That's Me

That's Me

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Dreaded NCLEX

Looking over the last week is weird for me. Just a week ago I was a nervous wreck, unable to think about anything other than what was happening in a few days: the dreaded state boards.

Last Friday I had 2 panic attacks because it hit me hard that I was taking the NCLEX in a few short days. The entire week I was able to say the test is next week and not count down the days, but once it was Friday "next week" was just a few days away. I felt pressure of it looming right around the corner. It had been a long week of studying for the NCLEX and reviewing lab values, drugs, and everything in between.

"Hey. I thought we were done with
the books and highlighters."

"Don't you see
me down here?"
 Since the NCLEX testing center is 2 1/2 hours away, the plan was for me to go to a hotel near the center on Monday afternoon. I could study in quiet, not drive anyone else batty with my stress-tude, and not have to leave the house super early to make it to the testing center by 7:30. I figured I wouldn't get much sleep Monday night anyway, but then add in worrying about bad weather or who knows what getting in my way while I'm driving, and I would be a bigger mess if I stayed home. Show up late to the state boards, you don't get to take it and you lose your payment. Not worth the risk.

I had been having heartburn all week because of the stress. Each day the pain of the burning was worse. It was horrible. I was resorting to sucking on ice cubes constantly because nothing else was working. On Saturday I had a really scary panic attack while taking my second practice NCLEX exam. Hubby had to help me calm down because I couldn't get myself out of it. Even psych nurses aren't immune to the disabling effects of anxiety.

I felt so much pressure to pass this exam: the cost of a repeat exam (my school gives a refund for the first attempt at the exam; I don't want to have to put together the $$ to pay for a second attempt), the cost of the hotel/driving/etc for going down the night before (if I fail, all that $$ wasn't worth it and then I'll have to come up with that $$ again if I have to take it again), my new job (they hired me knowing when I was taking the NCLEX, what will they think of my abilities if I have to tell them I failed), student loans (hubby is the only income at the time & now I'm adding to our budget with loans for my education), people telling me they know I will pass (I don't want to let them down), & feeling like a failure. The weight of those thoughts were crushing and making it difficult to breath.

Sunday was Boy Teenager's Birthday and now that he's 18, I guess I need to start calling him Adult Male or something. Eh, I'll work on a new name for him, 'cause that Adult Male is pretty hideous. It was also the day that Amazing Grace's culinary school had a cultural cuisine event that we had bought tickets to. Amazing Grace was a cook in the Australian group and it was so neat to see her doing something she loves so much and for such a very large crowd.

The food was amazing and we were stuffed when the event was over. We had a lot of foods we'd never had before, all made by the chefs and cooks in Amazing Grace's classes. I was not pleased with the South American food, even though hubby thought it was awesome. I really liked the kangaroo, which I'd never had before. After I NCLEX prepped and hubby had done homework all morning, it was a nice break for us. I liked having the time for us to relax together before I took the big test, having a glass of wine, eating such fabulously tasty food, with no work to focus on.

By Sunday night, with all of the fun over with and back at the prepping, all I could think was I really don't want to drive so far by myself and I don't want to take the exam at all anymore. I'm just a mess. Over the weekend I took 4 practice NCLEX exams and I still didn't feel prepared. I just wanted more time to get myself to feeling prepared. I told hubby, "I'm just not going. I'm staying home." He gave me That Look.

Monday I couldn't even think about eating and I was visibly shaking while I studied and packed. I was so anxious and felt a huge weight on my chest, making it difficult to breath. Then, at 4:00 while driving, I suddenly didn't have the heaviness in my stomach. I finally hit the "let's just do this and get it over with" point. After a full week of panic attacks, tears, studying with prep books and videos, and being unsure of myself, I just wanted to get it over with. The shaking stopped and I was suddenly starving.

9:00p.m. Why don't
I have this at home?
At the hotel I ate dinner while listening to more prep videos and making notes. When the heartburn got so bad I couldn't focus and I was feeling anxious again, I knew it was time to utilize the hot tub. And antacids. Lots of antacids--before the fire burned completely through my throat.

Tuesday morning, after 1 3/4
hours of sleep. 

Well, I was correct about not getting much sleep. Less than 2 hours total. That is a very small amount of sleep, and it wasn't because I was up studying. Not one of the thoughts going through my head or waking up me had anything to do with the exam. It was the most bizarre night of trying to sleep, ever.

While taking the exam, my computer shut off right after the minimum number of questions. All I could think was, "I either did really, really well or I did really, really bad."

I went back to the hotel for a nap and the pool and hot tub before driving home at 2:00. I drove along, calm and collected, knowing that stressing for the next 2-3 days until I found out the results wouldn't do anything. It was after 5 when a friend texted to tell me I was on the nurse registry. I had passed.

I was in shock for a full 5 hours, just thinking there was no way this was correct. How did they update the list so quickly? I'm not supposed to know for a few days. I didn't just find out so soon, did I? Finally around 10 Tuesday night, it hit me and I cried that it was all over. All of the stress, frustration, exhaustion, fears, chaos, studying, all of it, was over and it was the best news I could have gotten. I am a registered nurse. All of the emotions of the last 4 years, as well as knowing that a dream just came true, came pouring out in the form of tears.

I'm a nurse. Two things I knew I always wanted when I was growing up: a Mom with a big family and a nurse. I am so happy that I became an RN (those initials represent so much for me!) after becoming a Mom because I got to see my children become a large part of my support system. It feels great when one of my children tells me that I'm an inspiration.

And I can finally say--we did it! It was all worth it!

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