For Whom The Bell Tolls
This is a story about a nurse whose serious mental illness gradually takes over her life and career to the point where she can no longer perform the duties of the job she once loved, and on which she has expended so much of her considerable energy and dedication over the years.
As my favorite author, Erma Bombeck, once said: "There is no way that your foot will ever get well as long as there is a horse standing on it."
In my case, that means I won't get well until there is less stress in my life, and the only way to have less stress in my life is to get away from its source. Today, I finally came to understand that my once-loved job is that metaphorical beast, and it's not only standing on my foot but grinding it into the dirt, crushing the delicate bones to powder and causing wounds that will take much time and care to heal.
Today, I feel less like Erma and more like Ernest Hemingway, who penned the book I borrowed my title from and who was afflicted with the same disorder I have. Not to worry---I'm ANGRY, not suicidal---but I'm as finished with this job as he was with life. I can't do this anymore. I burst into tears three separate times in the first six hours of the workday, and I don't normally cry that much in six months.
The epiphany came as I was driving home after a 90-minute meeting with my director and the corporate nurse consultant. I've been out on medical leave for almost three weeks due to a flare-up of mania and work-related anxiety attacks; today, it all came to a head as both my illness and my job performance were discussed at length, and the accommodations recommended by my psychiatrist systematically picked apart one by one (there were only three).
What it all boiled down to, essentially, was that I'm nowhere near as good at my job as I thought I was. I was given no credit whatsoever for my efforts during what have been some very hard times for me over the past 18 months, and told that conditions at work are only going to get worse over the next few months as we try to pass our final re-survey. We're about to go into stop-placement because of documentation issues in health services. Translated: I've steered the Titanic into the iceberg, and now we're headed to the bottom of the Atlantic.
As if that weren't enough to destroy what little self-confidence I had left, I was also informed that I am considered "unstable" and that my staff doesn't trust me. And while nobody was suggesting that I put in my 30-day notice, I was reminded that failure to pass re-survey would result in termination, and then sent home for a couple of days to contemplate what sort of future I envision for myself. In the meantime, my bosses were discussing my condition and its impact with the corporate powers that be, thereby ensuring my utter humiliation no matter how good their intentions.
On my way out of the office, I apologized reflexively for being such a pain in the rear. I've been doing that a lot lately. The nurse consultant smiled, shook her head sadly and said, "It's not your fault. It's chemical."
Wow. Who knew that an entire life could be explained in two words: it's chemical. And while that may be at least partly true, it doesn't make me feel any better about what's happening to me.
Still, the die has been cast, and my decision has been made. Not one single person I've talked to in the past two weeks has encouraged me to hang in there and fight; family and friends alike are telling me the opposite. Even my psychiatrist has been after me for months to consider a job change, and he knows almost as well as I do how tight the job market is for health professionals. That's how bad things have become.
How I wish things hadn't turned out like this......I've loved this job ever since the first day I walked in the front door and a resident asked me if I was the new move-in. I've never so much as looked at a want ad since then. But how does a manager recover from the impression that she's "mental"? And worse, how does a nurse who's never accepted any limitations deal with the fact that not only does she have a major one, but it affects her to the point where she can no longer do the only work she knows how to do?
Today, there are no answers.....other than the fact that I have bipolar disorder, and I know for whom the bell announcing the death of a career tolls: it tolls for me.Last edit by Joe V on May 1, '13
About VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN Guide
Joined: Sep '02; Posts: 26,726; Likes: 43,489
RN and blogger extraordinaire; from OR , US
Specialty: 20 year(s) of experience in LTC, assisted living, geriatrics, psychApr 30, '13Oh how I wish I could jump thru this screen and give you a bear hug (and trust me....I am NOT a hugger - only to those in desperate need of a little extra love).
You hang in there and FIGHT!!! Not for the job but for YOU!!!Apr 30, '13No, Viva, your career is not over. Your time at this job is over. You are too brilliant not to persevere.
Here is what I see: I see a wonderful person who is currently in a phase of grief. Life wasn't supposed to be this complicated. Things weren't supposed to work this way. As you have said, you planned to retire from this job. And when plans which we have carefully and painstakingly plotted fail to come to fruition, it is only natural that we mourn the loss of the ideal.
It's perfectly okay and natural to be angry. It's not fair. Not even a little bit. You didn't ask for this, you sure as shoot didn't search for it, and yet it has so much power over every little thing.
