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Are you a nurse from a dysfunctional family?

Nurses   (19,861 Views 123 Comments)
by jenpstudentrn jenpstudentrn (New Member) New Member

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You are reading page 10 of Are you a nurse from a dysfunctional family?. If you want to start from the beginning Go to First Page.

Ariko has 6 years experience and works as a clinic manager, homemaker.

2,758 Visitors; 68 Posts

I went to see an old friend a few days ago and we discussed this topic - How many nurses do we know who have histories of abuse from their families-of-origin. Answer: Many.

First I will discuss Ms. B.. Her mother abused her from her childhood, probably infancy. I found out, during this visit, that she started contemplating suicide from the second grade!!! Can you imagine the kind of pain that an 8 y.o. must be in to plan suicide as a child?? She became a nurse and joined the Navy in the '60s and took care of boys blown to bits in Viet Nam. The horror of caring for maimed young men, who usually died (the best outcome) or left in pieces to live lives gross debilitation and suffering left her with PTSD. After the Navy, she did not think of suicide daily, she thought about it hourly. She went to veterinary school and always has lots of meds and IV supplies around the house with which she could kill herself. Then one day, she realized that she might be impaired and be unable to give herself an injection, so she bought a .357 Magnum.

I find it amazing that she never took her own life and I take some credit for this. As we corresponded, (at the time, I was in Boston and she lives in the Northwest) I began to discover the depth of her situation. I started calling the VA in Boston. Eventually I found a social worker at the VA in Seattle, who was a former Navy nurse (this is so cool) during Viet Nam. Ms. B walked into her office and started crying, and continued crying for weeks. Eventually she started on some meds for her mild depression, but they have never been able to treat her suicidal ideation, which still is off the charts. A few years ago, Ms. B was Dx with a low grade Ca. You would think she won the lottery. Finally, she knows she is going to die and she has a ticket out of this life of suffering. As a nurse, I find it challenging to try to respect her wishes, and help her achieve her goals, and at the same time, see the true nature of her despair.

I started therapy about 15 years ago. Last year, I took my journal from the Peace Corps (70-72) to my social worker for her to read. She said that if she did not know better, she would think I had Asperger's syndrome. I was unable to read other peoples' affect or have any understanding of my own feelings. Before I moved to Seattle, I worked with a really great LICSW in Boston. She had impressive credentials and worked for a Harvard hospital. The SW I see here in Seattle also has impressive credentials. Both of these women have, at times, looked at me with obvious frustration because I am not willing to admit that I was abused from childhood. Usually I am contemptuous of credentials, but in this case, they cause me to consider their suggestions more carefully than I would otherwise. You would think that at 88, my mother would have mellowed more, but just three months ago she said "You're still cute, in spite of your personality." It is a gift to see her abuse in action as an adult. I try to imagine what she said 55 years ago.

My two stepsisters dealt with their childhood in their own ways, which included seven marriages and a suicide. I decided that since I was such a ****-head as a boy, it would better if I become a different person and started cross-dressing. Girls were happy, had friends and understood social situations. If I could become a girl, then I would have those traits too. This has continued since he age of 10. Now it gets interesting.

I will be 61 in a couple of weeks, I have always had tremendous affection for nurses, and in the past few years, several reasons for this have emerged. It was during hospitalizations in my early years that I finally felt some caring and tenderness - dare I say it - love. I had eye surgery at 8 and had both eyes bandaged for what seemed like months. I can remember being held against a starched white bodice. For the rest of my life, whenever I see a white nurses' dress, my knees go weak.

About ten years ago, I looked in the mirror and saw myself wearing a white blouse, white skirt, white pinafore, white stockings, white shoes and a nurse's cap. "Very nice." I thought. A little voice said to me "Why don't you become a nurse?" I remember that moment clearly, as if I just had been hit with a brick. I could not sleep that night, and the following day started looking for nursing programs in Boston. During the first year, we watched an old movie on how to make a bed. The woman was wearing a white dress and tears were streaming down my cheeks.

Nursing has been fabulous for me. I have had the chance to experience, as a caregiver, things I never experiences as a child. Part of this comes the abuse and part from being male. In present society, people can be suspicious of a large man (6'2") who is trying to help them, particularly if it involves a child, but if I am a nurse, then it is fine. There is no distrust. (See "Men and Nursing" elsewhere on this site.) I also love working with nurses, particularly the old birds.

Therapy continues, but it is very difficult to get a clear picture of my abuse. I feel like I am being asked to separate single molecules of my personality. "This one is there from the abuse, and this one is really you." How can I tell the difference?

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HeavensNurse has 14 years experience and works as a Hospice Home Care & Triage RN.

2,487 Visitors; 47 Posts

Ariko,

You have your finger on the pulse, my man. Have you married a nurse? If not, I am really REALLY surprized, no matter what your sexual orientation. I have known many many cross dressers, many many nurses who are from dysfunctional families and of those typically someone or more than one are in a caregiving role. I think you have found your niche. I wish you luck. Sometimes with therapy, we know we are more on top of the situation than the therapist. Trust me, I was there 15 years ago, and have never looked back. When you can point out the therapists flaws in giving you therapy, RUN. Good luck...

