Nursing student walks down path of self-discovery


Calen Moore

Jackie Garcia has shed her past pessimism and now lives life with a smile most of the time. A new lifestyle has changed her, as she remains an aspiring nursing student.

Editor’s note: This story references self-harm, depression and has some adult language. The viewing of this story may not be suited for everyone.

Jackie Garcia, 23, sat in an oversized chair shifting her position trying to see what was most comfortable. She was small enough that she could sit with her legs tucked under her, legs crossed and her knees bent held close to her chest, whichever way fit. She switched from these positions as she talked. Even though she is five feet one inch tall and 117 pounds soaking wet, she is stronger than she looks — physically and mentally. 

Garcia is a nursing student at Seward County Community College. Although if you met her, you would never guess the long rocky road she took to arrive where she stands today. She was a teenager trapped in her own skin, looking for a way to bloom.

Part I: Mentally Trapped 

The color red sprawled across her left arm between her elbow and wrist. Drops of blood jumped right off her fingers, onto the floor. It mixed with the tear falling from her face, as she sobbed over what she had done. Garcia, age 15 at the time, cut her arm in an act of self-harm. She looked in the mirror at her reflection and made eye contact with herself. 

“You aren’t going to amount to shit. This is who you will always be,” Garcia said to herself. 

She felt nothing was good enough for her and that she was good for nothing. She felt alone. No one was going to help her and no one cared. 

Calen Moore
Jackie Garcia has struggled with depression for the majority of her life. She said for her, “it is about control, I don’t like to feel not in control.” Her late teenage years before nursing school could be described as feeling “trapped” by herself and her circumstances.

This may sound familiar. Studies show that one out of four girls in their adolescence will deliberately harm themselves. Girls who harm themselves before 16 are at higher risk of developing mental health problems including substance abuse or suicidal thoughts. The odds were stacked against Garcia. 

“For me it was all about control, I couldn’t control what was going on around me, but I could control the pain I felt if I caused it,” Garcia said. 

Garcia felt trapped. Trapped by the constant pessimism that she plagued herself with for years. 

Self-harm does not always mean the person is suicidal. Sometimes people who self-harm are fixated on completing a behavior. Coping with unwanted feelings like depression causes one to complete this thought with actions, like hurting themselves. 

Sometimes Garcia needed control in her life. This eventually led her to discover one of her loves, the medical field. 

“I’ve always been interested in the medical field. I originally was going to be a doctor, I even went through this program shadowing doctors at the University of Kansas and spent my summer there back in high school,” Garcia said. 

She was all set to go to college to be a doctor. But then she fell in love … and her life changed.

Part II: Physically trapped 

The color red sprawled across Garcia’s left arm in the form of red scars that were white in the center. She stared blankly at the pregnancy test. Positive. She was positively unhappy with this new chapter in her life. 

Calen Moore
Jackie Garcia found out she was pregnant at 19. She was not happy about it at first, but eventually and gradually warmed up to the situation. Studies show four out of 10 single mothers at two year schools are more likely to drop out.

“I was 19 when I got pregnant, and honestly, I did not want a baby. My ex-boyfriend, the father of the child, warmed up to the idea way quicker than I did but I really did not have warm feelings towards the idea of having a baby,” Garcia said. 

Her plan of becoming a doctor slipped through those tiny, little fingers. 

One out of five Hispanic women in college are single mothers. However, four out of 10 single mothers at two year schools say they are more likely to drop out due to their responsibilities. 

The odds were stacked against Garcia yet again. It seemed like the insecurities she told herself at 15 were becoming a reality at 19. 

“I felt like I was just never going to do anything with my life, I had no control and no warm feelings towards my daughter and her father. This was when I felt really trapped,” Garcia said. 

Garcia’s emotions felt diluted. She felt things but never anything intense. She felt more like her emotions had been watered down. Even when she should have been happy or sad, she just felt somewhat both or neither. 

She had few options and no idea where her life was going or what kind of life she was living. 

Something needed to change. 

Part III: Recovery 

The color red sprawled across Garcia’s left arm. It was a pasty jam of baby food to feed her daughter, who was now close to being 1 year old. She spent a lot of time with her daughter and fell in love with her. She enjoyed having someone to care for, being useful and thinking about the future. 

However, her boyfriend lost another job due to his drug addiction. 

Being young parents comes with a lot of responsibilities and some crack under the pressure. Garcia gave her boyfriend another chance to stop using drugs. This was the last chance but he couldn’t seem to keep a job. 

Garcia, again, felt helpless and without control. 

“I felt like it finally came down to like is there hope in this? Like is there hope in him in this place we are living? Who am I and what kind of life did I want for my daughter and for me too? These are the questions I would ask myself and unfortunately I needed to just start fresh,” Garcia said. 

