Depression in Nursing School

  1. Hi all. I was a happy, involved, straight-A high school student. I really looked forward to college. Midway through the first semester, I found it very hard to even get out of bed in the mornings. It wasnt that I had stayed up extremely late, or gone to a party. I was just utterly exhausted. My grades quickly dropped, I lost my scholarships, and lost a majority of my "friends" because I had to stay home and study to get my grades back, and didnt go out to the parties with them anymore.

    I dealt with this for 2 years. I was positive that it was just a phase, and that I would get over it as quickly as it seemed to have set in. Everything made me cry. I would cry over commercials on TV, and I would only leave my apartment to go to class, and come straight home. I became suicidal, not to the point of planning, just to the point that i thought about it 98% of the time.

    I ended up going to a doctor. He checked my TSH, and it was significantly lower than normal. So he put me on Synthroid, and Prozac for a year. I started to feel better, I slept less, and had more energy. My refills ran out 2 months ago. I didnt refill them, because I didnt want to believe that I had to take medication just to be able to laugh, and get out of bed in the mornings. In less than 2 weeks, I was back to sleeping all day and night, eating everything is sight, and crying at the "drop of a hat".

    I went back to the doctor, and got them refilled again. I feel better emotionally, but mentally I am bothered. I feel like less of a person because I can't deal with stress on my own, and require Meds to live a normal life. There is no depression in my family, so no one that I can compare stories with.

    So, to get to my main question, any of you out there that have dealt with severe depression, at any stage of your life, does it ever get better? Or is this a lifelong battle Ive got in front of me?

    Thanks
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  2. 13 Comments

  3. by   fiestynurse
    Brandy--

    I have suffered from episodes of depression and it is something that I carefully monitor. It does get better! However, it's not just about getting on the correct medication. It's also important that you see a good therapist to work through some of the psychological causes of your depression and assist you in learning coping mechanisms and how to get through it. You must not isolate yourself from friends or family. (although I am sure most of them don't completely understand what you are going through) Get out there and get the support that you need. I am glad you posted this--there are many nurses and nursing students that suffer from depression--you are not alone. And having to go on antidepressants does not make you weak or "less of a person." It makes you normal!
    Last edit by fiestynurse on Jul 14, '01
  4. by   SusieQ1243
    Hi Brandy,
    First off, I applaud your bravery and for reaching out to other nurses. Your story sounds so much like mine it's not even funny. But mine happened 13 years ago. My grades got so bad that after threats from my parents and two years of straight A's and a few B's I finally brought my GPA up to 2.15. Unfortunately, that will haunt me forever.

    I would say that time in college was my first major episode. I've been through several others since then.... after college and at my first 'real' job, after my two children, and several in between.

    I've taken Prozac, Paxil and now am on Effexor. And just like you, just when I feel great and think I don't need them anymore... BOOM! I become practically non-functional. I think I have finally just come to grips with the fact that I am probably on the 'lifetime plan'.

    I'm also back in counseling which helps me to figure out what I think is so 'rotten' in my life and how to fix it myself. Who knows what causes it... the stresses of life (I've heard docs call it 'the disease of the 90's')... you may even be what 'they' are now calling a "Highly Sensitive Person" (you can actually go to websites and download a questionnaire regarding this). You are a deeply feeling person. I know I am an HSP. Things have always affected me differently than others. I take the weight of the world on me and have difficulty thinking positively.

    I don't know if you will have to take medication for the rest of your life or not. I do know that if you try to stop taking your med again you should wean off SLOWLY, decreasing both your dosage and frequency. And like the last post, find a counselor you can talk to... you'd be amazed at the perspective they can put on things. Family and friends are great, but too often they just 'don't understand'.

    Docs will tell you that this is just like being a diabetic... that you can't help it. True, in some regards. But what gets us here in the first place, I believe, is that we don't 'think' right. Something is wrong in either the way we perceive ourselves, the world or our control over our lives. You have to fix the way you think.

