Nurses struggling with mental illness - page 2

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... Read More

  1. by   ARNPsomeday
    hello, severina. i hope to graduate as an rn in eleven months.

    i too struggle with mental illness. major depression, but it's in remission. like you, i have contemplated hospice care for the same reason, i do not see dying as the worst thing that can happen to a person. psych is another area in which i hope to be functional and valuable.

    "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."
    thanks for your constructive perspective! i'm going to keep it in mind and pass it on.

    (edited for clarity)
    Last edit by ARNPsomeday on Feb 26, '05
  2. by   perfectbluebuildings
    Hi you all,
    I have a very good friend who was recently diagnosed with Schizophrenia, and she is starting her first year of nursing school and she really enjoys it- she says as she takes her meds and sees her doctor it really helps; she seems to be doing a lot better. It is good to read about so many of your all's successes and gives me even more hope for her. I salute all of you who manage to do nursing with mental illness- nursing is hard enough on the mind and emotions for anyone. I admire your spirits.
  3. by   Severina
    Wow, thanks for all the replies. I guess there are a lot of nurses out there with these problems. It just seems that in nursing there is a lot of pressure to be "tough" and perfect.
    To ARPN: I admire you for pursuing this career, and funtionality and wholeness. In order to do though, you have to work hard at internal communication and cooperation. I lost a really good job in an onc/hem/BMT unit because I had recently found out about the DID and didn't know how to deal with the emerging alters. Many of them (young ones) were terrified of being in the environment and of "doing things to people". I also wasn't on the right meds, although I was in therapy. One day I was dissociated and was walking around like a zombie, being slow and my preceptor picked up on the difference with me. I tried to be vague about it, but she and other higher ups pushed me further for what was wrong. I ended up breaking down and divulging my abuse history and diagnosis to them. They gave me one week to have a psychiatrist write an official letter stating that I was safe to work there. This was impossible. I did get in to see a psychiatrist who put me on the right meds to manage my condition at the time, but it wasn't soon enough and I lost the job. After that, I hit bottom. My parts were rising up in anarchy and saying that they didn't want me to work. I thought that my career was over and all of the hard work that I had done to get my BSN and my BA were for nothing. I wound up in the psych hospital for a few days.
    After a while, I got a job in homecare, mostly doing private duty, and some visits. I had a lot of panic attacks and anxiety before going to a home much of the time, but I pushed through it. Slowly, through the next year, I did things one at a time. I showed myself that I could do things that I thought I couldn't. I also had a genuine disability, so I went to the Center for Independant Living where they helped me gain more confidence. Gave me job hunting and keeping skills, supported me and we tried to find options for me. There just wasn't much out there for RNs besides clinical hospital, or homecare work. I started reading books on death and dying and watching video series' etc. and felt more and more that I would be suited for that kind of work. So, in Nov. 2003, one year after my hospitalization, I took the step and applied for the job that I have now. They loved me and wanted me in right away. The HR person, said she had never seen so much enthusiasm from the nurse managers about an applicant. I was floored.
    So, I started and luckily was well supported in the learning of the job and got a gradual increase in patient load as I was ready. Pretty soon I was up to carrying a full load (10 pts) and handling it. I couldn't believe it. For a long time, no one knew anything about my mental illness. I wanted them to get to know me without seeing me through a filter, just seeing me as a person and my clinical skills.
    Of course, a couple months into it, I did encounter a highly triggery situation with a patient and had to go to someone. I took a risk and told my supervisor about my history, and she was very supportive. She has become one of my greatest advocates.
    Of course, during this time I was on meds for depression (wellbutrin & zoloft), anxiety (klonapin), and for switching/dissociation (zyprexa). As I became more confident of my skills and handling of the job, I realized that the zyprexa suppressing my alters was getting in the way of me making any progress in therapy and I made the decision to stop it and work on my relationship with my alter systems and to resolve the trauma. I told a couple of people at work about my PTSD/DID, which was stupid and I guess it got around the rumor mill, because now most people know. Mostly, I don't mind them knowing because as long as people like me hide in the shadows, our illness continues to be "rare" to the gen. public and the misconceptions and stereotypes get perpetuated. I want to be an example of somone with DID/MPD who can succeed and isn't a basket case.
    The bad thing is that there have been two really bad incidences where I have gotten triggered badly. The first involved getting yelled at and lied about by an aide, which sent me into a panic and made me switch into a little person. The DON of all people found me on the floor huddled behind the lockers. I thought that now it was all over. But, she was supportive. She encouraged me to take time to do what I needed to do to get myself together, but she also encouraged me to pick myself up and keep going. I took a while, but after a couple hours, I was better and went back and resumed my duties.
    I felt really supported until recently when I had another "freak out". I saw something that really triggered and terrified me on a patients TV. I left the room and totally fell apart. That time, I couldn't continue and had to go home, however, I never abandoned my patients and duties. I made sure that what was undone, got done and finished paperwork later.
    However, one nurse who is a drama queen and a trouble maker, went to the DON the next day and told a skewed story of what happened, making it sound much worse than it was, like I basically freaked out and walked off the job, which wasn't the case.
    The DON talked to me and said that if I have another episode where I cannot finish the shift, she would have to let me go. I told her what really happened, and she talked to my supervisor who corroborated my story, and she said that it made a difference. But all I heard was the threat of termination. I felt like I was under a microscope. The DON was watching everything about me, my clothes, makeup. She told my supervisor that she noticed the changes in amounts of makeup and colors etc. and wondered if that was my switching personalties.
    The thing is, that other than this, I have done a stellar performance in this job. I have never had a complaint from a patient or a family, in fact the opposite. Never been written up for any reason. No serious med errors. Good attendance etc. I talked to HR and told them I felt like I was discriminated against because of my disability. She talked to the DON who then talked to me and didn't know that I had been living in such fear. She said that after she heard the whole story, the matter was settled in her mind, and we both agreed that the safety and care was foremost and I promised her that whatever state I found myself in, I would make sure my patients needs were attended to.
    Lately, I've been going through some real rough stuff and a whole new load of trauma material is trying to surface and so I rally all of the energy I have to do the job and am pretty much a mess the rest of the time. I have missed some days because of it.
    So, thats basically my story surrounding my career issues. I want to encourage people not to hide in the shadows like they have some nasty secret, but to let people get to know them for who they are and see that we can be capable, sane, contributing members of society. Only then will the stigma of mental illness start to be lifted. Yes, there are risks and predjudices, but I think its worth it. We can overcome.