Kim :)

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blueheaven works as a RN.

7,200 Visitors; 832 Posts

I too have a really screwed up family background. My dad was a alcoholic who could be very verbally abusive,. Fortunately he went to rehab and remained sober until he passed in 1990. Dad got me going to Al-anon. Mom is/was #1 martyr and enabler. Have 3 siblings who have mental problems. I still have issues with my mother, and my oldest brother (and lord help me when my mom passes) Since I am the one who has continually sought help all these years...mom and my brother consider me "crazy" ????????

I had (have) talk therapy, A-alon, Nar-Anon, ACOA and really good psychiatrists, psycholgists that have helped me deal and heal.

I did not want the cycle to repeat itself in my daughters.

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sbic56 has 24 years experience and works as a Nurse Consultant.

9,292 Visitors; 1,437 Posts

I used to think nurses were more dysfunctional that the general population, but have reconsidered that stance. I think when you are with nurses day in day out, you get to know them and start thinking we must all come from messed up places. But, since I have been doing nurse consultant work and out of the mix, so to speak, I find everyone is equally vulnerable, no matter their profession.

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HeavensNurse has 14 years experience and works as a Hospice Home Care & Triage RN.

2,487 Visitors; 47 Posts

BlueHeaven, give yourself a break. You are getting ahead, and I have to share with you the reason I gave when I went to therapy for the first time. "why are you here", my reply "I do not want to make the same mistakes my parents made". My therapist said "THAT IS THE BEST REASON I HAVE EVER HEARD for someone being in therapy"... Amen. I did not make those mistakes. I have made my own, thank you very much. Don't ever forget, we are human. Oh, if only my daughter would listen to me... lol Good luck! God Bless!

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GrumpyRN63 works as a Nurse.

9,002 Visitors; 833 Posts

isn't everyone??

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Ariko has 6 years experience and works as a clinic manager, homemaker.

2,758 Visitors; 68 Posts

The colon cancer that Ms. B has continues to advance.( see post #108 above) It is difficult to express to her how I feel, but last week at a meditation retreat, the following popped into my head. I have been struggling with what to say to her for weeks. This seems to get at the point I want to make. I sent it to her a couple of days ago. She still feels the abuse was her fault and has no desire to distance herself from it. She says it was "the hand she was dealt."

"Print and post on your bathroom mirror.

Read aloud Q AM X 14 days, then PRN.

Every child was meant to be born full and perfect in a loving and generous household. No child was ever meant to be born with a two-chambered heart, spina bifida, or facial dysplasia. No one can ever convince me that a child was born full and perfect only to be later crushed in an earthquake in China, starved in The Sudan, maimed in Viet Nam or to have the Taliban throw acid in her face only because she is a girl who goes to school. These may have been the hands they were dealt but it is the very nature of all humanity to feel moved to alleviate the suffering of any child we see in these and similar situations.

You were meant to be born in a loving and generous home but you landed with a sick and sadistic mother. No one in God’s green earth believes that it was the intention of God (or whomever) for you to suffer at her hands. In spite of a terrible childhood, your sensitivity to others and the desire to help was undiminished. You have cared for thousands of patients and animals with a generous sprit and loving heart. All of these thousands of former patients would be spontaneously moved to dress and bandage your still-open wounds if they only knew the hand you had been dealt. They would do this not only out of gratitude but also out of love for you. "

Edited by Ariko

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1,264 Visitors; 40 Posts

thank you for starting this thread.

i definitely came from a dysfunctional family. basically i consider having come from no family at all.

it had defintely affected me positively and negatively as a nurse.

having been a nurse for 32 years...i have learned a lot

 

off the top of my head

postive

it is much easier to sympathize and even empathize with my patients that have it rough.

having had an alcoholic mother, though i never have been a drinker myself, i definitely can understand and feel much compassion for those who have addictions. (mine is diet coke and food)

it is much easier for me to let the little things slide, such as minor insults, and minor injustices, because i know how much worse it can be. many of my co workers feel that so much is due them. they complain about a lot of things up to an including having to clock in and out and wear a uniform. i have been thankful for the security of the job and have loved being able to bring a little solace to others who are hurting.

negative

my background did not give me the greatest coping and communicaton skills. i have suffered multiple complaints against me because of this. though mostly, the complaints are due to relations with other employees, on a rare occasion a patient has complained that i was inappropriate.. i never learned the proper social etiquette that others with normal family lives usually learn. i, though, usually able to do damage control when this happens, have lost two jobs because of it, and left another because i knew it was coming.

for the most part, i am cheerful and cooperative. i learned how to interact with patients when i worked in a small hospital in a navy town taking care of all the old retired navy men. fortunately and unfortunately, i learned their sense of humor and style of interaction. this works most of the time, but not always. i also learned to be direct....have a problem...go to the person and address it...get it out....get it over with... forget it... and go on. unfortunately, many other nurses don't handle that direct interaction well, especially the forget it part. i have never been one to write people up, but usually end up written up for confronting them.l

so growing up with dysfunctionality has helped and hindered me in my career... i still wouldn't trade my nursing career for anything in the world. through nursing, i have been fulfilled both personally and professionally.

