"Learning to love yourself, is the greatest love of all," the late, great Whitney Houston.
I had listened to that song a million times as a child. It was one of my mother's favorite classics, but it wasn't until the past two years that I actually understood what Ms. Houston was trying to say. The book, Eat, Pray, Love, also highlights this message as the protagonist, Elizabeth Gilbert, embarks on a quest of self-love.
My own personal voyage for self-love and discovery began around two years ago. It wasn't until reaching thirty and a series of mistakes that I learned what that meant. I never thought mistakes could teach you to love yourself, but I was always one to learn the hard way, and so the greatest love of all' came with some of the greatest cost.
Firstly, allow me thank you for joining me on this deep and meaningful quest of self-exploration. I believe it is so important to know yourself. So often, life distracts us from meaningful experiences. We forget to stop and be present-- mindful. My life as an ER and ICU nurse had become so hectic, I had stopped making time to love myself. Sure, I was smiling on the outside, but inside I was suffering from deep, emotional scars. In the wake of COVID-19, the novel disease that brought the world to a halt, national and global sports to a stop, movies to a delay, and international flights to a standstill, everything changed; the moment not only shook the world, but it forced me to re-evaluate my life. It is for that reason, I created this blog.
I had always loved writing. My childhood was spent with a notebook. I loved the feel of the paper-- the smell of a new journal. I loved the way my pen glided across the lines. I had learned to befriend my thoughts. I was such a lonely and neglected child. The majority of my time was in isolation: solitary with my ideas.
I think that this time all alone in my childhood was both beneficial and detrimental to my social development. On one hand, I had nourished a rich inner network of imagination-- a labyrinth of my dreams and a collection of fantasies, but on the other hand, it had left me susceptible to anyone who presented any semblance for those deep desires of acceptance.
This manifested in my adult life as people pleasing behavior. I would sacrifice my own happiness at the expense of other's. Last summer a traumatic event, that I will discuss when the time is right, brought me to my knees. I believe in the power of transparency, so when I am ready I will share that information here. Part of my quest for spiritual ascension includes full disclosure. I believe this is the only way to true introspection.
But it was from that experience that I decided to learn to love myself through blogging, and I began by taking to Twitter. My sister had told me for years
"you need to get on Twitter."
Of course I had one, but I didn’t have the most active account either. Last summer, following the incident, I heeded my sister’s advice and decided to take to the Twitter verse. My tweets were mostly light, but often times deep and meaningful. I thought my following of 27 people would like to hear about my past toxic relationships or my thoughts on the series finale of Game of Thrones, and I slowly grew a following of around 500 accounts. But it wasn’t until the night of June 23, 2020, that my words would finally travel the world and resonate across the globe.
I had just finished my first night back on the COVID- ICU. My patient was recently discharged with a mild case of the novel virus and readmitted with the more atypical presentation: he had suffered an enormous heart attack. He was a hispanic male. We were seeing more and more of them those days. It was almost like caring for the same patient over and over again— middle-aged, hispanic, male, slightly overweight. I was starting to see a pattern. The 27 bed ICU had 16 out of 21 patients that were of Latin descent. The healthcare disparity was alarming. That night was horrific. The patient’s body was in shock-- secondary to acute heart failure caused by the massive heart attack. His pump was failing. I was failing.
I have been an acute care nurse for eight years. My experience includes both ER and ICU in some of the most challenging hospitals in the Southern, United States, and the paradigm was clear: minorities had poorer outcomes. I never realized that one of my missions in life was to bring healthcare equality to the world. My social activism included work with the homeless in my hometown of Atlanta, Ga and abroad in Guadalajara, Mexico.
I am a holistic nurse. What that means is— I look at the patient as a complete person and advocate for non-medical alternatives: lifestyle changes, nutrition, smoking cessation, good mental health, spiritual well being.
As my patient looked at me that night— able to follow commands and mouth his wants, I knew that moment was important. It was as if the world stood still all over again. I was scrambling. His blood pressure would plummet anytime his medication, delivery pump beeped. I needed a back-up pump ready and primed. I wanted to send him home to his family. That was the only thing in the world that mattered to me. My sacrificial nature had reared its head again.
When I got off that morning, I was in tears. It was so hard to watch the effects of COVID-19 on the working class. I took to twitter like I had for the past year and tweeted what would become a historic tweet. I had no idea the impact I would make that night. In one tweet, I reached 60.4 million people worldwide. My voice had been muffled for so long, but that day it reverberated to ears it may have never reached.
As a black woman, raised in a lower middle-class family, I have often shrunk myself to fit in, but I now realize that I have to be loud on issues of racial and economic inequities impacting the healthcare industry. My genetic and physical makeup does not determine my worth. My words matter. That viral tweet gave me the confidence and the motivation I needed to continue my life’s work of providing quality care to disenfranchised patients, and I will forever continue that fight. It was in that dark hour that I was able to pause and express gratitude.
Ultimately, the patient survived. The problem now presented itself: how do I maintain balance in an ever changing, fast-paced world? How do I regulate my happiness? How do I make time to love myself? The outpour of support from the Twitter verse confirmed I was lovable, but I had to believe that. I had to believe that my works did not define me, and so I created this blog to remind myself of all those things. I hope you will join me as I define what that love looks like to me-- the greatest love of all.