    Brandy, please know that I am thinking of you and even though we have never met, I am your friend. If you want to talk privately, please email me. I am here.
    Last edit by SusieQ1243 on Jul 14, '01
  5. by   Weathergirl
    Hello! I will begin nursing school next month. I already have a BS in Meteorology. I actually suffer from many things; PTSD (I'm a Gulf War Veteran), Panic disorder, Generalized Anxiety disorder and Adult ADHD! Whew!! I take 150 mg of Effexor and 50 mg of Ritalin everyday. I am a survivor!! I'm not embarrassed or ashamed that I have these problems or that I take meds to help me deal with them. I am living a fullfilling life, gotten a BS degree, taken care of my family (3 kids) and live fully everyday since my diagnosis!! I'm looking forward to starting nursing school in Aug and I have plans to continue my education with a masters degree one day. I have managed to successfully homeschool 3 kids, take good care of myself and my hubbie through all this. I will never "get over" my "disorders". I know that and its something I have accepted. Just because I'm on meds doesn't mean we are "less of a person", it means we love life enough to get the help we need. No shame in that!!!
  6. by   BrandyBSN
    Thank you for everyone who has emailed, PMed, or posted here.

    I am a 21 year old Senior in a BSN program in Missouri. I also tend to be quite cynical about life in general. I have a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, when all i can think is that it is probably a lightbulb illuminating a brick wall.

    The funny thing is that if you would ask any of my friends of professors, this is not what they would tell you that I am like at all. Its not that I try to put an "an act". I try to moderate my depression with as much humor as i possibly can, and when all you do is make your friends laugh, it is hard for them to realize that even though you make them happy, you are just not happy yourself. I feel best when I am busy. i spend a lot of time on my websites, I have 5 of them currently. I have a big problem with saying "no". I just cant say no when someone needs help, even if I have no energy and am exhausted. I know I spread myself too thin.

    I have seen a counselor, 2 in fact. There thoughts seemed to be that my self-esteem was damaged. Well, DUH! Im a 21 year old blonde, 5 foot 1, and weight 240 lbs. i have always been overweight, even though I do not eat junk food, and i do not over eat (except thanksgiving). I eat on average of 1000 calories a day, drink one Diet Mountain Dew a day, and still gain weight. I went on the Adkin's diet for a month, and was well into ketosis, but I was so dizzy during this time that i was even more miserable. I did lose 11 lbs however.

    I was on DepoProvera for several years, and got off of that 6 months ago, and went on orthotricylen, in hopes that part of this whole mess might be a hormonal problem. I also go back to the my thyroid panel redrawn in 3 months to see if I am getting the right dosage.

    I am engaged, yes. Kevin moved in in May, after he graduated from college in Illinois. That has been a big adjustment, and even though I am thrilled to have him here, I do sometimes feel guilty for wanting to be by myself, and get some person time in.

    i went for a job interview last wednesday, but, had to decline because I would have been required to work full time during the school year, and I know that I just couldnt handle that.

    Even though school is stressful, I often feel better during the school year than I do during the summers. Maybe part of that is that I have a goal in mind for school, and I always have things to do, skills to learn, or procedures that I want to see.

    I didnt have a bad childhood. My parents got divorced, both remarried, and my dad got divorced again, but that is ok, because I really like my stepdad, he treats my mom like a queen, and I didnt like my dad's new wife anyways (golddigger, for lack of a better term). My family is supportive of me, and proud of what i accomplish. But surely my being overweight cant be the entire root of this.

    I have an online journal that i post to daily now. Just about what is going on, how I am feeling, and that seems to help.

    Thanks for everything everybody. A person can never have too much support.
  7. by   ArleneD
    Hi, Brandy,
    My two cents are worth exactly that, but if even a little of what some of us say help you in finding the answers to your dilemna, then you can take what's useful and disregard the rest.
    1. Learn to say no. From reading your post, it appears that you have more on your plate than you can handle. You have to concentrate on what's best for you. This might sound selfish, but starting now, don't do anything you don't want to do. You must stop taking on so many unnecessary responsibilities and pamper yourself! This includes letting a couple of those websites go. My son has only one, and I know how much time it involves.
    2. You said you feel worse during the summer. This could be because of inactivity. I know when I exercise, I feel better and have less depression. If you enroll in a good weight control and exercise program (many colleges offer them as credit courses), you'll feel better, and it will give you the time alone that you're needing to think about and sort out your "problem of the day."

