it would take 4-6 weeks to see a change, but one concept had changed: I finally had hope.
Weeks later, a co-worker said she had noticed a change in my demeanor. She told me about a woman who had grown to face challenges head-on and with a positive attitude—a woman who found it important to uplift others as well as herself. She described someone happy to motivate and teach others and encouraged teamwork and togetherness. It was strange, though, because she described me as someone I couldn’t imagine ever being again: myself.
I stopped for a second to evaluate my life and noticed it had leveled out. I kept my apartment clean, and I was cooking meals for myself. I had started complimenting others to make their day. I realized my self-worth had returned and that I had set a higher standard for myself and the people I chose to let in my life. I was delighted to find that I was becoming Hannah again. That wasn’t enough, though. I had stabilized my life, but deep down inside, I felt like I wasn’t living it—I still felt numb, like something was missing.
So, I signed a travel contract.
It was the beginning of new travel nurse adventures. While driving to my assignment, I decided on a whim to take a detour to Shenandoah National park. I had excitedly rolled my windows down to let the park’s crisp, cool air fill my car with the sweet smells of forest and rain. I looked in the rearview mirror to see my dog, Hank. He was happily hanging his head out of the window for better views, and I decided we deserved a quick pit stop.
I pulled off the road onto one of the scenic gaps the park offered and immediately gasped. The beautiful, green landscape of the rolling mountains and winding rivers had physically taken my breath away. Wildflowers of every color had bloomed alongside the mountain, and butterflies were happily fluttering between them. I inhaled deeply. It was my first true deep breath I had been able to take in months. It was the kind of a deep breath that stretched all the way down to the bottom of my ribcage and held its place until it caused my belly to poke out. It felt as if my chest was going burst from all the pressure. On exhale, I felt such a rush of happiness that it made my heart physically ache. It was the inexplicable feeling of my soul reawakening.
One year later and my depression is still with me.
I’ve been able to accept that I will always have an ugly demon lurking in the dark depths of my mind waiting for its chance to take over again, but I also have a better understanding of what keeps it at bay. Looking back at the past year, I realized I needed to stop travel nursing to see just how broken I had become. I needed my depression—my demon—to rear its ugly head so that I could face it head-on. However, if I had never gone back to the travel nurse adventures, I would have never been able to fully recover from my darkest point and reawaken my drive for living life.
I’ve chosen a job that can fill my pockets, but most importantly it can fill my soul with adventure.
I think that’s all I can really hope for in this life. That and my acceptance letter to Hogwarts.