Do Not Over-Share!

  1. 34

    Bipolar disorder and other mental health issues are still very much stigmatized in many healthcare settings. Moreover, some physical ailments carry a stigma. Do you disclose your health problems to your employer? Do you disclose your prescribed medications?

    I first met Toni in the summer of 2010.

    Toni (not her real name) was an average-height woman in her late 40s with a medium build, gray eyes and dark brown hair that fell several inches below her shoulders. She was a floor LVN at the same specialty rehab hospital where I still work. And she was one of the most proficient, highly skilled nurses I had ever met. With nearly 30 years of experience, this woman was a valuable resource who could run circles around virtually every other nurse on the unit. It's unfortunate I only got to work with her for a grand total of three months.

    Toni lacked a verbal filter. She talked too much about her personal issues: the perpetually unemployed husband who cheated on her, the slacker adult children, and so forth. Once she revealed to her coworkers that she had bipolar disorder, they began to whisper to themselves, "This woman is so crazy!" As soon as she disclosed that she was not being treated for her issue, some coworkers placed a bulls-eye on her back and began to target her. And eight years of dedicated employment went down the drain as she was forced to resign over a questionable accusation made by a student nurse who was completing clinical rotations in the facility.

    Prior to Toni's revelation that she suffered from bipolar disorder, no one bothered her.

    Bipolar disorder and other mental health issues are still stigmatized in healthcare settings, whether or not anyone wants to believe it. I am cognizant that many state boards of nursing require nurses to disclose certain mental illnesses. However, if management or the employee health department at your place of employment is not asking about your health conditions, I would not divulge to any of your coworkers that you have any type of mental illness, because it is unfortunate and inevitable that some of these people will label you as 'nutty' or 'unstable.'

    Also, develop an internal filter that will prevent you from sharing your personal problems that are none of your coworkers' business. Smile, be pleasant, and play the game. Do not over-share!

    It took me some time to learn this lesson because I also have a history of mental health problems. I was treated for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the distant past and took medications for a while. I am also an extreme introvert who doesn't particularly enjoy mingling and small talk. Prior to sharing too much information at a previous workplace several years ago, coworkers largely respected me. However, once I casually mentioned my childhood traumas and other personal issues surrounding depression, people began to whisper that I was "weird."

    To wrap things up, Toni's forced resignation taught me a couple of lessons that will remain in my awareness for the rest of my working career. For starters, if no one is asking about your mental health issues at the job, do not share unless you wish to be stigmatized. Second, if no one is asking about your physical health problems at the job, I also see no need to share this information unless your employee health department has a specific reason to know.

    Finally, get an internal filter as soon as possible. Talk about superficial topics such as the vacation you recently took, the wedding you attended or your kid's birthday party. Anything more personal is none of your coworkers' business.
    Last edit by Joe V on Dec 4, '13

    Enjoy this?

    Join thousands and get our weekly Nursing Insights newsletter with the hottest discussions, articles, and toons.

  2. Visit  TheCommuter profile page

    About TheCommuter , BSN, RN

    TheCommuter is a moderator of allnurses.com and has varied workplace experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for four years prior to becoming a registered nurse.

    TheCommuter has '9' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'acute rehabilitation (CRRN), LTC & psych'. From 'Fort Worth, Texas, USA'; 34 Years Old; Joined Feb '05; Posts: 29,856; Likes: 46,446.

    Read My Articles

    83 Comments so far...

  3. Visit  subee profile page
    1
    Being bi-polar is one thing, but working as an "untreated" bipolar (her words) is another. And I'm sure long before she admitted to being an untreated bipolar (who made this diagnosis?) she made people uncomfortable because she's sharing stuff people don't want to know trampling on everyone's boundaries, including those in her own family. So, not an employee I would want to have around, especially since she refuses treatment. I don't blame them for firing her.
    bloodorange likes this.
  4. Visit  The_Optimist profile page
    8
    The bipolar disorder did not get Toni fired (love that name); her lack of a verbal filter got her fired.
  5. Visit  RNdynamic profile page
    2
    If there is a specter of past substance abuse as well, you will be stigmatized. MAJORLY.
    poppycat and mamagui like this.
  6. Visit  TheCommuter profile page
    8
    Quote from subee
    And I'm sure long before she admitted to being an untreated bipolar (who made this diagnosis?) she made people uncomfortable because she's sharing stuff people don't want to know trampling on everyone's boundaries, including those in her own family.
    Quote from The_Optimist
    The bipolar disorder did not get Toni fired (love that name); her lack of a verbal filter got her fired.
    Very true. . .but management and my coworkers at my place of employment had been dealing with her candor and lack of a verbal filter for 7+ years. Once she revealed she had untreated bipolar disorder, management made the decision to get her out of there.

