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

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... Read More

  1. by   KelRN215
    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...
  2. by   VivaLasViejas
    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.
  3. by   motorcycle tech
    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!!!
  4. by   Fuzzy
    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.

  5. by   ThePrincessBride
    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) 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.
  6. by   PiginaBlankie
    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.
  7. by   LadyFree28
    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 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!
  8. by   sapphire18
    My name is sapphire18, and I have borderline personality disorder.

    I hate that some of you also have to live with this awful thing...but it is comforting to know that I am not alone.
  9. by   wish_me_luck
    ((((ThePrincessBride and Sapphire18)))) Group hug! Finally some company in the BPD club (I love my BD people just as much, but it's nice having company in the other club.)

    Did either of you have to self report to your state board?
    Last edit by wish_me_luck on Jan 20, '13
  10. by   VivaLasViejas
    BRAVO! to sapphire18 and wish_me_luck! I think you both have a lot of courage to "come out" with your BPD, which is probably one of the most feared and least understood of the major mental disorders. I hope you'll keep on talking about it, because eventually it will become less stigmatized just like alcoholism in the 1980s, depression in the late 1990s, and bipolar disorder in more recent years.

    What's sad is that it still does take courage to say "Hey, I'm here and I'm (fill in the blank)." I think we can all agree that the vast majority of patients with psychiatric issues still feel that they must hide their condition like a dirty secret. I also am of the opinion that society rather likes things that way, because mental illness makes people uncomfortable and it's much easier not to acknowledge or deal with it. Good on you for making 'em sit up and take notice!
  11. by   HannaRNBSN
    To Motorcycle Tech:

    I chose to disclose this out of a desire to open awareness. I am very selective about who I share my experiences with. None of my co-workers actually knew about my disorder, nor did my patients. I appreciate your concern, I might be misunderstanding your sentiment however, this took a lot of courage to say, so for you to say be more selective is very disheartening. This discussion allowed many others to open up. I am a very trusting individual and choose to share this to help others. Thank you for your post. All the best.
    Last edit by HannaRNBSN on Feb 6, '13 : Reason: Reply to Motorcycle Tech
  12. by   BeOne77

    Thought I would post this to the Bipolar Nurse group. Has anyone ever heard of the State Board imposing a 5 year probation to a nurse who has mental illness. Doesn't this sound extreme and don't drug addicts and those who have other problems like theft and battery and even worse have even less years imposed on them? I am in a situation in which a doctor took advantage of me by not addressing my physical needs while in an examination tailored for a mental status examination which led me to answer the questions in a less than favorable responses. (like if you had a fever or were hypoglycemic) When addressed to the board the doctor lied about giving me adequate breaks when I did not and the board denied me an opportunity for another examination when I told them about it. The doctor took advantage of me during his questioning and deemed me unfit to be a nurse even when I was needing to postpone the examination at a later date and time, he just coerced me into sitting into an examination that was supposed to be 2 hours when it ended up being 5.5 hours with no food, 5oz . of water and no addressing of other physical complaints such as sweating and hypoglycemia.
    Just because I have bipolar disorder, the physical parts of this were unenduring and I was answering questions relative to the coercion of the psyschiatrist somewhat similar to being coerced into a false confession. I also did not have representation with me either.

    Now I am left with a decision to go to the board and show just cause or take the five year probation. I feel that the minimum five year probation is uncalled for due to the symptoms I was experiencing during the exam, that I should have an opportunity for another exam, that any nurse who is forced into probation because of a mental illness is pure discriminatory and that I am leaning towards proving just cause because I informed the board, the psychiatrist and even my lawyer that I was experiencing physical symptoms during the exam and that I should be given another opportunity when I am feeling better and at my best when I can answer the questions more accurately. I believe I was operating at a position of weakness and these physical symptoms were influencing my mental state regardless of whether I have bipolar disorder or not. It does not make me any less of a nurse.

    Please respond with information of your knoweldge of others who have been on probation for what reason and how long.
    Also I am curious as to what percentage of nurses have this disability and what percentage of nurses suffer from depression or any other mental health condition.

    Please also respond if you would take this any further legally and where you think I can get support for this (NIMH or ANA) or where.

    I have a lawyer and he wants me to take the probation and I don't want to nor do I think it is approriate for the duration or for the surrounding circumstances that were involved.

    I am supposed to respond the the state board by 2/22/2013.

    Thanks for your input.

    Last edit by BeOne77 on Feb 9, '13
  13. by   wish_me_luck

    We cannot give any sort of legal advice here. However, I will tell you that I am in a monitoring program for 5 years (complete with drugs screens and appts and form completion every month) for BPD and alcohol abuse--that's what my board order says. I have been in 6 months. The reason your attorney may want you to take the probation is because he is thinking that you might get denied going before the Board. I could be wrong, but that is always a possibility.

    Take a look around the forum about threads with nurses with mental illness.As far as ANA and NIMH, they do not really have a dog in the race, so to speak. I think you mean citing ADA. As long as they offer you licensure if you do "x,y,z", they are not breaking ADA.

    My situation--I have a consent/board order and it is public--no the Board is not breaking HIPAA. I have a thread going on that in the recovery forum about HPMP.

    Good luck!