Bipolar Nurse Hoping to Open Awareness of Mental Illness

  1. Hello everyone,
    I am new to the site and have chosen to join simply because of a previous post about mental illness and incredibly insulting comments that followed. I am posting a thread about this in an attempt to create more awareness about mental illness.I am hoping this thread will be positive and productive, so I have chosen my words very carefully. I am hoping that if you choose to reply you will be respectful to me and others. I would like people to think about the stigma people endure.

    I myself have been diagnosed with Bipolar I. As a 23 year old RN with a BSN, I have had to work hard to be successful. Getting a job working on a NeuroTrauma unit. I missed 2 weeks of my senior year of nursing school, finally getting the diagnosis of Bipolar I along with confirming a diagnosis of ADD, still graduating with my class. I didn't even think to take a break. I obtained my RN License in October of the same year.

    To bring up the particular post I mentioned, I couldn't help but notice that not one person in that thread mentioned how having a disorder makes you more compassionate, more open to anyone having trouble, and simply more sensitive. On the Neuro Trauma unit I had a patient who had witnessed a murder after a terrible decision to accept illegal drugs into her suburban home. Simply put it was a drug deal gone wrong. Her friend was shot, she was stabbed, pretended to be dead and had to run a mile and a half for a neighbors help. She was put on Protected Medical History given a fake name all while having multiple stab wounds and a chest tube. She was terrified. Her boyfriend even refused to let her stay with him because he believed she would be a danger to his children. I could just sense the pain and shame this woman felt. As a young nurse I refused to label her as a drug addict, knowing other nurses had already assigned that label. It didn't change the fact I had a job to care for this woman to the best of my ability. At the end of her stay, she told me "You made me feel safe" giving me a huge hug with tears in her eyes. I have never been more thankful or happy to have chosen nursing as a profession. I also think that moment truly speaks for itself in terms of having a bipolar nurse. I cannot believe that people think people with mental illnesses have no business being in the medical field. That they are a danger to their patients. I have had patients ask for me even when I wasn't even assigned to them. Asking to talk to me simply because they felt comfortable and at ease because of my care, good humor and willingness to listen.

    I am extremely proud to call myself a nurse and the comments made about nurses with bipolar disorder were incredibly hurtful and truly insensitive. I just want people to know that Bipolar people can successful, take Catherine Zeta-Jones for example and Demi Lovato, beautiful and well respected people with serious talented. There are too many people who do not fully understand mental illness or what it's like to have one. So many people asking can I have a career with this disorder. The answer is yes, of course taking personal abilities into account but it should never ever prevent someone from believing they can't do something because of a condition impossible to change.
    I ask that you give this some thought and if anyone has ideas about how to create more awareness I would certainly be open to suggestions and help.
    All the best,
    Hanna RN BSN
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    About HannaRNBSN

    Joined: Jan '13; Posts: 3; Likes: 25


  3. by   HouTx
    Based on the example you have provided, it's obvious that you are a dedicated professional, providing compassionate care to your patients. I am not familiar with the thread you are referring to, but I do respect you for speaking out on an issue you feel strongly about. Mental health is probably one of our last "approved" areas of discrimination - along with obesity.

    Unfortunately, the stigma associated with mental illness is not limited to opinions of your co-workers. Some state BONs require nurses to self-report mental health dx as part of the licensure/renewal process & (I know from a colleague's experience with post partum depression) the consequences can be very harsh. I can understand your commitment to ongoing activism on this issue, but I caution you to be careful about sharing your personal situation for fear of triggering unanticipated consequences.
  4. by   Esme12
    Welcome to AN! The largest online nursing community!

    We have nurses that are public with their battles with this disease and how the nursing community shuns llg says many states now have mandatory reporting for licensed professionals that seek detox or mental health support. I moved yourthread for best response
  5. by   sapphire18
    Thank you so much for sharing this. I struggle with depression and it is unbelievable how strong the stigma still is. Especially among *educated* health care professionals. It's very sad. I feel like I have to be "in the closet" when I meet people, and then I will "come out" to a very select few individuals. It is very stressful, and lonely. I wish there were better ways to educate the public about the realities of mental illness.
  6. by   VivaLasViejas
    Hello, Hanna, and welcome to!

    As a site Guide I especially want to welcome you, as I too have bipolar disorder and can relate to just about everything you've said. There are a few of us here who are very open about being BP and who are willing to talk about our experiences with the illness, as well as share how we cope (or sometimes DON'T cope) with the stresses of nursing.

    After you have made 15 posts, you'll be able to use our Private Message system (you can access it now, but won't be able to respond to PMs until reaching the 15-post minimum) and "chat" with us if you like.

    Personally, I'm all for getting MI out into the open and discussing it. Things only look scary in the dark; once they're brought out into the light, they lose a lot of the fear factor. I think it's that way with the stigma surrounding psychiatric conditions, and we who deal with these illnesses are the ones who will have to speak up and dispel it once and for all. No one is going to do it for us.

