The importance of being aware of one’s mental health as we experience planned and unplanned changes in our lives is discussed by Dr. Paulina Van.
How did you get into nursing and what led you to that field before we even get to the whole mindfulness and the book?
Dr. Paulina Van:
Well, this is something I love to talk about. So I’ve been under registered nurse for 46 years and I’ve known that I wanted to be a nurse since I was age 10. My grandmother lived with us and I came home for school one day she didn’t answer. The paramedics went in, she was unconscious, she went to the hospital and back in the sixties, they didn’t allow children in the hospital, but I begged and begged and I was allowed to just go to the doorway of her ward. And I watched how the nurse just cared for my grandmom who was in a coma. The way she touched her, the way she talked to her. And I said, whatever that is, I want to do that for life. And so that was my own path.
Can we talk about what happened right before that led you to write?
Dr. Paulina Van:
In 2014, my brother almost died and he was in a coma. And when he woke up from the coma, (so he’s in the coma about six days) he looked at me and he said, are you still working the way that you always have? And he thought it was 2004. So we were 10 years off. And, he said, and if you are, you have become your work. And when we thought he was dying, you know, family was coming to visit and, you know, people have gotten married, had babies, and all, these were like strangers to me because I was immersed solely in my work. I didn’t have good balance. And so I made a commitment once he recovered that I was going to immerse myself in self care. So I began by meditating and doing mindfulness and really getting trained in those areas.
How do you move from that to writing a book?
Dr. Paulina Van:
I went to a small workshop led by two young African-American women about pregnancy loss and developing policy around it. And they began the workshop. It was only a two hour workshop and they began the workshop with a meditation. And then, then they said, now we want you to drop into your heart and write for three minutes about whatever your heart is saying to you. Okay. So you got, remember I’m a researcher analytical and tell me, drop step into my heart. And I did. And the first poem I wrote is entitled. It hurts, and it talks about my childhood abuse. I didn’t realize what, okay. So they only gave us three minutes to write, and I didn’t realize, first of all, I had buried that whole time. I was, I had buried that for over 60 years. Okay. So I didn’t realize what I had done until it was time for everybody to start sharing. And I shared mine.
\There was silence, there was tears, there were tears, there was a lot going on. And then I realized that I had un-earthed something that had been buried in me for decades, but also it touched everybody in that, in that circle in some way, either their personal experience or the knowing about someone who’s had the experience.That was November 2019. And, I was also in a characterized culture program. Caritas means love and caring, and it was developed by Dr. Jean Watson, who is a nurse. And matter of fact, I’m in a postdoc with her right now. so my work about and self-love continues.
So that was November in this program. All online, since we were in COVID, it was April, 2020 that I responded to a post where one of my classmates asked me, she said, you know, how did you get so Caritas literate, meaning how did I become so literate so quickly? I justified month period. And then I responded with the poem, the Hartwell and the heartbeat will basically says, the heart will nourish you so that you can flourish. And then they just kept coming. And I can I explain how, because I didn’t cry. I don’t create these. Right, right. So what happens when one of these poems, I now call them gifts because they were given to me and I have to give them to the world energy. That’s what I’ll call it. An energy. A warrants starts in my heart and goes up into my head. And then the words, the title appears then the words. First four phrases come to me. And then there is this energy that carries me to my computer to type. So I can’t record it. And I can’t long hand write it. I have to type it. And these poems come out fully formed. And the way you feed them in the book are unedited. That’s how it came to me. And I attributed it to my creator.
Dr. Van’s book stemmed from a journey from nursing into mental health which launched into a book. Read more about her journey and the mental health journey we should all be aware of by clicking the link.