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Nurse with bipolar disorder having difficulty managing sx

Disabilities   (447 Views | 3 Replies)
by angelsigns angelsigns (New) New Nurse

angelsigns specializes in cardiac.

96 Profile Views; 6 Posts

I was diagnosed earlier this year with Bipolar disorder type 2. I have had symptoms for many years since when I was 12-13 years old. Up to when I was in college I never knew what my symptoms were from and once I became a nurse I think I considered if I was Bipolar but was in denial. I am 27 now, have been a nurse for 4 years. My symptoms have gotten much much worse which led to My diagnosis. Aside from Bipolar DO, I was also diagnosed with generalized anxiety DO, which is also pretty bad.

in the past, my symptoms were subtle and manageable. Now they have become much worse but have been manageable with meds and therapy. My trouble area is that I believe I have noticed that working in beside may be a trigger for me. I worked in cardiac progressive care for most my of my career and now I transferred to CICU and I am in orientation for 2 more weeks.

when I am at work, I can completely keep my symptoms in check, but I believe I have noticed that because it takes so much mental energy to keep my symptoms in check, on my off days I am truly struggling. 

On my off days I have severe panic attacks that can be ongoing. I can also be thrown into severe episodes of either depression or hypomania. The 2-3 days off that I get is only enough for my to try to hardwire myself back to normal and the cycle continues. Also being in bedside and being exposed to so many difficult and sad situations puts a huge load on me. I used to not get emotional at all but with my symptoms being much worse it truly does take a toil on me. 

I don’t want to have to give up my new job, but I am worried I may have to due to my mental health. I am also afraid to disclose my dx to my managers in hopes that I can have their support by maybe requesting better scheduling or what not but I am scared it will backfire on me. Generally speaking, from what I have observed during orientation and spoken to my coworkers about, management schedules our shifts horribly. It’s not uncommon for nurses on that unit to work 3 in a row and sometimes only get 1-2 days off. I definitely CAN NOT do that. I am already imagining that that will also be hard on me. 

The discrepancy in the days I am scheduled is also a trigger for me. I think that if I had a job with a fixed schedule it could Iess of a stressor. I have noticed that the best way to manage my symptoms is by having consistent routines and being scheduled all over the place is just a huge trigger. I need structure in my life for me to manage my symptoms and thrive. 

can I get some advice from other nurses with disabilities who have maybe been in this position?

have you been able to manage your symptoms appropriately and working bedside without your mental health or home/personal life being badly affected?

i am starting to consider the idea of leaving bedside although I don’t want to, and taking up a job that is less stressful with a fixed schedule. 

Edited by angelsigns

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TheMoonisMyLantern has 12 years experience as a ADN, LPN, RN and specializes in Mental health, substance abuse, geriatrics, PCU.

1 Article; 231 Posts; 8,678 Profile Views

I empathize greatly with your situation as I have struggled with severe mental illness while trying to maintain my career as a nurse. While I am still working full time as a nurse and have no issues with my licensure, I have had to take large gaps of time off and switch employers due to the intensity of my symptoms. I would advise NOT disclosing your situation to your manager unless absolutely necessary because you never know how they're going to react, discrimination against the mentally ill is alive and well. At the same time I would request a more regular schedule, the worst they can do is say no. Another idea is to work weekend baylor, yes you give up your weekends but you have a set schedule and four days to recover after working which is really nice, when I was higher functioning that was the schedule I did for years with success. 

Another suggestion I would make is to work somewhere with 8 hour shifts, I hate working 5 days a week but the 12 hour shifts are just so draining that it does help having a more normal schedule. Best of luck to you, it is so difficult to manage a nursing career and mental illness at the same time make sure you keep all your appointments and do what you must to take care of yourself.

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VivaLasViejas has 20 years experience as a ASN, RN and specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych.

8 Followers; 142 Articles; 9,734 Posts; 249,935 Profile Views

I empathize with you. I live with bipolar I and had a great deal of trouble with bedside nursing. I never lasted more than 2 1/2 years at any nursing job. I thought it was because I was bored and restless. Well, it was that too, but truth was, I always changed jobs in the spring when the mania came on. I look back now and see the pattern so clearly. How I wish I'd known then that I was bipolar, I might have been able to salvage my career.

I also concur with the poster above that you shouldn't disclose your illness to your boss(es) or co-workers. You wouldn't believe how many ways you can get screwed. It may be illegal to fire someone for having a disability, but it's done every day---they just find other ways to get rid of you.

Wishing you the best. Viva

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purplerose3 has 10 years experience.

12 Posts; 872 Profile Views

You could consider a mood stabilizing medication if you haven't. I have struggled previously for a couple years with PTSD. It's challenging. I did disclose to my managers, HR, and stated I felt comfortable letting co-workers know that; and not going into it any further. I did receive support and faced challenges. It also changed what positions in the nursing field I worked because I wanted to be fair. It is difficult because I did enjoy working bedside in the hospital setting; there are a lot of things that aren't easy about that: working nights, not consistently getting breaks, ect... Ultimately I found what I enjoy and it's a good fit. There are a lot of different areas in nursing. Take care of yourself. You'll find something that is rewarding. Look for a work place and setting that you can provide good care to patients and one that cares about employee well-being.

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