Writings

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is the right thing to do

I have turned in my key. I have made my peace. I am no longer a reporter and photographer for the Star-Herald.

For the past five and a half years, I have written on a variety of topics and always put my best foot forward. That time has come to an end.

While I will not speak of all the reasons why I have made this decision, I will discuss a few.

The past nineteen months have been increasingly difficult for me, personally and professionally. My stress levels at work have continued to rise during that time, which has affected my ability to effectively manage my PTSD and my personal life.

In early May, I woke up around 1 a.m., nearly unable to breathe. With each beat of my heart, I felt as if I was going to vomit. My resting heart rate was 153 beats per minute. All the techniques I had learned to lower it were not working. I seriously considered going to the emergency room.

After about an hour of deep breathing, I lowered it to 122 bpm and drifted off to sleep. In the morning, I called my doctor. She scheduled me to be fitted with a heart monitor, which I wore for forty-eight hours. The test results found nothing.

I gave up the 68 ounces of hot and cold tea I was drinking per day. Some of the heart palpitations went away, but there was still something there. I was given the option of seeing my doctor at the beginning of June, the earliest I could see her, or waiting until the end of June for my regularly scheduled appointment.

Since my heart rate had returned to the low one hundreds, I opted to wait and pay attention to everything. Each morning, my heart rate went up. I spent an hour each day convincing myself to go to work. It rose again as I traveled to work. My heart rate settled to normal when I returned home and stayed that way until I went to bed.

I tried as hard as I could to determine if the increased heart rate was due to stress at work, my PTSD, or both. I reduced stress everywhere I could. Paul was mindful of everything and helped to make home as peaceful as possible so we could determine what was wrong.

Once I made the decision to leave the Star-Herald, I found my heart rate returned to almost normal levels. It still rose in direct relation to flashbacks and memories, but the knowledge that I was not going to remain at the Star-Herald brought a sense of peace to my mind.

This was not an easy decision. I enjoy writing and I am extremely good at it, but there is more to life than putting words on paper. I also need meaning in my life. I was no longer finding meaning in my work. When I took a step back and took a serious look at my professional life, I found I was being pushed beyond my physical and mental capabilities and it was slowly killing me.

One day in late May, I was at my breaking point. I posted the word “done” on Facebook, walked over to my couch, curled up and started crying. I couldn’t stop. Less than two minutes after making that post, a friend who I did not realize cared as much as he did for me started texting me asking me if I was okay. This friend kept texting me until he was assured I was okay.

That night, I told Paul, even though I love writing and have been doing it since I was a little girl, I had to make a change. My soul was being sucked out of me.

I had already spoken with my therapist about what my job was doing to me. My therapist had me write about what I love about writing and why I write. When I did so, my therapist noted when I spoke about writing over the past two years, something changed. I was using darker words, my writing style had changed, and I did not seem happy.

I took a long, hard look at what I wrote. My therapist was right. Soon after, people I know in town, from acquaintances to friends, started asking me if I was okay. Some hinted they were worried. Others came right out and said they were worried about me and my mental health.

Everyone was right. This job has taken a huge mental toll on me. If you follow me and read my blog, you have probably seen it, too. I didn’t want to see it because I love writing so much, but the signs have been there for more than a year. I just didn’t heed them.

I had many long conversations with Paul. He supports me in whatever decision I make, but he said something to me that struck me so deeply I couldn’t ignore it. “I just want you to be happy and you aren’t happy right now.”

Sometimes, the hardest decision is the right decision. The truth was in front of me, but I was stubborn. I was convinced I could do it on my own. Much like ignoring my mental health and thinking I could fix it my PTSD on my own, I had to reach my own breaking point to realize I can’t do this anymore.

A position opened up at the CAPWN Youth Shelter. I spoke with Paul about applying for it. He thought I would be good at it. A friend also works there. When I asked him about it, he thought I would be perfect for the job. He also said some other really awesome stuff about me, which made me cry.

I applied for the job, but didn’t think it would be offered to me. It was. I accepted. Providing my TB test and drug test turns out okay – and there is no reason to think it wouldn’t – I will start training on Wednesday.

