Nurses struggling with mental illness

  1. 18
    I was just wondering if there are any other nurses who struggle with mental illness. It seems to be one disability that is met with little tolerance and support in the medical field. I do have major co-morbid mental illness, Major depression/PTSD/DID, and have had many problems in my career. I have been in therapy and on meds for a long time and have worked very hard to be functional, and I have suprised myself by what I have been able to achieve. Currently, I am a hospice nurse in a residential setting and it seems that I have found my niche. It doesn't aggravate my illness too much. I am very busy at times and most of my job revolves in much cognitive thinking and decision making about the best ways to respond to a patient's emerging or existing symptoms, and in assessing patients to see where they are in the dying process, plus lots of educating to patients and families. My extensive personal trauma background has made me able to have a different perspective on death and don't see it as the scary thing that is SO SAD, that a lot of people do. Plus, because of the things that I have been through, I am more able to be compassionate and understanding of patients and their fears. I especially do well with patients with existing mental illness or lots of anxiety. I notice that a lot of nurses have little tolerance for a patients anxiety and are not willing to take the extra time to walk them through things and provide the extra reassurance that they need.
    Yes, there are some nursing jobs that I don't think I would be able to do because of the fast on the spot life and death action necessary. ER and Trauma/Burn are pretty much out for me. But thats OK. A lot of nurses couldn't handle doing what I do either for their own reasons. We are all suited to certain things.
    Having mental illness doesn't automatically make you unsuited for the nursing profession. Even though I have heard many times, "what are you doing here?" "Shouldn't you be doing something else, less stressful?"
    I am here and am doing the thing I am suited for. Yes sometimes I have to take time off due to my illness, but its no different than somone who has flare ups of a chronic physical illness like lupus, chronic fatigue, or fibromyalgia.

    I would like to know how other nurses have coped with their own illness and their nursing careers.

    Severina
    SHGR, virgo,student nurse, CrissieD, and 15 others like this.
  2. 867 Comments so far...

  3. 1
    Severina, it sounds like you've done an amazing job of finding your niche. You're a perfect fit for your job AND it's compatible with your illness. Your doctors/therapists must be so proud at their (I mean YOUR!) success.

    I deal with major depression, "delayed sleep syndrome" which worsens my depression, anxiety, and a touch of SAD living in the frozen northeast. It has its ups and downs. ICU nursing wasn't good for my anxiety at the beginning, but now that I trust my skills it's good that I have a low threshold for noticing changes in pts. I am going to CRNA school and I'm sure it will be hell on wheels for a while, but I'm not going to let my condition stop me from doing what I want.
    lesrn2005 likes this.
  4. 2
    Quote from Severina
    I would like to know how other nurses have coped with their own illness and their nursing careers.

    Severina
    Hi Severina! Thanks for writing!

    I'm an RN (since 81) and have had difficulty with depression, anxiety, and bipolar illness. Many times I've had to take extended "vacations" and I wish I could have considered it like a "flare up" of any other medical condition! I have to say that all things considered I have done very well. I have found my niche in geriatrics and when I am well it fits pretty well.

    Anyway, I have been out of work since Oct 03. Tried several meds and nothing seems to be getting me out of the depression! I am so sick of it!

    Doc is now talking about ECT which scares the living .... out of me...
    CNA student and xtendedmind like this.
  5. 0
    ps What is "DID"

    What is "delayed sleep syndrome"?


    Oh and I do also have PTSD. Lovely
  6. 0
    Congratulations Severina.
    Also well done Apais RN for coping.
    I don't think that I have a personal mental challenge, but I have worked with a lot of people with mental illnesses as a psychiatric trained nurse and have grown to understand a lot about different ways of coping with mental problems. Unfortunately too many tend to 'give up' and by virtue of their illness they are unable to reverse the situation without lots of support. Some even then with hospitalization and lots of support (includuing medication) still are unable to function well. Good luck to all you nurses who have found a position where you can cope. You can give a lot of hope to others by your example.
    God bless.
    Mister Chris
  7. 1
    Hello Everyone,

    I have been viewing the different threads at allnurses.com for the last 2 years. I've learned alot about the nursing field and some of the in/outs and gripes that accompany and field, not just nursing. Right now I'm in my last semester of pre-nursing classes, before clinicals. I have hoped and prayed for the last 2 years for someone (above) to give me a "sign" that I should pursue nursing for my career. The thought of being a nurse almost give me "chills", in a really good way. My mother, 2 grandmothers, and aunt are all RN's and I look up to them so much. My husband thinks I have a "calling" to be a nurse, as he would put it...and my family thinks its the best career fit for me. I am currently an administrative assistant (A.A. Business Admin) for a large company and am miserable.