All the aggression and stress had come to a boil. She felt it was time to look to a new life, an education and embracing the idea of being a single mother … without her boyfriend. 

William Salvador, a nursing friend of Garcia’s, was amazed at her resilience and determination to make the change. He said, “that girl can shake off trauma like a cool breeze,” but this was a lot to handle and everything was getting ready to boil over. 

Part IV: Self Discovery

The color red sprawled across Garcia’s left arm. It was ink from a freshly drawn tattoo. Garcia looked down at her arm and the corner of her lips formed a tiny smile. 

Calen Moore
Jackie Garcia went to a tattoo parlor in Perryton, Texas and asked the tattoo artist to draw anything she wanted on her left forearm. She wanted the tattoo to cover her past scars from when she used to struggle with self-harm and her self-image.

This was not a tattoo of sentiment, but rather a necessity. 

“I didn’t even know what I wanted the tattoo to be, I just wanted to cover up my scars. I felt ashamed of them, embarrassed even. That’s not who I am anymore and I was tired of looking at them,” Garcia said. 

Garcia said she went to the tattoo parlor and just asked for anything to cover her left forearm. What ended up appearing on her arm was a rose. No sentimental value. No meaning. No story of triumph. Simply put — it was a symbol of survival. 

Garcia, now 23, decided to get back to her roots. Now that she was free of her ex-boyfriend and herself. She decided to go back to the medical field. 

She needed to be in control, in case she was needed. Nursing would help her accomplish that. Even though the odds were stacked against her, she managed to crawl her way through to get to where she is. 

“I’ve known Jackie Garcia for a long time, and she used to be a trapped teenager, but she has definitely matured and is more free individual now,” Salvador, nursing student and best friend, said. 

The nursing program is rigid and is difficult for students to push themselves through. Garcia has seen adversity already and has pulled herself through it. She said this will be no different. She likes the structure of being prepared medically for almost any scenario, even if school tests her limits. 

Calen Moore
Jackie Garcia and her best friend William Salvador are struggling to study for an upcoming final for nursing. They are arguing over the first symptoms to recognize for a certain illness. She feels prepared for the rigidness of nursing because of her past that led her here.

“I didn’t expect it to be this hard, but I think all the things I’ve been through leading up to this makes me able to handle it somewhat,” Garcia said. “I decided to get into nursing because I feel like one day society will crumble, and I need the knowledge to save people’s lives. I just need to make sure I know.”

Garcia knew she should be useful in her life and she has always been the type to use knowledge that is available. Most choose nursing out of empathy of others or maybe to be a hero. Garcia chose nursing simply so she knows how to help when needed. Although she had stability in her academic life, she’s still left with a lot of issues unsolved.

In May of this year, Garcia stumbled her way into a gym in Guymon, Oklahoma, about an hour south of Liberal, that teaches Jiu Jitsu. Jiu Jitsu is a form of Japanese martial arts that specializes in close combat. 

You wouldn’t expect someone so little to have the ability to beat you up, and that’s exactly what Garcia wants. 

“I started doing Jiu Jitsu kind of out of nowhere. It’s something that has really helped me deal with my anger and need to control things and helps me feel more confident and tough despite feeling helpless in times of my life,” Garcia said. 

While Garcia has only been doing Jiu Jitsu for a short time, she feels it has already helped her a lot with the stressful life as a nursing student and the hectic life of being a single mother. 

“Jackie is someone who works very hard and learns very quickly,” Garcia’s Jiu Jitsu instructor, Mark Winner said. 

Winner explained that Jiu Jitsu does not come easy and she is moving very fast. 

Calen Moore
Jackie Garcia started Jiu Jitsu earlier this year, as a way to take out her aggression in a positive way. She likes showing her friends new moves she is learning.

Garcia’s friends are not surprised. After seeing the lengthy and messy path she trudged through to get where she is, they know that she is determined to survive. 

“Life can be good if you just make it good. I would replace one pessimistic thought with an optimistic one each day, and eventually you start changing how you see things. Life can be good. I just needed to grow up some,” Garcia said. “Life is surviving. You just need to keep pushing until you know you survived and can live,” Garcia continued. 

Jackie Garcia, 23, nursing student at Seward County Community College, looked at herself in the mirror. She looked down at the tattoo on her arm that was nothing more than a rose. She said the advice she would give her past self is that you will live through the bad and good days. 

As for the future, Garcia plans to get through nursing school and possibly go into surgery technology. Her morbid mind does not shy away from the gore of surgery. She hopes to continue growing into someone her daughter will want to be. She wants to continue showing her daughter and others the different paths people can take to reach what they want to be. 

Someday, she will live on her own with her daughter and show her daughter how tough they really are. That will be a good day despite the bad. And sometimes that is enough.