    If you don't slow down and start taking care of yourself, you're going to get sick and your body will do it for you. I've been there. Where will you be if you have to miss classes when your body says "No more!"?

    Take your medication, see your therapist, and pamper yourself. That's my two cents.
  8. by   tattoochick
    Oh my gosh, I'm glad that there are other people out there like me! I have been on Ambien (sleep aid) since January and I would love to go off them, but I will not sleep at all if I don't take them. I've tried, it doesn't work. It just started to creep up on me...the depression. I hated my second semester and struggled with my clinicals the whole way through. I started having trouble sleeping and now my appetite has decreased, I'm mean and cranky, and have a lot of anxiety/stomach problems, and bad headahces. To top all that off, my grandfather died in March and I've felt extrememly jaded since then. I hate school, but I'm almost done, and I think that I just need to graduate and find something that I like. So, I finally sucked up my pride and asked for help. I meet with this counselor lady on Tuesday and will probably have to start on Zoloft or something soon. I hate pills...they make me want to be sick and vomit. But, if you need them to be well, then that's what you have to do. I'm so glad there are other students out there with problems like this...I feel like I'm the only one at my school. I'm nervous because this fall semester is supposed to be the hardest, and I'm worried that I won't handle it. But, so far I'm doing ok in the ER elective I'm in this summer. I will graduate from this stupid school, if it kills me, you know!!! Brandy, if you have to take pills forever, who cares...if it makes you better, that's all that matters! Good luck and thanks for listening!
  9. by   dazedandconfused
    Hi Brandy~ I have also had to fight to get out of bed a few years ago, and while I was in school. I did not realize that I was depressed when I was in college. It took 5 years out and a major event in my life and job for me to seek out the help that I needed. I went to a counselor and she was wonderful- the best thing that I did for myself was to see her. I was also on Paxil for almost 2 years. I am proud to say that I beat my depression back with a stick, but there are days when I wonder if I need to start taking it again. There is nothing that anyone can say or do that should make you doubt yourself. The only suggestion is to take time to be away and have me time. I look back on what I had written in my journal and where I have come from there. hang on with you all you have got. You will survive this, just like school
  10. by   hoolahan
    I am wiped tonight, but have to say ditto to it all!

    The simplest explanation I ever heard for depression makes the most sense. The doc told my girlfriend, a layperson this..."We all have chemicals to control depression in our brains. When we are stressed and exhaust the supply, we may become depressed, unless these chemicals are replaced. The puepose of the drugs is to replace this loss."

    Makes perfect sense to me. I had a set back with depression while finishing my BSN program, talk about stress! Regent's! Anyway, I found that elminating as much stress as possible helps, that's why I quit my supervisor job and went back to staff. I do feel much better now. I was about ready to go back on zoloft, but it seems this is working, at least for now.

    You have no reason to feel bad about yourself for taking meds. If it helps, it's OK.

    I think I would definitely fall into the HSP category! Thanks for sharing that SusieQ
  11. by   mcruss
    Brandy,
    I applaud your courage for bringing this subject up!! I don't start LPN school until the Fall, but when I was getting my BS degree I had my fair share of tense times.(DH was in Korea for a year). So, I was basically a single parent, raising our new baby and going to school full-time. But, I made it somehow !! Depression wasn't really a problem then.

    However with the birth of our second daughter-things changed completely !!! The colic, the sleepless nights !! Just having 2 children seemed to be sooo overwhelming !! she's 2 now-still doesn't sleep through the night !!

    Anyway-I've spoke w/my gyne.about the possibility of my having that PPMD?? Because my anxiety/mood swings seem to be the worst at that time..But the Dr. said I "seemed" fine to him and suggested I get on a BCP..So, I'm in my 3rd month of that-and no help !!

    I've worked up the courage now to go in and get some help !! I honestly thought that if I got on an antidepressant that I may not be able to go to nursing school if anyone knew??? I know, this sounds really stupid-but I guess I thought they would think I was "a mess". I guess from all of these posts-that I am definitly wrong !! THanks again for your post !!

