Published Mar 7, 2014
I've been a nurse for two years now. I work in a community hospital on the orthopedics floor, night shift. My job has been incredibly stressful and unpleasant for months now with staffing issues and the overflow of med/surg patients onto our floor who have proven to be far more challenging then the elective-surgery-medically-cleared patients that I had gotten so comfortable with. I have been contemplating changing jobs for some time and was gearing up to do just that within the next few months until it happened. Depression. I've had a diagnosis of major depressive disorder for 9 years now and have been doing incredibly well. Most people have no idea that there's anything wrong with me and are surprised to find out. Anyway, going to work has become increasingly difficult lately. I usually start feeling low the day that know I have to go into work. As I prepare to go to work, I feel like crawling into a hole and hoping for an apocalypse. When I get to work I'm cranky and very quiet. I just..don't want to be there. But, usually after I see my patients and start doing my work, I come around. I start smiling, joking and everything is ok. The last few weeks the gloomy mood has lasted longer and longer into my shift. The other night I went into work and the entire night was pure misery. I really didn't want to talk to anyone, do anything, and I especially did not feel like smiling. Of course that brought about a lot of, "what's wrong?" "are you ok?" "you're awfully quiet" and "how are you?" from my co-workers, which I dodged with "yup, fine, nothing". I found myself fighting back tears as I walked down the halls. Each time my patients' call lights went off I dodged them, hoping someone else would take care of it. Terrible huh? I felt like a terrible nurse that night. I just didn't have the energy to do anything. I really just did the minimal amount of work to get by. I didn't want to turn my patients. I didn't want to label tubing. I didn't want to hold anyone's hand and tell them I was there for them. I just wanted someone to take care of me. So I realized, I shouldn't be there and it wasn't fair to my patients. On top of that, I worried about facing repercussions for my shoddy work. Worse than that would be if something went wrong with my patients and I didn't notice or didn't react appropriately. I went in this morning and picked up the paperwork to begin medical leave for depression. It felt very humbling. I honestly felt like a failure. But I feel that it's the right thing to and hopefully with some time away from work I can focus on doctors appointments, exercise, journaling and anything and everything I can do to get well. The main point that I wanted to get to with this post, is that when I received the paperwork, the employee health nurse asked me if I had spoken to my floor manager yet. I said, "no, but I was wondering, when I do, do you think I should tell them why I'm taking leave?" and he said, "it's really up to you, but you don't have to." I spent some time reviewing posts on this site by nurses who were in similar situations to my own. The majority seem to say, hell no. Don't tell them anything, they're judge you, maybe not now, and maybe not to your face, but eventually it will bite you back. Ever since my diagnosis of depression, I have always been a firm advocate of promoting talk about mental illness. Talking about it is what educates people about it, and normalizes it. I've told so many people over the years about my journey through depression and treatment, and recovery. I couldn't tell you how many people have come to me for advice and support during difficult times because they felt "safe" talking to me, because they had heard me talk about it before and knew that I wouldn't judge them. So here I was, facing possible retribution from my co-workers and employers. Do I tell or not? This could affect my entire career. My very own future. Ultimately, I decided to tell. It took guts, but I just had to stick up for what I truly believe in. I said to my manager, " I don't think it's a big surprise around there that I struggle with mental illness and I'm having a very hard time with it. I need to take some time to get well." She sounded sympathetic and genuinely concerned, but who knows what she really thought, or what she'll say. I suppose it just doesn't matter to me anymore. I am who I am, take it or leave it. I'm willing to face whatever comes of it. I'm hoping that her sympathy was real and that others will respond the same. Because that would be the right thing for them to do. And I still have hope that some day those of us with mental illness won't have to dance around these issues. We can just be sick people, like any other sick people. I have several doctors appointments next week, so wish me luck on my rebound. I've beat it before and I will again. I'm hoping I can return to work rejuvenated and stronger than ever.
Here.I.Stand, BSN, RN
HUGS...wishing you the best!
There is no shame in needing care and treatment. It is very difficult to attempt to care for anyone else when you do, so you have done the right thing taking leave. I applaud your courage in telling your manager the reason for taking leave. I hope you recover soon.
Esme12, ASN, BSN, RN
I moved your thread to nurses with disabilities...we have some wonderful members who will help you here.
Ruby Vee, BSN
You were self-aware and knew when you needed to step back and get treatment. That's an enormous achievement. You put your patients -- and your recovery -- ahead of more day-to-day considerations. Kudos to you!
And kudos to you for stepping up to be a spokesperson for mental illness.
My heart went out to you as I read your post. I can only imagine how difficult this must have been for you. It is wonderful that you recognized what you needed to do (take medical leave and step away while you recover), and to me this shows that you are very responsible. You even took an extra step that many would not have in telling your floor manager what was going on. I hope that she also sees how difficult this was, and respects you all the more for it.
VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN
If I could "Like" this post 100 times, I would. I can't add much to what the previous posters have said, except that I'm proud of you for advocating for your own needs and educating people about MI. It will be a wonderful day indeed when people with broken brains are treated as considerately as people with broken arms. Folks like you will help make it come sooner.
I wonder if coming off the night shifts would improve your mood? When I worked nights I had a similar feeling. I would get very blue, and sometimes teary on Sundays before I had to do it all again. Moving to days, along with increasing physical activity and just talking it out help immensely. Be with the living, ha! But seriously, there has been research connecting night-shift workers with diabetes, obesity and depression to name a few things, so worth giving it a try.
I'm so grateful for all your comments, it warmed my heart and gave me a little added strength that I needed so badly. I definitely need to get off night shift, and possibly away from acute care. I never expected to work night shift for this long and it's taken a great toll on me. I also know that I desperately need regular exercise to improve my mood, but it's been so incredibly hard with my crazy schedule. I'm really hopeful that things will get better for me. Thanks all.
I am truly sorry for what you are going through. I am also sorry that you seemed to feel embarrassed about the whole thing. Depression is a disease. Would you be embarrassed for taking a medical leave for pneumonia or asthma or a cardiac problem? Probably not. We need to get over this aversion to treating mental illnesses differently than physical ones.
Good for you for realizing you need time to recover.
NurseGirl525, ASN, RN
I know how hard it is. I have severe chronic depression and have had it for many years. I think maybe you need a switch up on your meds. Maybe the one you have been on has kind of worn out its welcome so to speak. It took me a very long time to finally find the right one and have been on it for several years now with no issues. Make sure you talk to your doc.
Medic/Nurse, BSN, RN
A real sign of strength is acknowledging that you had unmet personal needs and a "break" was essential to your physical & mental well-being. Until we are cared for and healthy, it's almost impossible to be able to care for others in an optimal way.
Bless you, for you clearly have embraced the art of active advocacy. I hope you get the help you deserve and have no doubt you will come out on the other side stronger in many ways. Good luck.
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