I swam in the ocean today. Something about it’s hugeness makes me feel out of control and safe at the same time. I love it and I fear it. Each year around this time, my body compels me to dive into its powerful waves.
Today, while swimming, I thought about substance abuse, and how it must be like trying to maneuver waves without knowing how to swim. I thought about this because of two jarring articles from Sunday’s paper that I happened to read this morning.
For today’s innovator, I settled on Dr. Marianne T. Marcus, EdD, RN, FAAN. She’s dedicated the majority of her career to substance abuse, stress reduction and mindfulness interventions. Reading her bio and some of her work made me feel hope for those struggling to keep afloat amidst the threatening currents of addiction.
She says, most importantly, nurses are a first line of defense against addiction – prevention. How many of you are well-versed in the task of helping abusers quit before they’re fully addicted? I know I’m not, and am definitely going to read more on the topic.
I most certainly think Dr. Marcus is worthy of a Google Doodle, perhaps one that features the beautifully powerful waves of the ocean.
Subject: Why Nurses Need A Google Doodle: #RNgoogledoodle Innovator No. 10
April 15, 2014 11:01PM
Today, I finished reading the Sunday Review. I swam in two pools and one ocean. I hugged on my 96-year-old grandmother, I felt sweaty in a car, I drove a car. I shopped with my mom, talked politics with my dad, and saw the red moon. My sister and I laughed at stupid TV, I barely locked up an expensive bike (and didn’t worry about it), and I finished the crossword. Vacation.
Most of the day, though, I thought about the ocean, and two articles I finished reading this morning.
One was in Modern Love, about an artist plagued by depression and alcoholism whose waxing and waning fame drove him to his premature death. The ocean’s waters left his daughter and wife with decades of questions.
The second article chronicled the story of an Iraq war vet struggling in the waves of PTSD, traumatic brain injury and subsequent opiate addiction. His story brought me to tears; a particularly jarring snippet included a scene from his real-life nightmare, a flashback of when he was ordered to shoot a young girl suspected of wearing a suicide vest at point-blank range. She wore no such vest, and now he bears the scars of his mental anguish, daily struggling to keep afloat amongst a sea of suicidal waves.
When I swam in the ocean today, I wondered how the artist had drowned himself in the same sea my body bouyed in lightly, effortlessly. The water shallow, the waves moderate, I dove and jumped, floating easily out to sea. At some points I swam hard at the waves, trying to get to a place where the floor was out of reach, wanting to feel the freedom of its depths.
It wasn’t until I tried to return to shore that I realized how easy it might be to get lost. The return took effort, concentration. My purpose was my guide – I swam with the current of the waves until walking was possible. But there were times when the current took me North, not West, and others when the waves behind me knocked into my back, pushing me to fall. These were mild waves, easy for an experienced swimmer like me to maneuver. But I knew then that the strength of the currents, the relentless motion of the waves, the unexpected power of their repitition to tire, these would be no match for a person impaired.
Addiction, whatever the cause, must be like trying to return to shore from deep within the ocean. Just when you think you’re making progress, catching your breath, diving through the current, another waves slaps you down in the water. Distraction, defeat, terror lurks at every side; why not give in?
I knew I needed to talk about a nurse innovator today who specialized in this oh-too-common ailment of our society. These articles from the Review were enough to take my mind from the happiness of my grandmother’s dainty fingers and starchy smell, away from the sunshine and sound of the leaves and wind mingling. They were real, present with me – how could they not be, when the soldier’s story included the statistic – every hour one veteran commits suicide? Too real to dismiss with a quick thumb scroll.
So, today, I’ll introduce you to Marianne T. Marcus, EdD, RN, FAAN, an “Edge-Runner” by the American Academy of Nursing, and recently retired Assistant Dean of the University of Texas’ Department of Nursing Systems, and John P. McGovern Distinguished Professor of Addiction Nursing.
You may not have heard of Dr. Marcus, but I’m sure you’ve heard of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Mindfulness, is a practice that is growing in recent times in treatment of many mental health disorders including addiction and PTSD. Dr. Marcus spent the majority of her career teaching nurses to treat and manage patients with substance abuse disorders, focusing on the implementation of mindfulness interventions.
Mindfulness focuses on the practice of momentary being. By practicing presence in the space of time, addicts and others practicing mindfulness allow themselves to fully experience the range of emotions and thoughts that drive them back to abuse. Like swimming in waves, I’d imagine mindfulness is akin to facing the crest head-on, diving under the surface instead of letting the wave slap you in the face.
Dr. Marcus didn’t initially pursue substance abuse nursing. She fell into it out of a recognition of her own ignorance. Not knowing the answers to questions like, “Why do people become addicted?” and “How does addiction impact overall health?” combined with a desire to strike down stereotypes of patient’s with substance abuse, she changed the focus of her career.
Spending twenty years in the addictions community has proven fruitful; Dr. Marcus has participated in nationwide campaigns to include substance abuse curricula in nursing education, she realized increased time in treatment increases success in rehab programs, and her use of mindfulness has changed the way substance abuse programs are run. She credits the deepest level of success in substance abusers to nurses’ ability to teach prevention, and gears much of her research to this aim.
My thoughts go back to the men in the articles I finally read this morning. Where could they be now, with the help of a nurse, teaching them to reign in their present thoughts, reduce their stress, dive into the waves of their addiction and help them swim for shore? The tools to tackle the stress and fear are there; how many of our 3.1 million are teaching them, I wonder.
More tomorrow. Earlier, perhaps.