Calling In Sick: Dealing With Mental Illness At Work, Part 2 - page 3

by VivaLasViejas Guide

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If you are a nurse who suffers from a serious mental illness such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, you probably have had difficulties in obtaining, and then keeping a job. Many of us have spotty work histories filled with... Read More


  1. 0
    I can understand the need to withhold information about personal medical history and medications from an employer. However, when starting new employment, drug testing is usually routine. Do any of the medications used to treat mental illness interfere or
    show up with drug screening ?
  2. 4
    The benzodiazepines will show up sometimes. Not Ativan or Xanax so much, as they're relatively short-acting, but when you get into the Klonopin and Valium realm, you'd best disclose that you're taking it because you will pop positive on the UDS if you take it regularly. And it's always a good idea to bring your prescription bottle with you to the testing site.

    I was upfront about my Klonopin use when I did my UDS before starting my current job, because I take it every night (not PRN). Luckily it's a common drug and the test collector didn't get too nosy about my reasons for taking it. Some other psychiatric drugs probably do show up in urine too, although I don't think it's an issue because the tests aren't looking for those specifically. The way things are going though, I wouldn't be surprised if they develop more sophisticated urine tests and employers start testing for more and more drugs. They're already too intrusive as it is, but there doesn't seem to be any stopping them.

    I do wonder though, if they start turning away nurses who take any kind of narcotics or psychiatric medications, will there be enough nurses left to take care of patients? Many of the nurses I know personally are taking antidepressants or anxiolytics, and that's just a tiny number out of all the nurses working in this country today. Depression, anxiety, and burnout are rampant among nurses.....I just don't know why it has to be any of our employers' business that we're treating these conditions.

    Forcing nurses to disclose their mental or physical disabilities is only going to drive the ones with problems underground......how does that protect the public? Please forgive me but that argument simply makes no sense in light of the stigma and discrimination surrounding the so-called 'invisible' illnesses.
    Last edit by VivaLasViejas on Oct 19, '13
    Marshall1, Marisette, poppycat, and 1 other like this.
  3. 3
    Wow. Just wow.
    I started having panic attacks soon after starting the job I'm at now. Full on incapacitating panic; arms numb, hyperventilating, stomach issues, dizziness.... the whole drill. Why? because I left the house. Everyday I was later & later to work, so I could pull over and have my panic attack then let it pass. It was getting to 45 mins to hour late for work. I finally realized I have a problem that I can't handle myself. At this job, they are glad I'm dealing with it, meds or not because I am on time.
    Never really considered taking a new position and what that may mean with my issues and medicines as one is a narcotic. Well, I won't worry over it, just another trigger. I will have to stand up for myself and be who I am. If they decide not to hire, their loss.
    As my doctor has eluded to is I may stop this panic and the meds 6 weeks from now or be still dealing with it 6 years from now. It is a combination of hormones and heredity after thyroid labs and CT scan ruled out hyperthyroidism. Now that I'm where I'm at with this anxiety/panic, I see the women on my Mom's side of the family in terms of anxiety and realize the 6 years is a reasonable option. If not for life.

    Viva, I love your articles. I don't feel so out there & lonely. The responses your articles get are a great help too. Thanks
    VivaLasViejas, Marshall1, and poppycat like this.
  4. 2
    Quote from Marisette
    I can understand the need to withhold information about personal medical history and medications from an employer. However, when starting new employment, drug testing is usually routine. Do any of the medications used to treat mental illness interfere or
    show up with drug screening ?
    Some for anxiety - the Benzo group and those like Adderall but antidepressants like Pristiq, Lexapro, do not. If you are on one that will pop up in a drug test, as long the script is yours there shouldn't be an issue.
    Marisette and VivaLasViejas like this.
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    First of all, V, thank you for posting this two part series. I have been blessed to not have a mental illness until recently. I was laid off in April and I think I am clincially depressed. I have been suicidal. Me, the strong one, the nurse in the family who helps everyone else. I have left 3 jobs in the last 4 months because of my depression. Before that, I was at the job I got laid off from for 14 years. So thank you. I am currently seeking treatment, its not working but I am planning to keep on trucking and keep on working on it until I feel better. Now I have decided to take time off to finish some schooling. I'm just appreciative to read this and to know that there are others out there like me, that I AM NOT all alone. take care all.
    G.
    catebsn25, canigraduate, liebling5, and 2 others like this.
  6. 1
    Welcome, gleasongirl! I'm glad you've joined Allnurses and hope you'll enjoy the site and all it has to offer.

