I'm a bipolar student. Should I drop out?

  1. 0
    I'm starting my second year of nursing school and already I'm beginning to feel the pressure. Just to give a little bit of background information, I came into the program with a relatively low gpa and I am bipolar type 1. Last year I barely made it. Everything was going pretty good until I got to clinicals. From there I couldn't put the theory into practice and have gotten bad feedback from nurses I worked with. My main issues have been prioritizing my care, my attention span, and time management.

    Today I received my evaluation from my instructor and she told me that I'm having the same problems from last year. This brought back those old feelings of inadequacy and made me question whether or not I should continue to go on. I always thought about quitting, but my pride prevented me from doing so. Now I'm seriously considering it.

    There are so many issues I have that are making school very difficult, especially being bipolar. During class I have to exert a lot of energy to concentrate and I have a lot of emotional episodes in the middle of class that I have to control. Should I quit? Will I be a good nurse if I continue? Can I rectify these issues before I have patients? I'm completely lost and I need some advice.
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  3. 20 Comments so far...

  4. 4
    I was JUST diagnosed Bipolar, I'm 25 years old, I'm an LVN & have been for almost 4 years. If you're in your second year of the nursing program it proves you can do it. I did & it was all before I was diagnosed. If you're having problems you might want to go to your psychiatrist & change your meds or have a visit with your therapist. There are many, many nurses who have that diagnosis or other mental illness. You just have to have the right mix of things (meds, therapy, etc). Check the 'Nurses with Disabilities' forum & don't let this get you down!
    bella_, VivaLasViejas, poppycat, and 1 other like this.
  5. 1
    Thanks itzvalerie. How does your condition affect your work performance? I noticed that with myself that not only does my attention decrease, but I'm also very hard on myself when I do make mistakes. I tend to catastrophize my situation to the extreme and I end up thinking to myself "One day you're going to kill a patient because of your inability to comprehend a concept and/or perform a task." How do you deal with making mistakes? What kind of difficulties did you endure and how did you persevere in nursing school or your job now?
    NurseDirtyBird likes this.
  6. 5
    Before you quit, you should consider your therapeutic options first, like the person above stated. Also, look at your cognitive processes. Look at why you're having such a difficult time with your time management and prioritization of care. I use a "brain sheet" to keep track of what's going on and when. I also use it to help me figure out what I should do first.

    I'm sure you already know this, but remember that prioritization of care is nothing more than sequencing things in order of importance. It's also dynamic because something could change, thus changing the order things are done.

    Time Management is basically a cousin of prioritization. You want to get things done in the most efficient manner possible. In effect, how can I create the most free time for me while getting everything done that needs to be done. Some patients you'll have to spend more time with, others you can just pop in to do something and poof, you're on to the next one.

    For matters of concentration, perhaps look at your diet... I know that if I eat a carb-heavy meal I will end up nearly nodding off in class or have to struggle to pay attention in clinical. So I try to do smaller meals that are lower carb and higher protein. If diet's not your issue, that's fine! Drive at finding the cause and seek the appropriate therapy for it. The forum above has lots of people that have various issues and they may have more suggestions about what you can do to improve things.

    I certainly don't think you should quit just because you're Bipolar. That's your last, I've tried everything else and I'm unsafe, option. I struggle with some of the same issues you do... and I'm just a regular student that doesn't have the emotional issues you do. Most of my classmates are in the same boat... we're all still learning to prioritize and manage our time more effectively. I honestly hope you're able to figure out a system that works for you to at least allow you to improve in these areas.
  7. 4
    I was kinda ok through nursing school. It was a small class, we really helped each other & the teachers helped us too. It's getting worse now. I'm trying to study for the TEAS test to bridge & for the LIFE of me I am having such a hard time studying. I haven't been able to get a job (I went back to PDN, but I didn't want to). The last interview I went on I didn't get, I broke down in my car & was balling to my ex the whole drive home. I was hysterical!

    I have a sketchy job history. I haven't been able to hold a job for a year. Something happens, I have a break down & leave. Once I get on the right meds & get a good therapist I know it will come to a stop.

    If you need anything I'm here & you can always PM me.
    pinkiepieRN, poppycat, Sailnskinurse, and 1 other like this.
  8. 9
    Hello, and welcome to Allnurses! Perhaps I can help you out a little bit.

    I've been a nurse for 16 years and am bipolar 1. Although I wasn't diagnosed until a couple of years ago, I've struggled all my life and had to work twice as hard as a "normal" person for everything I've ever had, in almost every area of life. My illness is well-managed now, but my career was almost ruined before I got some control over the bipolar. I've lost jobs, had breakdowns, made HUGE errors in judgment, and alienated people. I have trouble focusing/concentrating, tend to become easily overstimulated and irritable, can't handle rapidly shifting priorities, and depending on my mood, can be either withdrawn or intrusive.