    Severina
  4. by   Severina
    Quote from zoeboboey
    I knew it would be something obvious, LOL!

    I don't know how much ground that covers, I'm a ptsd'er and have been dissociated at least half the time since my last relapse with anxiety/bipolar, it really sucks being "present" sometimes.

    My doc wants me to try ECT (Electro convulsive therapy) I yi yi, as it is I only have half a brain LEFT!
    I think I would get another doc if I were you. I ECT is sometimes helpful for people with intractable depression, but for bipolar people it can be dangerous. It also messes with your memory, so if you are already dissociative, it will just aggravate the condition. I would also revisit your diagnosis, specifically looking at dissosiative disorders. Many people with a dual diagnosis of PTSD/Bipolar are misdiagnosed. That was what I was diagnosed with for years. Try to find someone with experience/ knowledge in dissociative disorders, and get second and third opinions. And please, its vital that you read this book

    Stranger In The Mirror- The hidden epidemic of dissociative disorders, by Dr. Marlene Steinberg.
    http://www.strangerinthemirror.com/index.shtml

    It is highly readable and not dry and clinical. It was a huge eye opener for me. I checked it out from my local library.
    I believe everyone should read this book. Its not just about DID, but there are a whole range of disociative disorders. Its on a continuum. Please read it.

    Severina
  5. by   ARNPsomeday
    wow, severina. you are very brave. my hat is off to you! i sure would like to be your workmate and start a support network for us and other workers in our situtation in the workplace.

    my disorder has been in remission for about a year and a half. the last time a memory surfaced, i had some trouble concentrating but still got good grades in school. guess i should have mentioned that i found a good med combination. and been in therapies for a total of ten years. it has been quite a hill to climb, but it can be done an i want others to know.