    Tricia
  12. by   CEN35
    wow! the thing that hoolihan said.........kinda got me. i'm not going into detail...........cause i hate psych........even though maybe sometimes i feel like i should be on zoloft or something similar.
  13. by   Rita Marie
    Hi Brandy,

    Depression is really a bugger. But, since your thyroid levels were so low, that makes me suspicious that you case is more linked to that then the just plain-old-depression.

    I would discuss what your treatment plan should be with the doctor, but I bet that when you get firmly established on the thyroid, that you will be able to come off the antidepressant.

    Now, there is no guarantee...I am sure that you have heard from mental health workers that there are basically three types of people with depression: 1) those who have an episode, that get help and never have any problem with it again; 2) those who have an episode, get treatment, and then sometime later (sometimes years) have another episode (or more) and need treatment again; and, 3) those who have depression and need to be in/on treatment for the rest of their lives. It would be similar to diabetics, needing insulin for the rest of their lives because they don't make it for themselves any more.

    Personally, I think the key is early treatment, follow the doc's advice and use what you can to work with this.

    I really personally strongly dislike the term mental illness, but I have to live with it. I have learned that my anxiety becomes pronounced when something is bothering me and I keep myself so busy that I ignore it. I think that sometimes we think if we ignore something, it will go away--or we will develop a different attitude about it. Sometimes it can be something that we may not recognize as a problem, because we bury the significants the situation holds for us.

    Nursing is a high stress job. Being in school is high stress. Having your boyfriend move in is high stress. Having health problems (low thyroid) is also stressful. Things probably feel a bit out of control right now. These things all set the ground work for depression, anxiety and all of that.

    Simplify. See what you can do in your life that will make your life calmer. Being in school and working for your nursing degree is time consuming and lots of times, people in your life may not appreciate what you must do to stay on top of your game. Quit stressing yourself out with unreachable expectations.

    When I was your age, I thought that I had to do every thing perfect. Nursing is a very important field. You are not just there making a pay check, people rely on you to take care of them when they can't. I was far from perfect, and when I would mess up, I would be really hard on myself. It was unreasonable.

    So, what can you do in your life to make things less stressful. Yes, I think using the medications and not worry about the issues surrounding the medications will be a start.

    One day, while I was in group therapy, one of the ladies said that she suffered from very, very, very low self esteem. It just struck me funny. We never just have esteem problems, we have to have very very very low self esteem...somehow it makes things sound so much worse, doesn't it. Like its a fatal disease. I mean don't we feel really, really sorry for someone with very very very low self esteem? I think at that time, I may have had some sympathy, but not today. Low self-esteem is not a fatal disease. I firmly believe that we can learn to honor ourselves--and do what is right for ourselves.

    So, depression is a tool. It tells us that we are NOT listening to ourselves. We can face it, and use it to our advantage or we can let it defeat us and hide under the covers for days at a time or we can listen to it and grow.

    Your struggles will help you be a more insiteful (sp) nurse.

    Take care.
  14. by   Lausana
    Brandy,

    Thank you for being brave enough to bring up a really tough subject! I know it is so hard to admit to anyone when you are not "ok" I have been dealing with this over the last few months also, post partum, depo provera which can cause depression also, work, school, and managing things around the house, added together they make me feel exhasted without any desire to do anything, I rarely see my friends because I really don't want to have to deal with other people's problems, since I always take others problems to heart, it just gets to be to much. You are definately not alone on this one, its just a tough subject.

    You mentioned something about your thyroid level. This is something my mother has been harping on my to get checked out, and sounds like this could be a possible explaination for not only your depression but other things going on. My mom has been taking medication for hypothyroidism for 5 yrs now & what a difference it has made! She can't believe she could even get out of bed before she started the pills. It has controlled her moodiness, energy level, sleep and her weight. Everyone is different of course but whatever the cause or outcome if any medication helps you than it is a positive & you shouldn't feel bad for taking it, you are being brave enough to get help and take care of yourself-that's all that matters! Please keep sharing with us.

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