    But I'm still a nurse. I take medications and see my psychiatrist regularly, plus I try to maintain other good health habits. And for the most part, I do pretty well now that I know what my limitations are and stick to them.

    It CAN be done. Bipolar people CAN be nurses. You've made it this far; it just sounds like your illness is not well-managed and that you need to fine-tune your medication program, if you have one, and/or be re-evaluated to make sure you're not dealing with another psychiatric illness as well as the BP. Please see your mental health professional ASAP, or if you don't have one, find one! If money is an issue, call your county health clinic to see if they offer mental health services; if you're having trouble affording medications, there are also prescription programs that help provide psychiatric drugs at low or no cost.

    Make sure you are taking good care of your physical health as well. Nursing school is very stressful, as you know, and you need to eat well, find some kind of exercise that you'll do regularly, and especially get plenty of rest and sleep. You're probably aware that as sleep goes, so goes bipolar---too much can signal depression, and too little is often linked to manic episodes.

    Keep coming back here to Allnurses, as well. There is a sizable number of nurses here with mental illness who are more than willing to share what helps them and give each other support during tough times. You'll find very little, if any judgmentalism here as we have done quite a lot of education on MH issues.

    Wishing you the best.
    bella_, pinkiepieRN, gonzo1, and 6 others like this.
  9. 0
    threads merged as per the Terms of Service
  10. 7
    This is a great thread- the support and encouragement here is wonderful.

    My son, 13, has the same diagnosis.

    The whirlwind of finding the right meds, a dr who really, truly understood the condition, and a cognitive behavioral therapist that fit made all of the difference in the world. Didn't make the struggles go away, but gave us the tools to be able to handle them.

    Medication is essential. The right med for you, that is. But without CBT, we'd still be at square zero.

    It's taken six therapists to find the right one for my son. We've just had to keep pushing through and knowing the right one was out there.

    Do you have an advocate? A friend, companion, family member who can help you by keeping an eye on symptoms and in which you can confide?

    You can do this.
    pinkiepieRN, poppycat, SHGR, and 4 others like this.
  11. 4
    NO! Don't quit just because you're bipolar! Yes, it's causing (short term) problems, but these problems can be solved! I hadn't been diagnosed yet when I was in nursing school, and I sure had some trouble myself. I'm BP2 and an introvert. I had issues with my confidence, especially with interacting with patients in clinicals. I had the knowledge base - I could answer questions about meds and disease processes and churned out winning care plans like I was paid to do it. But god help me if I made a mistake, it was the end of the world. During some rotations, I would end up crying every night because of frustration and a feeling of helplessness when it came to caring for my patients. I had to push through, and most of all, try very hard to make sure I had some balance. I was lucky enough to not have to work through school, and I didn't have kids at the time, so my home life was calm. I made it through with a B average and passed my boards the first try.
    Self care is key! Previous posters have gone into detail about this, but I'll add this: Missing meals, missing sleep, missing your workout (or whatever) routine can trigger an episode. And that will not serve you well in school.

    As far as working after school, your first orientation process, and even your first year, is going to be difficult. But that is the case for every new nurse. You will slowly gain confidence and time management abilities. You will have to fake it until you make it. You may have to fake it the whole time. I'm still nervous meeting new patients, but I've learned how to put on a show for work. You'll find you're different at work. The main thing you have to be careful about is making sure you realize when you are NOT safe to work. During a (hypo)manic phase, I think everything is fine, I'm great, I'm super nurse, but my judgement is not always the best. I had a psychiatrist who was willing to tell me when I was not safe to work and advise me to take some medical leave. I always did, whether I felt like I needed it or not.
    Now I work PRN. Once again, I'm lucky I don't need to work full time, that is not the case for many. It's the only way I can maintain balance. It keeps me from work-stress-induced craziness, and keeps me from going stir-crazy at home. And stress is indeed a trigger for many.
    Don't forget that after school, there are many fields of nursing, and you can and will find one you excel in. You may need to find a less-stressful environment, or work part time in order to keep yourself on the level.
    I love what I do, I also recognize my limitations. Learn your limits, keep within them, and you'll do fine.
    bella_, pinkiepieRN, renardeau, and 1 other like this.
  12. 2
    Does your school offer any type of educational assistance/tutoring for students with disabilities? You should definitely take advantage of their expertise. Many of us had to learn how to learn, I didn't until college myself. They should even be able to establish what type of learner you are (visual, audio, or kinetic or combination thereof).

    Also agree with posters above to work with your therapist and psychiatrist on cognitive and other methods to survive not only nursing school but the daily pressures of life. A great counselor once used the following technique with me: If you're having a moment where it feels like everything is caving in, talk to yourself not in your own voice, but as your best friend would. Would your best friend really say it's 100% bad? No, they would be objective and say maybe 10% is bad and the other is still within your control and can turn out well, and give you pep talk.

    Please don't give up. Your personal traits could bring a lot of empathy and insight to the healthcare field.
    renardeau and VivaLasViejas like this.


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