Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Being Human

The story of love and life is how I look at my life, my self, my family, my friends, and the work that has made my life the beauty and simplicity of love and life.  When I was sixteen, my goal in life was to be a nurse.  After high school was over for me, I enrolled in a Daughters of Charity Nursing School in Indianapolis, IN.  I had only a couple of months between high school and leaving for my next challenge in life.  I was not Catholic, but I adjusted very quickly to the Daughters of Charity Nuns and the pace of Nursing School.  We studied, we worked, we slept a little, and we did it all over and over again.  Each and every day was a dramatic learning experience for me.  We not only went to school to study but we were being taught the beginning aspects of being a R.N. 

It was preferred that we not have boyfriends while we were in school.  Of course some of the local girls did have boyfriends and some that lived in small towns close to Indianapolis also had boyfriends.  Those of us who were from other states had a slightly different lifestyle.  The Nuns did have membership in a country club for us so that we could swim, play tennis, badminton, or golf  if we were interested.  I did go during the summer and winter to swim but my exercise plan did not include tennis and golf.  Nursing was providing me with all of the exercise that I needed to feel healthy.  

I loved studying to become a registered nurse.  I found the Nuns very supportive and basically friendly Souls.  Our classes were great and our teachers were superior to anything that I had imagined.  We worked hard and we studied hard.   In terms of the Instructors and Nuns, we appeared to be in an exchange program with Catholic University in Washington, D.C.  When we went to St. Louis, MO to study psychiatry, we became more aware of the Catholic University influence although this part was not stressed to us.

At the end of six months, some students disappeared.  At the end of one year some more students disappeared.  We had some very intense classes and if you couldn't keep up, the Daughters of Charity that ran the school simply sent you home by calling your parents to come get you.  At the end of the first year, I realized what the saying, "here today, gone tomorrow" really meant.  This was hard on many of us because in a small school, isolated from family and friends, you learn to depend upon your classmates for support and laughter.  But in this school, grades were primary, because you had to learn to take care of the sick and dying as well as yourself.

During our third year, we spent 4 months in St. Louis studying psychiatry under the Daughters of Charity.  This was a special time for me because we lived near St. Louis in Salem, Illinois so I knew a little about the town.  Knowing anything about the town did not do me much good because we worked hard and had very little time off.  When I did have a full weekend off, I went home, which was easier in St. Louis than it was in Indianapolis, IN.

I always enjoyed Nursing School, because I loved to learn and Nursing was all new to me.  I loved the patients and the nursing of the very ill.  I even liked the Psychiatric Hospital in St. Louis.  What a beautiful piece of land it was, which made me love it more since my roots were already in the land.  With the exception of one "little old civilian lady" whose husband had built most of the highways in St. Louis and had made a deal with the nuns to take care of his wife, all of the patients at the hospital were either Nuns, Brothers, or Priests.  This was a true eye-opener for me, because I had no idea that Nuns, Brothers, and Priests could become mentally ill too.  

I was not a religious person so I guess that I had never entertained the idea that Nuns, Brothers, and Priests could also become psychotic.  If you are living a happy life, why would anyone become psychotic.  If you were not living a happy life in a convent or Jesuit school, why were you there?  I learned a lot about psychosis in St. Vincent's and had a wonderful time in the town.  We went boating on the Mississippi River on one weekend while I was in St. Louis, which I had done before but none of my classmates had lived this experience, so it was one of our best weekends in St. Louis.

The Chief of Psychiatry had our class over to his home for a cookout, which was a wonderful experience but I always had a sneaking suspicion that the Director of Nurses twisted his arm because he did not appear to me to be a loving and open-minded physician or entertainer.  But even a grouchy Doctor did not spoil our fun time at his house with its beautiful pool and expansive yard because he cooked all of the food and literally was a nice host.  I never did figure out whether the Director of Nursing had him under her control or not, but the signs were significant.