Bipolar Nurse Hoping to Open Awareness of Mental Illness - page 2

by HannaRNBSN

9,952 Views | 64 Comments

Hello everyone, I am new to the site and have chosen to join simply because of a previous post about mental illness and incredibly insulting comments that followed. I am posting a thread about this in an attempt to create more... Read More


  1. 2
    Hey Hanna,

    I did not see the discussion you are talking about. I do want to say that I believe that it is essential to raise awareness & educate the general public about mental illness. Believe in yourself as others will believe in you too. Life is a journey, may yours be filled with happiness~
    poppycat and VivaLasViejas like this.
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    I think you rock !!! This is the kind of nurses we need.
    Compassion for the patient is top priority because if you have no compassion you don't need to be there.
    I got tears reading that story and you may have changed that woman's life...
    Stand strong and continue being an awesome nurse
    poppycat, BSwasBS, VivaLasViejas, and 2 others like this.
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    it is indeed sad that many/perhaps most in our profession are so biased & judgemental; & that fear of repurcussions prevent those with any issue from being open & honest & helping to educate/open closed minds. this applies to not only mental illness, but addictions (which can be to many things), physical disablities & disorders- the list is endless. seems like many of our imperfect coworkers expect perfection! good luck to us all & God bless!! & Hanna- you sound like a fabulous young nurse/person- keep up the excellent work!!
    poppycat, Esme12, jenealle, and 2 others like this.
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    I think a lot of it comes down to just plain ignorance. I didn't realize that there were people who actually had perfect lives growing up and were ignorant of the real world until I got to college. In the world that I grew up in, we experienced the suicides of an elementary school teacher in 3rd grade and a classmate in high school. Most of my high school friends had eating disorders (true diagnosable disorders not experimenting with behaviors) at some point. We all struggled with depression off and on and I and at least one other friend self-injured for a number of years. I had friends in college who were not aware of ANY of these issues until they met me... and the way they reacted was a complete 180 to the way the people who grew up with me reacted- I think partly because they just didn't know how to react because they were ignorant to these issues.

    Fast forward a good number of years... When I worked in the hospital, we did written report which was broken down by systems. I specifically remember reading a report on a teenager (who was admitted for some kind of surgery and just happened to have a history of self-injury reported in her chart) and under psychosocial, the day nurse had written "Hx of cutting but so nice you would never know!" I was horrified then and remain horrified now- several years later- that a nurse would somehow think that a history of self-injury and being nice had anything to do with each other. I remember speaking about this to my friends who grew up with me and over and over again, I just kept thinking "what does NICE have to do with cutting?" I was perfectly nice when I used to cut myself and only a handful of people even know about it. And that speaks to the stigma against mental illness. People don't think the person next to them in class or at work could be suffering from mental illness "but she looks so normal"... they think it's gotta be the crazy old lady with no shoes who's yelling at the pay phone outside of Dunkin Donuts...
    poppycat, WittySarcasm, jenealle, and 1 other like this.
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    You know, that's been my experience as well---"You're bipolar?? I never would've guessed it, you always seem so calm", etc. etc. The truth of it is, I 'present well': meaning I'm able to conceal much of my inner turmoil in order to get along in the world. Even my own pdoc wasn't sure at first and gave me a provisional diagnosis of BP-NOS, although it didn't take him long to figure things out once I'd been in for a couple of visits.

    Presenting well was how I got away without being diagnosed for many, many years; unfortunately, about a year ago I decompensated to the point where there was no denying the seriousness of the problem, and by that time there was no going back to the way life had been. I firmly believe in the kindling theory of mental illness, e.g. the more episodes you have and the longer you go without treatment, the more trouble you're going to have, and the prognosis isn't as good as it might have been had the illness been caught sooner. That doesn't mean there's no help for it, just that it's more difficult to control, and you have to work harder at NOT becoming the crazy old lady with no shoes on yelling at the pay phone outside of Dunkin Donuts.
    poppycat, Janey496, Esme12, and 2 others like this.
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    Hanna you sound like a wonderful Nurse. i really do appreciate your compassion for patients. Yes, some nurses don't take the time to speak to their patients or family members. Nothing is wrong with sharing with your patients your mental health issues to help them know they can overcome as you did. In any profession people don't need to know everything about your life or the medications you are on. Remember in life you only have a few friends who you can really trust. Please learn to be a little more selective with whom you share your personal life with especially among your peers. Take care Hanna! Patients first in my book too!!!
    jenealle and KelRN215 like this.
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    Another bipolar type 1 here. I'm not a human nurse. I work on the opposite (dark) side as a veterinary technician. I was diagnosed in my mid 30s. Two months later, I was cooling my heels in the state hospital after being involuntarily committed. I have to say that surprised a few people including me. My employer saw my value as a good employee in spite this hospitalization. I still have my ups and downs and downs and ups but I'm doing okay most of the time. I still work and lead a "normal" life. I've learned that I have to put myself first in order to remain healthy. I've had to learn to say no to employers, co-workers, family members, therapists, and even doctors. I've had people tell me that I would never be functional or work for a living. I've proven them wrong.