I am grateful to everyone who honored me with the privilege of letting me tell their stories. I will miss being able to do so. I will miss all the perks, the cool people I got to meet along the way, and the cool things I got to do because I was a reporter.

However, I have a chance to make a real difference in this world with my new job. It won’t ever be 100 percent easy, nothing ever is, but what I do will matter.

For now, I plan to take a week or two off of writing before I start to look for some freelance work. I have some projects I need to get completed for a friend. I am also going to continue to try to get my memoir published. I will continue to write here, hopefully more often.

Two people told me today that I was glowing. My friend, Peggie, said she hadn’t seen me smile so much in more than a year. People saw what was happening to me and they are already seeing the positive changes in me. I look forward to more positive changes in the future and I will continue to work on a better me each day and continue progressing in bettering my mental health.

Thank you to everyone who read my stories over the past five and a half years. Thank you to everyone who has continued to look out for me, lifted me up when I was down, and encouraged me to keep going when things got rough.

I’m not always good at saying so in person, but all your words have been taken to heart and I appreciate everything everyone has done and said to me to help me keep focused on what is important in life. I hope you will all continue to read what I write, from the silly to the serious, even though it will mostly be here on my blog.

Take care and I will see you all around town sometime.

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18 Comments

  1. Sandra Reddish

    Excellent post. Hey, thanks for appreciating me.

  2. You go girl!! Love seeing the happiness on you coming from the other side!

  3. Steve

    You are great. This world needs you. I’m grateful to know you and to have worked with you. Despite this setback I feel you’re one of the most natural and talented journalists I’ve ever known. Take a break and I hope you find your way back.

    • Shardel Nelson

      Glad you are doing what is best for you and your mental health. We will always be thankful and greatful for telling Kaelia’s story and message. Excited to see what the future brings for you!

  4. Steve

    Despite the disgusting BH Media shitshow I hope you find your way back. You’re one of the most natural and gifted journalists I’ve ever known. The world needs you.

  5. Steve

    Sorry for the double post. Weird. Delete whichever.

  6. Starr

    I can tell the difference already, my friend! Would love to catch up sometime very soon! ❤️

  7. Judy Amoo

    You are already lighter, Irene! I sense it in your writings, I see the bounce in your step and the softening of your expression. Shed that previous skin and let yourself emerge, with a renewed spirit and a fresh perspective! I look forward to reading more from you in the future!

  8. Bev Overman

    So proud of you, Irene! It takes courage to “tell it like it is”, but you said it beautifully. I wish you new adventures and a renewed spirit. You are amazing and will make such a difference in the lives you will touch, just like you have in the past. Refresh, renew, and take care of yourself. Your feet are pointed forward for a reason!

  9. Greg Awtry

    Irene, you leave an entire body of work in the Star-Herald archives that you should be proud of. Your stories will be read, appreciated, shared and searched for decades. It was a privilege working with you and I know you will succeed at anything you set your mind to.

  10. Judy Chaloupka

    You have such a kind heart. I know that you will find a way to transfer your empathy in a new way. Keep writing and keep sharing your love with your zoo friends – animals and humans alike!

  11. Peggie Michael

    I love your smile and seeing it makes me so happy!! You are a wonderful, talented, amazing, funny, and enthusiastic friend. You deserve to be happy and do what you love! I cant wait to see what you do next!! Congrats my friend!!

  12. Leslie jordan

    You sound better!!!!!!….be well and keep writing🌻😀💟

  13. Patti Ediger

    I first met you working with young people. You had a passion and a sense of caring for each one. Go into this new effort with your natural enthusiasm, Irene. We will miss your wonderful stories in the SH, but you have to take care of yourself, first! Best of Luck in your new job!!

  14. Joanne Krieg

    Irene, You are a very talented reporter and photographer. Your work will be missed more than you know, but hooray for you knowing when to say when. I’m happy for you. Your health is far more important than that particular job. CAPWN is lucky to have you, and the kids will be, too! Looking forward to reading your work in the future, in whatever media it appears! Peace.

  15. Byron Allen

    Irene North, playwright. That has a nice ring to it. I will do any play you write.

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