Calling In Sick: Dealing With Mental Illness At Work, Part 2 - page 2

If you are a nurse who suffers from a serious mental illness such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, you probably have had difficulties in obtaining, and then keeping a job. Many of us have spotty... Read More

  1. by   VivaLasViejas
    Can't say as I blame you there, Valerie. It's hard enough having the illness without dealing with peoples' ignorance and prejudice. But you absolutely MUST get stabilized before you go out there and try to convince an employer to hire you. I swear, interviewers can smell fear and desperation, and they will exploit that to the max. Unfortunately, when we are UNstable, we're usually the last ones to know it, while others can spot it a mile away.

    I have the feeling that this may be contributing to your difficulties in finding employment. Your pain and feelings of being overwhelmed are almost palpable, and if I can sense it from my computer desk where I can neither see you nor hear your voice, you can be sure other people are picking up on it. To be competitive in this nurse-eat-nurse world, you have to deal from a position of strength, and you're just not there right now. It's OK, it's not your fault!

    Do whatever you have to do in order to get yourself back on track, whether it's meds, therapy, even hospitalization or intensive outpatient treatment. And it's not just so you can go back to work---it's so you can be healthier and happier and more stable. Believe me, I understand and empathize with you, for it wasn't too long ago that I was looking into the same abyss.....God only knows where I'd be if I weren't taking heavy-duty meds and drawing on my support system for strength.

    We're here if you need us. (((((HUGS))))) to you.
  2. by   OrganizedChaos
    Thank you Viva, it really means a lot. I'm soo stressed out right now. I need a job & I'm torn between going back to my last one (teen drug rehab) or to try PDN, AGAIN. I don't know what to do. I need an income & fast.
  3. by   VivaLasViejas
    I know what you issues were the only reason I tried going back to work too soon after three weeks' medical leave in April of this year. My psychiatrist didn't think I was ready, nor did my superiors, and in retrospect, I really didn't think I was either. Doc released me to work only because I demanded it for financial reasons.

    Big mistake. Big. HUGE. I lasted exactly six hours before I was sent home, completely undone.....I was so stressed that I couldn't stop crying. Three days later I was terminated because the company's lawyers found a way around the ADA and the corporate office pounced all over it. Take-home lesson is, if there is ANY WAY AT ALL that you can make do for a little while longer, do it!

    Believe me, there is no point in getting a job and then being unable to handle it. I did that very thing because I was desperate, and now I'm barely hanging on to my career even though I am stable at present, and have been for several months. In fact, I consider myself semi-retired, as I work only the weekends and the occasional weekday auditing MARs/TARs, and I don't do direct patient care. (Although I did get to take an IV refresher course today, and then immediately got the chance to practice my renewed skills on a resident who needed fluids. Felt good to hold an angiocath in my hand again! )
  4. by   OrganizedChaos
    I can make due for a little while but I need something to do. Me staying at home every day, having nothing to do is making it worse. I need mental stimulation, work. If I could just find a job or do SOMETHING I would be halfway ok.
  5. by   LifeCrisis
    Not on topic of mental health, but privacy in general. It is so sad that anything that happens that should be private always seems to spread around.

    Even in nursing school I remember I had to miss a few days because my father passed away. I emailed 1 person about it. When I came back the whole program knew... So sad but it is the world we live in.
  6. by   Marshall1
    I did but it was EAP through my spouse's employer - it's free, the draw back is the visits are limited so if it's something that is going to need more than a few sessions to deal with EAP isn't, in my opinion, the way to go because you basically end up having to find someone else and start all over.
  7. by   Marshall1
    We. with anxiety and depression, end up often in a situation where we have additional stress because we need to get back to work so we end up taking a job that we know we aren't going to stay in for one reason or another, so that adds to the job hopping, then the stress of applying/interviewing/ and on and on when some days just to get up, use the bathroom, brush teeth and change clothes is enough. I feel for is never a good idea to accept a job out of desperation but often times that ends up being the case - it has been for me - I start my "desperate, have to work am behind in the mortgage" job next week.
  8. by   Marisette
    I can understand the need to withhold information about personal medical history and medications from an employer. However, when starting new employment, drug testing is usually routine. Do any of the medications used to treat mental illness interfere or
    show up with drug screening ?
  9. by   VivaLasViejas
    The benzodiazepines will show up sometimes. Not Ativan or Xanax so much, as they're relatively short-acting, but when you get into the Klonopin and Valium realm, you'd best disclose that you're taking it because you will pop positive on the UDS if you take it regularly. And it's always a good idea to bring your prescription bottle with you to the testing site.