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3,281 Visitors; 105 Posts

It would be interesting to read a study on this topic....

My family is so dysfunctional, I stopped telling stories about them years ago because people weren't sure whether or not I was joking. :uhoh3:

Because of them, my first love was psychology. I wanted to make sense out of their behavior and.... fix it. But the more I learned, the more anxiety I experienced - I didn't think I could handle working with people just like my family every single day. And I saw firsthand that unless someone is committed to helping themselves, there is little you can do for them even as a professional.

For that reason, I can not WAIT to enter the nursing profession and focus on helping people heal in a way that lets me SEE the results. :heartbeat

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1,551 Visitors; 26 Posts

I suppose I have never really made the connection until reading everyone's posts. I too am a nurse from a dysfunctional/abusive family. When I think about it, it does make sense that someone who grew up in an environment that one had no control of and no nurturing would turn to nursing.

I was the youngest of four girls. My two oldest sisters were half sisters (we shared the same mother) and my other sister (who shared the same mother and father) was moderately mentally disabled (back then the term was mental retardation). We did not receive words of encouragement or demonstrations of love and respect. We lived in an environment where my mother was the authority and disciplinarian: meaning that none of us were able to express ourselves or have an opinion because our mother was always there to discount everything we said (eg. we either did not know what we were talking about or our feelings had no merit or value).

We also were subjected to beatings. I call them beatings because they weren't just a few taps on the rear. I will always remember my mother beating my mentally disabled sister so hard with a hairbrush that it broke. The screams from my sister will always haunt me. I was a child and felt so helpless that I could not help my sister from the wrath of my mother. I covered my ears and said over and over again to my mother "I hate you, I hate you, I hate you."

My father was there physically but not emotionally. I remember my oldest sister saying many times how much she hated him. She also would say to me "You're just like your father." It really hurt me and I didn't understand why she would say something like that to me. There was such an undercurrent in the home, something I did not understand but I knew it was not right. At the time I was probably around 8 or 9 years old. It wasn't until I was in my 40s that I found out why my oldest sister said the things she said. My other half sister revealed to me that my father had molested my oldest sister for years. When I asked my other sister how she knew, her reply was , "Because I was there when it happened." She and my oldest sister shared a bed growing up and my father would come into their room at night and molest my oldest sister while my other sister was next to her. She (my second-to-oldest sister) said she would pretend to be asleep but knew everything that was going on. In my eyes, she was victimized by my father as well.

I never had friends over to my house; I would always go to their home and visit, spend the night. I was always amazed at how different their families were. They had parents that were loving and seemed interested in what you had to say and were very encouraging. I remember thinking that THIS is what a family is suppose to be like. After spending time with my friends' families, I honestly dreaded going back home because I did not get the good feeling that I got from my friends and their families.

I remember feeling forced to do so many things and feeling totally helpless, having no control or choice.

I ended up in relationships that were so bad for me. My self esteem was already at a low but was made worse by being abusive relationships with guys, which in turn, made things worse. I was trying to find the love I was so desperately needing from parents that I went looking for it in all the wrong ways.

I knew I wanted more for my life, a better life than what I had lived, but found it so difficult to focus on something and feel hopeful about my future. I never felt I could talk to anyone about my feelings so I kept everything inside. I had to rely on myself.

The thing that saved me was actually going to nursing school. I finally found something good in my life, something that made me feel worthwhile, something that allowed me to help people, something that I accomplished on my own. I was able to stand on my own two feet and be self sufficient. I was gaining confidence and felt better about myself than I ever had. I felt my life had purpose. I was the only one in my family to pursue further education past high school.

To this day, I struggle with those memories and feelings from childhood. It doesn't help that my mother denies things from the past or won't discuss them. She still belittles and discounts things I say. She will argue over just about anything said (she's the ultimate authority on everything). When she gets in that mode, I simply shut down. I suppose it is protection/defense mechanism for me. She has even said, on several occasions, how she can't have a conversation with me. She just doesn't get it and never will.

Thanks everyone for sharing your stories and thank you for listening to mine.

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gmkj has 9 years experience and works as a LPN.

2,117 Visitors; 57 Posts

My dad was a alcoholic. although he never abused me or my sisters. he did fight and on occasion hit my mother. they later separated. well not actually separated my mom ran away and as soon as she could she got myself and my sisters and took us to our mother. my mom made the best life she could for us after that. unfortunately she died of cancer when I was 28. my dad died at age 44 when I was just 18. He died of a fall while he was intoxicated. I think it was a clot or something. I was not a nurse at the time and new nothing about this.to this day I dint blame my dad after all he was brought up by alcoholic parents and that was the only way of life he new.I cant imagine anybody who does not have some kind of dysfunction in there home such as mother, father, brother, sister, aunt or uncle, even grandparents.I did survive and feel I am doing the best with my family that I can.

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southernbeegirl has 16 years experience and works as a Nurse Manager/Infection Control.

7,135 Visitors; 903 Posts

I'm pretty sure that if you look up dysfunctional in the dictionary you will see a pic of southernbeegirl's family.

but i love their dysfunctional butts!

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