    I'm sorry to hear of your job woes. Believe me, I can empathize, as I've had nothing but trouble with jobs throughout my working life. At least now there's an explanation for the way I've always gotten restless after a few months, or a year or two, and then found myself in some sort of crisis. I only wish I'd found out years ago.

    This is the second of what will be at least a three- or possibly four-part series. In the next installment, we'll discuss self-care strategies and what to do if/when mental illness becomes evident on the job.

    Please take care of yourself, see a doctor, and follow his/her recommendations for treatment. It's amazing what medications and psychotherapy can do these days.
    poppycat likes this.
  7. 1
    Quote from KnitWitch
    I disclosed that I had a history of depression which I treated with therapy and meds, but stated that at this point I was not in therapy and had weaned myself off all meds -- which is true as far as it goes. I feel that this covers me for disclosing past conditions as well as covering me should I have a relapse in the future that renders me unable to work. Right now I am doing really well and I love working. But if that all falls down I DO want something on my record that says, "Yes, I said I had this in my past, you can't accuse me of deceiving you." Just trying to CYA as best I can...

    That has helped me still be in good standing with my recent employer; I don't list it because I didn't make it past probation, because I was having an exacerbation and thought I could "get through it"...lol, what was I thinking?

    My new job I have has NO idea... and I am retuning to a p-doc, where I may be back on some form of meds; guess it will be a bridge I have to cross when I need time off...
    VivaLasViejas likes this.
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    I'm looking forward to reading the next two articles about mental illness. I too lost my job after about 24 years of employment. I submitted my resignation letter after much criticism and bullying from top management. I was terribly understaffed, basically doing it all. I cried three days at home, and at work. Every time someone looked at me quiet tears would come rolling down my face. My employer noticed and informed me that I could return to my job within 3 months if things did not work out with my new employer. I informed my physician about the anxiety but did not get any help, or medications. My new job did not work out, so I returned to my old employer. Only this time, my position was no longer available and I was forced to start over at the bottom of the food chain in a different department. The rumor is that "I burnt myself out" at work. Starting over at the bottom is not easy. I went back to my physician and asked for help and this time, I was started on anti-depressants. I ask myself is my job that stressful or is this just me? I consider myself lucky to have a job at this time, although, I drag myself in and I'm barely able to make it through the day. So far, I have been on medication for one week and have not noticed a difference. I do not tell anyone at work or family or friends about my "condition". In the past mention of anxiety has resulted in comments such as "toughen up", "ignore it", so it's just between me and the doc now. I have never suffered from mental illness before.
  9. 3
    (((((Marisette)))))

    FWIW, antidepressants don't usually kick in right away---they take anywhere from 1-6 weeks to start improving symptoms, and 6-12 weeks to produce a complete response. Please give your treatment a trial of at least a couple more weeks, and then call your doctor if there's no light at the end of the tunnel yet. I know it's frustrating to have to wait for meds to work, but sooner or later it WILL get better, even if you don't have a full response to your current medication. It's the nature of mood disorders.....nothing lasts forever, even though it sure FEELS that way sometimes.

    Your depression and anxiety are real. Don't let ignorant statements that people have made in the past make you feel as if your condition isn't a legitimate illness. People can be such idiots sometimes......just because they can't SEE an illness doesn't make it any less the truth for the person who has it.

    And, do try not to get too hung up on the term 'mental illness'. This is from someone who needed a whole year to get over what I felt to be the shame of being diagnosed with one. There are a gazillion nurses out there who are just like you, suffering from depression and anxiety in no small part due to the stresses of the job, and every one of them can be considered 'mentally ill' at the time they're experiencing symptoms. You've got a LOT of company, hon. Hang in there!
    liebling5, CrazyCoconut, and poppycat like this.
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    I am new to this, tomorrow morning I go for a PTSD evaluation. This is the first time seeking MH care ever, and have been having increased symptoms since opening up at home and with my PCP. Since I'm a vet and I work with the VA I'll be having this done at my place of employment.
    I do have some reservations with this but then again I don't. My reservations I think come from my symptoms and my tendancy to keep quiet about everything. I have come open to a few coworkers I know I can trust with similar diagnoses. I feel that in this environment I can be more open about things because they have shown me the same trust when they have had issues. Plus the fact this is a union facility I feel a little more protected (I hope to not be shown otherwise).
    poppycat and VivaLasViejas like this.


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