    we will overcome the stigma and our own troubles.
    Last edit by ARNPsomeday on Mar 4, '05 : Reason: edited for grammar
  6. by   trulie.julie
    Hi! I'm trulie.julie and in the summer I will start taking my prerequisites for nursing school, hoping to attend next year. I'm glad I found this place and I have a very serious question. I have struggled with depression and anxiety my whole life and have been medicated for the last 20 years. The meds I'm on are Wellbutrin, Effexor, Klonopin .5 and Ambien. When I go to take my drug test are these going to show up and disqualify me from even trying to become a nurse and if I tell the testing nurse what I am on, will that also disqualify me? If necessary I would get off the klonopin and Ambien but they have literally been life savers for me and I'm at the most "normal" I've ever been in my whole life. No one in my life even would have a clue I'm on psych drugs. Sorry this post is so long..I was just wondering if anyone here has any advice. Thank you so much in advance
  7. by   mattsmom81
    My heart really goes out to everyone brave enough to post their stories here. I have found a lot of the 'perfect nurse' pressure out there too...not just psych wise, but physical wise too, and its so sad. Once we have suffered ourselves we only grow in compassion for our patients IMHO.

    The fear of failing a drug test, being stigmatized, 'witch hunted' victim, being fired in at at will state, denied a job has kept me from facing my own psych issues for years. I had a mother and an aunt in and out of psych facilities throughout my childhood so I know this is hereditary. I've been 'a rat running on a wheel' for years and just flat out 'hit a wall', had a panic attack at work and now am afraid to try again...not until I deal with my issues.

    Those of you who are dealing are a great inspiration to me. Thanks for posting, you've really touched my heart today.
  8. by   ARNPsomeday
    even if a blood test reveals that you take psych meds, please do not stop taking your good medications! if they allow you to control things and the side effects are bearable, julie, please do not ever stop taking them.

    stopping meds is precisely the reason that so many mi patients end up worse than they started. they relapse and the illness becomes harder and harder to treat. many end up living on the street.

    if you are required to submit to a test in order to become a nurse, you have the right to know what substances would disqualify you. illegal drugs can be a lawful reason for disqualification. but denying a student the right to become a nurse on the grounds that (s)he takes psych meds would be illegal, as that would constitute discrimination.

    i got a letter from my psychologist stating that she has been treating me for x years and that i have "testing anxiety" (did not include my specific diagnoses, not necessary). i gave the letter to the director of access services at my college. access is a federal program for disabled students. he then sent a form letter to all of my instructors letting them know that i am to be given twice as much time to take tests in a nice, quiet room. you have the right to do this too. please use it if you believe it can help even a little. to me, it has made the difference between succeeding in school because it takes time to calm down when the anxiety takes hold.

    :icon_hug:

    Last edit by ARNPsomeday on Feb 26, '05
  9. by   Marie_LPN, RN
    Dealing with PTSD, due to several life events.

    I manage by reading books, writing in a journal, and meditation with aromatherapy.
  10. by   Liddle Noodnik
    Quote from Severina
    I believe everyone should read this book. Its not just about DID, but there are a whole range of disociative disorders. Its on a continuum. Please read it.

    Severina
    Well, at times I thought I was (what I always called) MPD, is DID more PC? Anyway, I will send you a private note -

    I am in the process of looking for another doc - I'm ready to be free! The funny thing is, the best part of my adult life EVER was when I was doing very intense memory work and seeing (some really intense and sometimes horrid) things clearly, and also going to school for writing (which I love)...

    Thanks for putting yourself out there, God bless you!
  11. by   ARNPsomeday
    Quote from mattsmom81
    the fear of failing a drug test, being stigmatized, 'witch hunted' victim, being fired in at at will state, denied a job has kept me from facing my own psych issues for years. i had a mother and an aunt in and out of psych facilities throughout my childhood so i know this is hereditary. i've been 'a rat running on a wheel' for years and just flat out 'hit a wall', had a panic attack at work and now am afraid to try again...not until i deal with my issues.
    you're right. please get good help soon so that you can feel a little better. you can think of this as a horrible experience, or as your chance to get genuine control from now on. and some peace. :icon_hug:
    Last edit by ARNPsomeday on Mar 4, '05 : Reason: edited for spelling
  12. by   Liddle Noodnik
    Quote from mattsmom81
    Those of you who are dealing are a great inspiration to me. Thanks for posting, you've really touched my heart today.
    Glad to see you are still hanging in there
  13. by   Liddle Noodnik
    Quote from Marie_LPN
    Dealing with PTSD, due to several life events.

    I manage by reading books, writing in a journal, and meditation with aromatherapy.

    Hey Marie, glad to hear from you! Hope things continue to go well! :hatparty:

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