Meltdown at Work and Feel like a Failure

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How can I get past this embarrassing incident at work? Is it not too late for a career change? What where can I fit and work happily? Am I even employable?

by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist)

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

Are you someone who has publicly lost their dignity?

Meltdown at Work and Feel like a Failure

Hi there  Nurse Beth,

I am a Registered Nurse since August last year. I am 43 years old and not good looking. I am an introvert and I am not sociable, I don't have friends and find it very difficult to make one. I struggle to keep up with the commitment of friendship. Confinement is not a problem for me, it's my way of life.

I had a meltdown at work and I cried in front of the whole shift. Didn't think much of it until I the next day when I noticed that I was the topic of the day from nurses, to physio, to security guard, to cleaners. I was in shock, I cried some for 12 hours shift. I was just so hurt. So I canceled my shift the next day. I refused to go to work in that hospital again.

I was in a 3-month contract then; I pushed myself to finish the few days in other unit and I was still the subject of laughter, and every time I would run away to a unit not knowing that I was giving them the opportunity to finally meet the weak and crying nurse. I stopped going there completely, but I am on every one of my classmate's WhatsApp group comment.

How do I get past this? Is nursing the right profession for me? At the age of 43, what are my options? I lack confidence in myself. I haven't been able to build work experience. I know nothing about professionalism. It's been 2 months and the more I run away the more they talk. Now no one wants to work with me in their shift. I am being disrespected at work. I feel like I have lost my dignity. Why am I not able to secure a job. I am very depressed and emotional, I feel like a failure. I cry most of the time. It saddens me even more when someone shows me sympathy /empathy. What kind of person am I? Is it not too late for a career change? What where can I fit and work happily? Am I even employable?

Dear Meltdown,

You need to talk this out with someone to gain perspective on what happened. A counselor could help you tremendously.

At 2 months post-event, you should be fairly well recovered from this embarrassment. Instead, you are still catastrophizing and exaggerating the significance of what happened. For example, you say no one wants to work with you. Although you feel that way, consider that your feelings are not the truth. Your colleagues have many other things on their minds than you.

Think about it. Lots of people have publicly lost their dignity, I would daresay most of us. It doesn't define you for the rest of your life. To move forward, you need to change your negative thoughts and self-talk.

What kind of person are you, you ask? You are a human being like everyone else. Just like the rest of us. You are not alone. Currently, you are overly emotional, sensitive and do not think highly of yourself. You say you are depressed, emotional, sad, cry frequently, and feel like a failure. You are certainly not the first person to experience what you're experiencing.

There is help for every one of your symptoms, and it can be as simple as a doctor visit, diagnosis, and treatment. So in addition to talk therapy, make an appointment to see your doctor.

You ask if nursing is the right career for you. You haven't failed at being a nurse, you went to school and passed your boards, although you don't give yourself credit. Focus on self-care right now, and get help. 

I promise things will look so much different once you turn this around.

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth

Hi! Nice to meet you! I love helping new nurses in all my various roles. I work in a hospital in Staff Development, and am a blogger and author.

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20 Comment(s)

I am a crier. I cry at EVERYTHING. Like OP, I am also an introvert, not very social and very shy. Early in my career, a coworker passed me in the hall and flippantly inquired why I wasn’t  crying (because I usually was crying). It stung. 
 

Fast forward a couple years. I’m still there. Now, I’m the nurse others look to for advice. I work charge and a precept. I am respected on my unit. 
 

I still cry. In fact, I cried today. It’s not something I’ve ever been able to control. In fact, the harder I try, the more I cry. Hold your head up high, take a deep breath and be the best nurse you can be. Don’t fret about the tears. I do agree, however, that some counseling might help re-frame the situation for you. Best wishes to you.  

You may want to visit a psychologist to know your weak and strong emotional sides, to know yourself better. Pinpoint the causes of meltdown, discouraging situations, and improve yourself at those points. Observe yourself at work; are workload and stress high? Do you have empty worries? Try other nursing setups, locations. Attend advanced level nursing courses to improve your career. Join online-offline patient communities to know them better. You cry because you are better.

It is hard to tell without context. Crying at the workplace can be considered either appropriate or inappropriate depending on the situation. However, you mentioned that you had a meltdown which I think is a loss of control over emotions that should otherwise be inhibited, especially in the professional setting. Nonetheless, you do not deserve to be chastised or ridiculed over it, but it is unfortunately neither infrequent nor surprising that some nurses would find your meltdown a source of amusement. Granted we don't know the circumstances of what led to your emotional outbreak, I would encourage you to seek guidance from a therapist or close confidant. Best of luck. 

5 hours ago, porscheXN said:

You may want to visit a psychologist to know your weak and strong emotional sides, to know yourself better. Pinpoint the causes of meltdown, discouraging situations, and improve yourself at those points. Observe yourself at work; are workload and stress high? Do you have empty worries? Try other nursing setups, locations. Attend advanced level nursing courses to improve your career. Join online-offline patient communities to know them better. You cry because you are better.

Crying is not an indication of being better. Conversely, not crying is not an indication of not being better. 

The Seasoned Nurse, BSN, RN

Specializes in Trauma ICU. Has 7 years experience.

You are not at all a failure! Like Nurse Beth said, you passed your boards and succeeded in becoming a nurse. You’re doing it! Give yourself credit!

I hear a lot of negative self-talk and I can tell you from personal experience that your inner dialogue is a concrete thing you can work on. You can choose to see your own strengths under a brighter light vs. your weaknesses. You can tell yourself that you are valuable, worthy, and intelligent. 