    You sound like a very compassionate person. You are a very strong person. Don't let this label defeat you. Fight the stigma either publically or privately but continue fighting it. Someday we might be as well regarded as the working diabetic or other persons that have potentally disabling illnesses.

    Fuzzy
    poppycat, jenealle, and VivaLasViejas like this.
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    Great post.


    I suffer from anxiety, depression and Borderline Personality Disorder and I can say that many nurses are completely ignorant of mental illness (especially Borderline Personality Disorder) and the psyche rotations in nursing school barely scratch the surface of mental health. I cannot begin to explain just how devastating having a mental illness can be. I have suffered for most of my formidable years, and I have had very uncaring nursing instructors who had no understanding about anxiety and how it can be triggered, impact the person, etc. I have had bosses deny my sickness, nursing instructors fail me for having anxiety (knowing damn well that I had it but continued to trigger it)...it goes on.

    I don't plan on disclosing my mental health history to anyone. I have learned that more often than not, it backfires. The only person who needs to know besides close family is my therapist/psychiatrist. Employers need to mind their own business. As long as I doing what needs to get done (and safely), then what happens inside my head is between me and my counselor/psychiatrist.

    OP, your post resonated with me on so my levels, and I would love to be able to PM about it. Feel free to PM me. I'm only in nursing school, but I work as a CNA and I do have some experience about being a healthcare worker with a mental illness.
    poppycat, jenealle, and VivaLasViejas like this.
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    Thank you so much, and on so many levels for forcing this discussion. This is my first post after 2 YEARS of lurking. I'm an RN with an ASN and working on BSN with an additional BA in Psychology and plenty of psych clinical work. I am constantly astonished and frustrated with "educated" professionals and their willingness to separate the brain/neurotransmitters from the entire remainder of the human body!!! For those that wish to debate; let's start with phantom leg pain in an amputee...Is that pain "not real"? What is reality...? And yes, "pain" is another hugely misunderstood condition. I wish more nurses had a liberal arts degree and an understanding of philosophy. Seriously.
    cindjo717 and VivaLasViejas like this.
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    I applaud the frankness of the OP, and the posters!

    I've had PTSD for almost 5 years secondary to a near death experience (1/29 Anniversary date). I also have a trait of bipolar II with cyclothymia in the past, and although I usually do not disclose what I call my "traits," I find I am more keenly aware of maintaing dignity to my patients, and EVEN my peers! Whenever there has been a discussion of mental illness, I am always quick to point out MOST people have these traits, and we truly NEVER know if we may enter a crisis mode, where we need medication or a 72 hour hold. Usually that presents a lively enlightenment session. I also learned in school during my mental Heath course that most people, especially nurses have borderline-personality trait...so we may be working beside that person(s) everyday!

    I'm proud that despite my traits, I have excelled and stayed in this profession for 7 years without burning into flames and leaving, dealing with the up and downs of the profession-in my opinion, does require a bipolar trait to survive and hang around for the upswing -as well as personally, survive nursing school. I graduated May 2012 with a 2.89, despite really having the worst aspects of PTSD: the irritation, frozen in time struggles, the apathy, and the hopelessness. To come full circle, I am starting a job in a PICU in February as a new grad RN. I'm sure my traits will help me...and organization that I work for has much wonderful programs in addition if needed...but in the meantime, I will have a great schedule to work around to see my therapist that I have been seeing for about 2 years which is awesome! Some of the toughest nurses have our traits!!! I hope this discussion continues to shed the misconceptions of mental illness and give a great example that we are truly human, and humane nurses!
    Gpromise14, VivaLasViejas, and jenealle like this.


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