    I was upfront about my Klonopin use when I did my UDS before starting my current job, because I take it every night (not PRN). Luckily it's a common drug and the test collector didn't get too nosy about my reasons for taking it. Some other psychiatric drugs probably do show up in urine too, although I don't think it's an issue because the tests aren't looking for those specifically. The way things are going though, I wouldn't be surprised if they develop more sophisticated urine tests and employers start testing for more and more drugs. They're already too intrusive as it is, but there doesn't seem to be any stopping them.

    I do wonder though, if they start turning away nurses who take any kind of narcotics or psychiatric medications, will there be enough nurses left to take care of patients? Many of the nurses I know personally are taking antidepressants or anxiolytics, and that's just a tiny number out of all the nurses working in this country today. Depression, anxiety, and burnout are rampant among nurses.....I just don't know why it has to be any of our employers' business that we're treating these conditions.

    Forcing nurses to disclose their mental or physical disabilities is only going to drive the ones with problems does that protect the public? Please forgive me but that argument simply makes no sense in light of the stigma and discrimination surrounding the so-called 'invisible' illnesses.
    Last edit by VivaLasViejas on Oct 19, '13
  10. by   lpn20rnsoon
    Wow. Just wow.
    I started having panic attacks soon after starting the job I'm at now. Full on incapacitating panic; arms numb, hyperventilating, stomach issues, dizziness.... the whole drill. Why? because I left the house. Everyday I was later & later to work, so I could pull over and have my panic attack then let it pass. It was getting to 45 mins to hour late for work. I finally realized I have a problem that I can't handle myself. At this job, they are glad I'm dealing with it, meds or not because I am on time.
    Never really considered taking a new position and what that may mean with my issues and medicines as one is a narcotic. Well, I won't worry over it, just another trigger. I will have to stand up for myself and be who I am. If they decide not to hire, their loss.
    As my doctor has eluded to is I may stop this panic and the meds 6 weeks from now or be still dealing with it 6 years from now. It is a combination of hormones and heredity after thyroid labs and CT scan ruled out hyperthyroidism. Now that I'm where I'm at with this anxiety/panic, I see the women on my Mom's side of the family in terms of anxiety and realize the 6 years is a reasonable option. If not for life.

    Viva, I love your articles. I don't feel so out there & lonely. The responses your articles get are a great help too. Thanks
  11. by   Marshall1
    Quote from Marisette
    I can understand the need to withhold information about personal medical history and medications from an employer. However, when starting new employment, drug testing is usually routine. Do any of the medications used to treat mental illness interfere or
    show up with drug screening ?
    Some for anxiety - the Benzo group and those like Adderall but antidepressants like Pristiq, Lexapro, do not. If you are on one that will pop up in a drug test, as long the script is yours there shouldn't be an issue.
  12. by   gleasongirl76
    First of all, V, thank you for posting this two part series. I have been blessed to not have a mental illness until recently. I was laid off in April and I think I am clincially depressed. I have been suicidal. Me, the strong one, the nurse in the family who helps everyone else. I have left 3 jobs in the last 4 months because of my depression. Before that, I was at the job I got laid off from for 14 years. So thank you. I am currently seeking treatment, its not working but I am planning to keep on trucking and keep on working on it until I feel better. Now I have decided to take time off to finish some schooling. I'm just appreciative to read this and to know that there are others out there like me, that I AM NOT all alone. take care all.
  13. by   VivaLasViejas
    Welcome, gleasongirl! I'm glad you've joined Allnurses and hope you'll enjoy the site and all it has to offer.

    I'm sorry to hear of your job woes. Believe me, I can empathize, as I've had nothing but trouble with jobs throughout my working life. At least now there's an explanation for the way I've always gotten restless after a few months, or a year or two, and then found myself in some sort of crisis. I only wish I'd found out years ago.

    This is the second of what will be at least a three- or possibly four-part series. In the next installment, we'll discuss self-care strategies and what to do if/when mental illness becomes evident on the job.

    Please take care of yourself, see a doctor, and follow his/her recommendations for treatment. It's amazing what medications and psychotherapy can do these days.