Below is a journal I wrote after participating in a schizophrenia simulation experience as part of my mental health nursing class. We were required to listen to voices similar to those with schizophrenia would experience through earbuds as we completed various tasks.
By the time I had made it to the community support program simulation, I had had enough. As I listened to Professor L’s condescending words*, determination welled within me. “You can choose what career you are interesting in pursuing,” she said, as she handed out our simulated job applications. “There’s nursing…but that is a demanding job,” she continued, in a doubtful tone. “You guys should consider other important jobs, like janitorial work…”
“Janitorial work? Hah! We’ll see about that,” I said to myself as I indignantly indicated that I would be pursuing the job of brain surgeon on my application sheet. Simultaneously, the voices in my head repeatedly reminded me about the supposed fact that I could do nothing but mess things up, and that I was a dumb-a**. Their deprecating words, albeit distracting, gave me all the more reason to fight them as hard as I could. I tried to perform all the assigned activities to a greater degree than I would even be able to do without the internal menaces. I would have nothing to do with bowing down to the verbal mistreatment from those who viewed my status as discriminatory. I would beat the challenge of simulated schizophrenia. Just like I learned to beat my own real-life battle of anxiety and depression.
Perhaps my past experiences occluded my perception of what I was supposed to be experiencing during this simulation. All I know is that when I shared my feelings related to the activity in class, Dr. R seemed surprised. And she reminded me that, although for me it might be a natural reaction to fight against the voices with sheer determination, most people suffering from auditory hallucinations in real life are not able to easily distinguish them from reality. People who are diagnosed with schizophrenia often do not have the mental capability or reserve to fight their symptoms, she noted. I paused for a moment, and I reflected on the gist of what Dr. R had just made clear to me — the inability to separate truth from a lie is powerful. Perhaps this simulation helped me to realize that how I process information is not necessarily how each one of my patients will be able to process what is happening to them.
And yet, one transferable emotion I know I experienced in this simulation was the feeling that arose within me as I faced each professor whose role seemed to be to make fun of me and my peers for our disadvantages. I felt degraded, despite the knowledge that none of them really meant what they were saying. I’ve always believed that each person on this planet is valuable and should never be looked down upon because of their abilities or lack thereof. And yet, being a high achiever, I know that I tend to innately make these judgments when I come across people who seem “mentally slow” or “delusional.” In this regard, this activity saddened me. It forced me to think of the judgments I have made in the past and it made me realize how those people would have felt if they knew what I was thinking in my mind. I pray that, as I progress through nursing school, I would truly act out my knowledge that all people are equal in value, and that these lessons will help me truly love on every patient I interact with in clinical and in my future profession.
Nobody deserves to be or wants to be disrespected. And so, I have made the conclusion that I should approach patients who hear voices with the same respect I wished I was shown during this simulation experience. I believe that true healing and recovery is best facilitated in an environment that assures the humanity of the client. As a nurse, I can and I hope I will be aware of the struggles this population deals with. I hope I remember the confusion they must be experiencing as they attempt to separate falsehood from reality. I hope I remember my desire to fight this battle, and my realization that these patients may not be able to fight their battles on their own. But through this all, I hope that I partner with my clients by meeting them where they are at and showing them respect. Because nobody should ever be made to feel worthless, regardless of their struggles. We were all created in God’s image, even when our reflection of that image has become distorted due to the nature of our fallen world.
To recognize one’s own self-worth and yet equally recognize their imperfections is a difficult task. And yet, I believe it is a crucial one for every nurse to learn, especially those who work with those who are mentally ill. We must value ourselves enough so that we can truly “love others as we love ourselves.” But we must not buy into the illusion that just because we, as nurses, may be physically or mentally healthy at a given time, we are better than any of our patients. Because, we are all imperfect.
Perhaps that is what makes all of us truly beautiful.
*none of my nursing professors are condescending at all! They are wonderful. Their attitude I described here was only for role play.
When I was in Brazil, and trying to overcome my struggle of anxiety, I discovered and listened to the lyrics of Hillsong’s worship song, “New Wine.” I repeatedly recited the line “Where there is new wine, there is new power” in my anxious mind as I prayed that God would somehow bring new power and freedom into my broken mindset.
It was these three weeks of listening to and praying the lyrics of this song countless times that I believe God began to shape my heart and teach me how to trust Him much more than I previously was.
Now, despite being such an impactful song during the trip, I actually avoided it for the majority of the following months. Although I’m not quite sure of my reasoning for this new and unexpected aversion, I suppose it had something to do with the fact that the song, while simultaneously encouraging, also reminded me of the emotional pain I felt when I began to listen to it.
However, at some point over the last couple of weeks, I tried to listen to the song again with a fresh perspective. And then, for the first time, this past Sunday, we sang it in church. As I pondered its words for the 100th time, I was reminded of the hours I spent on a bench in a different hemisphere listening to its lyrics. In addition, I also thought about how it might apply to the new challenges I am about face. For those who don’t know, at my school, everyone considers the first semester of Junior year in nursing school to be the most difficult and notorious semester of nursing undergraduate studies.
Today, as I prepare to embark on what may be a difficult journey beginning in exactly one week, I decided to do a little research on the parable of the wineskins in Luke 5:36-39, and thought about verses such as 2 Corinthians 5:17, which remind us of the new creation that we are in Christ. I came to the conclusion that through the lessons God has taught me this summer (see previous post), I have learned that my perspective on life has changed and must continue to change if I am to make it through this upcoming semester in a healthier way than I went about it in the past.
If we want to see transformational growth for the good in our life, we must let God make us into new vessels, for our old ways cannot sustain the Kingdom mindset.
I must continue to let God take my habits of seeking human perfection in academics and people pleasing, as well as my anxiety and desire to be ultimately in control and surrender to the new wine that He wants to bring out of me.
And so, for all of my friends about to start a difficult semester in school or a challenging season in life, my thoughts are as follows: with God, we have the ability to truly enter in with nothing except all that God has given us.
Let us press into becoming more like Him, using what He has given us to better the world around us. Let our minds be transformed so that we may leave our destructive ways behind us, and truly experience the peace that only Jesus can give.
His transformational Spirit is a free gift, so let us take hold of it.
How incredible it is to wake up each morning and not know how God will choose to shape our ever growing hearts when we let Him.
Life is a process. Trust in Him, and trust the journey. Jesus, bring new wine out of us.