    Which brings me to the reason for my post. I also have severe anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, and suffer from panic attacks, which are treated with Ativan PRN (yeah, my first nursing term!!!!)...I have taken SSRI's etc.. before...none seem to help enough to override the side effects (weight gain, lack of desire for intimacy) to keep me on them....but I wonder if I will be able to "keep" it together in the nursing field. I also have a hard time sleeping...I take 3 mg ativan to go to sleep....I worry about having to work 3rd shift and being really out of sync with reality. I would LOVE the 3-11 shift or any combo of 2nd shift..i just don't think i could do the overnight thing..i mean physically..without being so "out-of-it" i would probably end up in the hospital or worse....

    So basically, I'd great to read this post and it's what has prompted me to finally register and post a reply myself. I know from reading your posts that some people take ssri's...which one's work and do you notice the side effects?..And do you think "condition" would interfere with my career as a nurse. Do you really have to be tough as nails?....Any information from anyone interested in helping me on the quest would be appreciated in the utmost. I think becoming a nurse will do wonders for my being..I want to find my niche' , too!!
    Lynx12 likes this.
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    Hi Severina!!! My mom is a nurse with severe depression, and bipolar disorder. I am really worried about her becuse she won't take her meds and she is really just in deial about her situation. The board of nursing took her lisence and she hasn't been working since then. She has a desire to go back, but I know she wil never last because of her mental state. She just doesn't think she is ill. I just don'tknow what to do. I see you are from the Detroit area, as me and my mom are too. I don't want to get too personal but could you offer some advice? Anyone that wants to reply can. I want o become a nurse too, I am not finished with my prereqs yet, and eventually I would like to be a crna, so I have been reading posts from this site for a long time. I just would like a little more insight on this and some suggestions that I could do for my mom. I know that I can't force her to get herself some help but, I can atleast try to lead her to some help. Thanks for reading!!!!!
    xtendedmind likes this.
  9. 0
    DID=dissociative identity disorder. Used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder
  10. 4
    Quote from giada23
    Hi Severina!!! My mom is a nurse with severe depression, and bipolar disorder. I am really worried about her becuse she won't take her meds and she is really just in deial about her situation. The board of nursing took her lisence and she hasn't been working since then. She has a desire to go back, but I know she wil never last because of her mental state. She just doesn't think she is ill. I just don'tknow what to do. I see you are from the Detroit area, as me and my mom are too. I don't want to get too personal but could you offer some advice? Anyone that wants to reply can. I want o become a nurse too, I am not finished with my prereqs yet, and eventually I would like to be a crna, so I have been reading posts from this site for a long time. I just would like a little more insight on this and some suggestions that I could do for my mom. I know that I can't force her to get herself some help but, I can atleast try to lead her to some help. Thanks for reading!!!!!
    I am currently a nursing student and I have Bipolar Disorder and Anxiety Disorder. I grew up with a Father who is Bipolar and still doesn't take his meds. I wish I had some great news to give you but like you said you can't force someone to get help if they don't want it. I do my best to talk to him and make him realize that the illness doesn't just affect him. My personal experience with Bipolar Disorder is take your meds, see your counselor, and fight it with everything you have. It's like anything, if you give up it's over. As for your situation I would learn as much as possible about the disorder and I would let her know that you are there for her and empathize with what she is going through. Also, let her know how this affects you and everyone else around her even though she doesn't realize it. Hope this helps a little.
  11. 2
    Delayed sleep syndrome is a fancy name for lazy . . . no, seriously, it is a real diagnosis where your internal clock wants to shift forward. Left to myself, I stay up later and later and sleep later and later, and can't sleep in sync with the rest of the world. It was disastrous when I was working evenings. For me it's just a matter of staying on top of it, getting to bed at a decent hour and having things I HAVE to go to, like work and class, that keep me getting up before noon. Occasional Ativan for sleep is good too. It's not that I'm a night owl, per se, I don't LIKE being up at night. My brain just wants me to.
    Thornbird and xtendedmind like this.


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