    If you like, please visit my blog (it's found on my profile page). During the year since I was diagnosed, I've written two articles about this very subject: "The Stranger Within: Living with Mental Illness" and "Who The Heck Am I Now?" along with a Break Room essay called "After the Whirlwind" (written toward the end of a severe manic episode, hence the overuse of metaphors ).

    Once again, welcome, and I hope you'll enjoy the site and get to know people here.

  7. by   NurseDirtyBird
    I don't recall a thread like what you mentioned, but I do know some of the most prolific posters on this site are open about their own psych dx. I have Bipolar II and family members with various other psych dx, some severe. It has changed the way I interact with people, at work and otherwise. I find myself more patient with patients in the throes of a psychiatric crisis. I find myself treating patients like human beings instead of a stack of diagnoses to be tiptoed around.
    On the other hand, my experience at work has made me more patient with my family members' symptoms. I've become more patient with myself, and have learned to enjoy some of the byproducts of my own illness: depth of feeling, creativity, and a hefty supply of empathy.
    So yes, having a mental illness is not all doom and gloom and the end of the world. It's entirely possible to be a happy, healthy productive member of society and a successful nurse.
  8. by   RNtobeinSoCal
    I am appalled at the lack of understanding of mental illness among nurses, especially ones educate abroad (sorry, but psych issues are viewed differently in other cultures). What kills me is that they don't recognize their own personality disorders! Or that there is "crazy" and "not crazy", and no gray in between. Or medication, recovery, successful struggle with occasional blips in behavior. It is truly disgraceful how ignorant many nurse are and how judgmental they can be. Wondering where the enlightened ones work....
  9. by   tareija
    Applause, I absolutely agree with everything on this thread. Thank you for being brave enough to be open about your diagnosis. I'd imagine many people in your situation would be too scared of the repercussions to do so. I work in mental health, and as many of you have said we'd hope and believe that educated health professionals wouldn't have stigma against people with mental illness. However, sadly, this is often not the case. You sound like a fantastic nurse, and incredibly insightful and mature for someone so young. Kudos to you, keep up the good work, and thank you for your bravery.
  10. by   AnonRNC
    Thank you for sharing your story. I have low-grade depression & usually function well without medication. During some "seasons" of life, I have used the starting dose of an SSRI to manage better. As I once said: "I feel like ME again."

    I have one coworker who has disclosed her BP disorder to me. She is a great nurse; she knows SO much pathophys! I do "keep an eye" on her because she had periods when she "freezes" and is unable to act. I don't know if it's part of her illness, a side effect of treatment, or completely unrelated. That said, I have other coworkers, who do NOT have mental health diagnoses (to my knowledge) that I wouldn't trust to care for a houseplant. I keep a MUCH closer eye on them and their patients. (i.e. "Hey, you want me to call the doc while you administer oxygen?! )

    I think people think crazy = psychotic/raving mad/frothing at the mouth = all mental illness. As nurses we should know better.
  11. by   VivaLasViejas
    Quote from AnonRNC
    I think people think crazy = psychotic/raving mad/frothing at the mouth = all mental illness. As nurses we should know better.
    Thank you for this. I remember being fearful of psych patients when I was in nursing school; now that I am one, the tune has definitely changed and I find myself reaching out to people I wouldn't even have wanted to be in the same room with a few years ago.

    I can't help appreciating the irony of being an admissions coordinator of an assisted living facility where I'd probably never be admitted as a resident (diabetic, asthmatic, alcoholic, hypertensive, obese, AND bipolar---now there's a winning combination! ). But it's my hope that by the time I need one of these places, the people who run them will understand more about MI and its implications for long-term care, because there's about 76 million of us Baby Boomers and some of 'em are just as "crazy" as I am.
  12. by   seniorpracticumvgh
    Hey Hanna,

    I did not see the discussion you are talking about. I do want to say that I believe that it is essential to raise awareness & educate the general public about mental illness. Believe in yourself as others will believe in you too. Life is a journey, may yours be filled with happiness~
  13. by   jenealle
    I think you rock !!! This is the kind of nurses we need.
    Compassion for the patient is top priority because if you have no compassion you don't need to be there.
    I got tears reading that story and you may have changed that woman's life...
    Stand strong and continue being an awesome nurse
  14. by   TXRN2
    it is indeed sad that many/perhaps most in our profession are so biased & judgemental; & that fear of repurcussions prevent those with any issue from being open & honest & helping to educate/open closed minds. this applies to not only mental illness, but addictions (which can be to many things), physical disablities & disorders- the list is endless. seems like many of our imperfect coworkers expect perfection! good luck to us all & God bless!! & Hanna- you sound like a fabulous young nurse/person- keep up the excellent work!!