I agree that talking to someone would be therapeutic for you. A neutral party will help you reset your perspective. 

Please don’t abandon nursing because of this experience. We want and need you here!

amoLucia

Specializes in retired LTC.

If you're still employed there, I would be suggesting that you check in with the EAP office for some counselling.

You need some ego boosting - I think you're close, just need some extra support. You have good qualities, values, strengths, intelligence. It's easy to say just focus on the good and lighten up on the negative. Another PP suggested support groups, on-line could help you reach out.

Good luck to you.

Tweety, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac. Has 29 years experience.

Quote

You need to talk this out with someone to gain perspective on what happened. A counselor could help you tremendously.

At 2 months post-event, you should be fairly well recovered from this embarrassment. Instead, you are still catastrophizing and exaggerating the significance of what happened. For example, you say no one wants to work with you. Although you feel that way, consider that your feelings are not the truth. Your colleagues have many other things on their minds than you.

This.  

 

Well sorry to hear about what happened to you. I know I've worked at places where I didn't fit in. I don't like to gossip and I'm not real social so that has not worked to my advantage with some jobs. Maybe you need a different venue. I'm working private home duty and when I started I felt right at home knowing I'd found my niche. I make pretty good money, work is easier and I'm not dealing with the nursing cliques. Just a suggestion and I hope things improve for you.

1st responder

Specializes in geriatric. Has 2 years experience.

Hi, I came across this website and I found it very helpful and I can relate to many of the post done in this site.  I have been a nurse for a year and my first job in at a long term care facility, today I made the horrible mistake of stacking myself with an a needle that I had just used in a patient, needles is to say that I feel the most stupid nurse in the planet plus the concern or not knowing what I got myself exposed to since you never know for sure even in a patient is not known as a carrier of any particular contagious disease there is still the doubt and the concern of the potential exposure and the prophylactic treatment and the wait to make sure everything is OK. At this point I'm just praying and hoping for the best.

ClaraRedheart, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med-Surg. Has 7 years experience.

Yes. Been there, done that.  My first year as a nurse I cried all the time. Going to dayshift and getting proper sleep helped, but it's still my nature.

 I was trained as a charge nurse and did it a few times. I never cried while charge, but I think that it happened while on the floor  when my supervisor saw it and I don't charge anymore. It's probably for the best. 

I don't cry that much anymore. Switching to part time helped, and I actually really enjoyed working the floor. Then I went from pt to ft and ft to ot. Too much. Working an overtime contract, I went on buspar near the end of it due to a rapidly increaing heart rate, panic attacks, irregular period... plus, I'm BRCA2+ so anything goes wrong with my period,  my first thoughts are not good.  The buspar has helped so much. I still get overwhelmed, I think it's parpt of med-surg nursing. I just feel that I can step back and evaluate the situation more calmly than I could without it.                       

Leader25, ASN, BSN, RN

Specializes in NICU. Has 38 years experience.

Well,sweet shy nurse,welcome to our club,been there done that,people will always be looking for entertainment,don't give it to them.To be able to function please go to counseling  especially if your insurance covers it,their prices can be very steep,my old fav now charges $200/hr ,doesn't take every insurance, so I cant go to him now during this depressing pandemic.If you can find someone  I guarantee it will help.There is a process involved in becoming a seasoned nurse that school does not prepare you for,it is growth in maturity of standing and caring for you and you alone.Threre are other  jobs out there,not all places are a good fit ,trust yourself,best of luck.

speedynurse, ADN, RN, EMT-P

Specializes in ER, Pre-Op, PACU.

Well - you are human and subject to very human emotions! And that's OK! I actually worry more about people that are so hardened that they cannot show emotions.

1. You are not the only quiet, introverted person in the world! I am definitely quiet, introverted, and somewhat shy. I have to force myself to make conversation and small talk sometimes. I prefer a small group of close friends who are content with doing small things - hiking, watching a movie, going out for coffee, etc. over a large group of "friends" who are not really friends and are more acquaintances. I like being around people, but have to be alone to find time to re-charge.

2. If people are truly talking about you - then honestly, they must not have much else going on in their lives or at work. Small minded people talk about people.....not saying that to be rude or mean or cruel, but because it's true. On the other hand is this really happening or is this your perception of the situation? I am just asking because trust me - I have been in both situations!

3. Some units truly are toxic and miserable. If that is how your unit was, then leave and don't ever look back or think of it. That is easier said than done, but find a unit where you accepted for who you are. I know I struggled with this when I was in a toxic unit for less than a year....I felt like a failure, inadequate, and was so down on myself. Thankfully, I had a few close friends who supported me and basically told me the same advice that I am telling you.....that you should never change who you are because your personality might be an absolute gift to many around you. It is not your fault that you are not appreciated for who you are.

4. Everyone has meltdowns.....everyone has breakdowns. That is being human. I remember a few patients doing this.....sometimes in the ER and sometimes before surgery. They were then embarrassed and kept apologizing to try to cover up how embarrassed they were. I remember friends having meltdowns....over jobs or over much bigger things (death in the family or severe illness, etc.).....I can tell you right now that I have surely had my moments!

I will tell you what I told every single one of these people (although it's harder to convince myself of this!)....everyone is entitled to have a moment...a little meltdown or breakdown or freakout or whatever you want to call it. That is normal, human, and completely natural. The difference is if you can pick yourself up, eventually move past this, and start a new beginning at a new job. Trust me - I think every single one of us in nursing has had at least ONE miserable, nightmarish, toxic job. I know I did! I have also been part of units that I was accepted for who I was and appreciated for who I was. You will be too - you just need to find the right job and team.