    Prior to disclosing her diagnosis of bipolar disorder, she was considered a blunt over-sharer who perhaps lacked some tact and grace when dealing with coworkers. She always received compliments from her patients and was a proficient nurse.

    After disclosing her history of bipolar disorder, all of a sudden Toni was labeled "a crazy nurse" who needed to be gone.

    Another lesson learned: interpersonal skills will either make or break you!
    vintagemother, imintrouble, Mully, and 5 others like this.
  7. Visit  The_Optimist profile page
    0
    Quote from TheCommuter
    Prior to disclosing her diagnosis of bipolar disorder, she was considered a blunt over-sharer who perhaps lacked some tact and grace when dealing with coworkers. She always received compliments from her patients and was a proficient nurse.

    After disclosing her history of bipolar disorder, all of a sudden Toni was labeled "a crazy nurse" who needed to be gone.

    Another lesson learned: interpersonal skills will either make or break you!
    You call it candor? That was too much information that didn't need sharing in a workplace environment. The revelation of her "bipolar disorder" was the concrete reason for management to part ways with her. Might make one wonder what she shared with her patients.

    If it was that easy for her coworkers to turn on her, they must not have really liked her in the first place.
  8. Visit  LadyFree28 profile page
    0
    Agree..."over sharing" such issues can affect your career...although sometimes "over sharing" in a succinct way can help...at least for me; I over shared with employ health and certain management at a previous employer; my over sharing during a PTSD exacerbation prevented me for a do not hire.
  9. Visit  CrunchRN profile page
    3
    I have seen over sharing come back to bite many people in the butt in the work place. Smile, be friendly, and share surface/filtered versions of things is great advice that you gave.
  10. Visit  ThePrincessBride profile page
    6
    Ha! I couldn have written this post last week. Great advice!

    I have Borderline Personality Disorder, severe anxiety and clinical depression. I've been in and out of psych wards, but I am now stable and on medication. But guess what? I have never divulged this to a single coworker or employer.

    People are so ignorant and judgemental especially about things they don't understand. Toni could have taken the employer to court over this.
    Brooksbelle, imintrouble, mamagui, and 3 others like this.
  11. Visit  Nalon1 RN/EMT-P profile page
    11
    One of many reasons I am pleasant with co-workers, but do not talk about personal stuff with any of them.
    Work is work, home is home. I do not mix the 2.
  12. Visit  Meriwhen profile page
    6
    And this is why I say "NO" when nurses wanting to work in psych ask if they should share their MH diagnosis to help land the job. More often than not, it comes back to bite you in the rear. You're not "identifying" with the patient population--you're placing a target on your back instead.
    Last edit by Meriwhen on Dec 3, '13
  13. Visit  jtmarcy12 profile page
    5
    Commuter: You have such a way with words and such excellent verbal and communications skills,etc Have you thought of writing a book?
    Alana R., TheCommuter, sharanza930, and 2 others like this.
  14. Visit  VivaLasViejas profile page
    10
    This really hit home for me, as I myself have a history of over-sharing to the point where my capabilities were seriously questioned and I wound up losing my job in May of this year.

    Unfortunately, with bipolar individuals the over-sharing usually comes during an episode of hypomania or mania, when the filters we do have go missing, and our mouths work even faster than our overheated brains. Mania writes checks our bodies can't cash, so when the episode is over, we often find ourselves in a hot mess that we may not be able to clean up, and that's when lives can begin to unravel.

    The take-home lesson here, of course, is NEVER disclose sensitive personal information to your co-workers and/or supervisors that you wouldn't want the entire world to know about. While mental illness is not something to be ashamed of, like The Commuter says there is still enough of a stigma attached that you will be labeled as "kooky", "crazy", "unstable" and other unflattering descriptors.

    It's a sad commentary on nursing culture that a profession known for compassion is often so judgmental toward nurses with psychiatric issues. But it is what it is, and until that culture changes we need to remain "closeted" as much as possible.


Nursing Jobs in every specialty and state. Visit today and find your dream job.

Top