You are wounded, my friend, and rightfully so. You have suffered through a nasty few bruises to the ego.
But I am going to challenge your perspective for just a moment. I want to know why it is okay for these couple of folks to set the bar for your self worth. I want you to ponder what gives them the right or the power to make you feel like a failure. Who are they to bring you so low?
And what you detailed above is not a supportive work environment. To me, it sounds as if your managers are fluent in double speak as you cannot tell someone suffering from anxiety that you are understanding and then turn around and mention offhand that a failure to pass an inspection will result in termination. No, that's not applying any pressure. Not at all.
It seems to me that although they were willing to accommodate medically necessary time away, they were not so willing to help you find a position that alleviated stress while tapping into your strengths and shielding you from the line of fire.
Things I know about you without ever meeting you:
You are a loving person who is family focused. You are devoted to a fault, a bit of a perfectionist, and by and far your own worst critic. I'm willing to bet you hide behind your smiles and humor, making a bold face of an impervious mask, and yet you are sensitive to what is said and done around you. But you are a brilliant individual with a flair for self expression and a knack for making connections with people yet you are pensive and capable of great self reflection. You are special, unique, and important.
Please let today be the last time you apologize for being who you are.
Hugs and hopes that time may bring healing,
~~CP~~Apr 30, '13Maybe you just need a change of scenery. Sometimes, where you are working can be toxic- the schedule, the people, the attitudes, how it makes you feel at the end of the day. When I left the career I was in before this, I didn't get a single gray hair for almost ten months. It wasn't that I had a bad job (yes, it was stressful at times and just the normal grind associated with it, all jobs are that way), but whenever I was not doing it anymore, there was just so much peace and joy that I had been missing.Apr 30, '13Viva, I'm sorry this is such a rough time. With all your great qualities and experience I hope you transition smoothly to the next step, whatever that is. Most of all, don't let them define you! You're a wonderful person, a very engaging writer, and I hope you find time to pen that memoir on the beach.Apr 30, '13OK, now y'all have done it......crying jag #4 coming right up!......
Thank you.......I really do feel better now.May 1, '13Hugs!! Have you ever thought this is not all your fault? If you had the right support from work and I mean enough resources to do your job, you would have not been stressed? Time to move on, things will get better.May 1, '13Viva,
You are a splendid writer! It's admiring really, I am no one to belittle the hardship that you are going through, yet I believe in you, you can and will overcome this big bump in your life. I am going through a situation in my life that is similar to yours in that I failed, and I never expected this, never imagined myself in this position. Your quote caught my attention because I quickly connected it to what I'm going through. There is another thing that we have in common also, we will always always always have that heart of a nurse, that is something that nobody can take away. I would advice you to use your amazing writing to help others, please do! We need writers like you!! And also...DONT GIVE UP on your career of nursing because whether you say you can or can't you will always be right. Believe in yourself...I do!May 1, '13Quote from Gris123Thank you, and Welcome to Allnurses!!Viva,
You are a splendid writer! It's admiring really, I am no one to belittle the hardship that you are going through, yet I believe in you, you can and will overcome this big bump in your life. I am going through a situation in my life that is similar to yours in that I failed, and I never expected this, never imagined myself in this position. Your quote caught my attention because I quickly connected it to what I'm going through. There is another thing that we have in common also, we will always always always have that heart of a nurse, that is something that nobody can take away. I would advice you to use your amazing writing to help others, please do! We need writers like you!! And also...DONT GIVE UP on your career of nursing because whether you say you can or can't you will always be right. Believe in yourself...I do!May 1, '13My dear Viva, I am rendered mute with sorrow for your situation so eloquently expressed. The unappreciated toil of a well-loved career. Words fail me. An image of a champion thoroughbred suffering a race-ending injury brought on by the act of racing. Such a contrast to the thread by some nurse-newbie who is burnt out after 4 years. Good gravy, by all means take your little girl nurse fantasies and go work in your 9-5 M-F cubical with computers.
Thank you CheesePotato for saying what I can't and offering a supportive shoulder. You too, have a way with words.Last edit by Mavrick on May 1, '13May 1, '13Life wouldn't be a journey without bumps in the road, personal or profeesional. Who knows what the future has in store for you! I hope you find some peace and resolve with whatever decision you make! Follow your instinct and don't look back!May 1, '13Thank you for showing us your courage and sharing this very intense part of your life right now. I appreciate it.
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