Nursing school struggle with a mental disease

  1. Hey everyone,

    Current BSN student here seeking advice, tips, help with an issue I'm sure a lot of my fellow students have struggled with.

    First a little background..

    I am in my 4th semester of nursing school, which equates to a little more than half of my program's curriculum. Until nursing school I had been a straight A student. However, prior to starting the nursing program I understood that maintenance of such a high standard would be unlikely, not to mention rather difficult. All else considering, I did well maintaining A's and B's throughout my first, second, and third semesters of school and usually fell within the class average.

    It was towards the end of my third term, when I began slipping and it started to feel as if my whole world was falling apart. This is when I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. I was in and out of hospitals, taking several prescription drugs, developed poor coping skills (smoking tobacco), and at times aliented myself from family and friends. But, with the help of my mentors, love from my family, support from my friends, and some of my own perseverance, I passed all of my classes.


    During winter break, I allocated most of my time towards recovery and a month later it was time to hit the books again. Except, for the first couple weeks of this semester I found myself with little to no work ethic, lazy, and falling into depressive spells that I thought were gone forever. Since then, my life has been up and down but slowly getting better. I'm studying again, working out again, spending time with friends and family again, but something is definitely different. For one, I feel less intelligent and very slow in comparison to how I used to be. My last two exam scores supports this fact?/idea. And what saddens me most, is that I somehow lost the fire that kept me going for years.

    Yes, my school expectations are lower now. But there have been changes made in my class schedule which permit me to allocate more time towards certain classes. I feel at this point, "why shouldn't I be able to get an A or at least fall within my class average?" I feel as if my friends/classmates have progressed, as expected, in nursing. Whereas, I feel as if I took several steps back.

    The idea that lingers in my mind 24/7 is: a blockade keeping me from reaching my goals, and the only way to reach them is to push through and be resilient. Except, I don't know if I'm as strong as I think I am (or would want to be).

    If you have any relatable personal experience, or just want to add your input, please discuss this problem with me below.
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    Joined: Apr '12; Posts: 10; Likes: 8


  3. by   NightNurseRN13
    Senioritis at it's best! C = RN! I had a 4.0 gpa until I went into nursing school, then it went bye-bye. I also had my first real panic attack while in nursing school and have been on medication since then, however, I haven't had to take anything since I've graduated. You aren't alone nor the first to feel this way.
  4. by   Esme12
    ((HUGS)) I have moved your thread to nurses with disabilities....we have several members here who can help you that suffer with mental illness as well....((HUGS))
  5. by   VivaLasViejas
    I think you and I are on the same brain-wave. Welcome to Allnurses!

    I'm one of the nurses with mental illness that Esme12 was talking about (bipolar 1 with rapid cycling) and I know exactly what you mean when you express your frustration with feeling "slow" and having lost the fire that kept you going for so long. I'm right there with you, and I also have tried the pushing-through method and found it (and myself) lacking. Even at 55, I'm still learning that there are times when one simply has to let go of a dream or goal, and look for another that's more attainable. I'm also learning that I AM more resilient than I give myself credit for, and that I always land on my feet somehow no matter how bad things seem at a given time.

    I suspect you have that same resilience. You sound like someone with a lot of common sense. Think of all the people who don't have the insight to know when their lives are in a rut, let alone what to do about it. I'm not saying that you should drop out of school, because I don't know if you should or not; only you can figure that out. I'm just saying that sometimes the universe has ways of telling us when what we THINK we want isn't the right thing for us. I'm going through something similar right now with a new job that I am not suited for, and will never be able to learn no matter how hard I try. I took a big risk when I accepted it, but I knew I'd kick myself forever if I didn't at least give it a shot. Now I have, and it's not for me, but I'll stick it out until I find something else.

    Wishing you the very best. It sounds like you could use improved med management, so I hope you've got a good doctor and/or therapist who can help you get to feeling better. Keep us posted on how you're doing, please.
  6. by   NurseDirtyBird
    Stress is bad for everyone, but is a huge trigger for those of us with mental illnesses. It sounds like perhaps a visit to your doctor is in order. Lack of motivation and apathy can be symptoms of depression, maybe your medication isn't as effective as it could be for your condition.
    As for depressive spells being "gone forever," that's kind of an unreasonable expectation. When you have one migraine and take medication to stop it, it doesn't mean you will never get a migraine again. When you treat clinical depression, no matter how well your medication works, it doesn't mean it won't come back, even if it's situational. Life is full of ups and downs that can make you feel bad, mental illness or not. This is why it's wise to see a therapist while on medication. You can learn some stress management techniques and coping mechanisms that can help you limit or avoid some of the symptoms you experience when stressed out by nursing school.
    You may as well, that stress isn't going away. Nursing school is very stressful and will eventually be over. But working as a nurse is pretty stressful too, so you've got to learn to cope with it.
  7. by   myallnursesusername
    VivaLasViejas "... sometimes the universe has ways of telling us what we think we want isn't the right thing for us."

    Thank you for this, it really got me thinking about nursing and if my heart is still in it the same way it was before. A year ago, I knew without a doubt I wanted to be not just a nurse, but a great nurse. Most importantly, I wanted to have a career where I could help people in need. This idea transcended into a notion that I wanted to do something really important with my life. I don't seek recognition, and I don't need fame, but I need to have purpose. I realized this after spiraling down into a very deep stage of depression. The problem is, I have no idea where I stand in the universe right now (if that makes any sense). I will continue with my schooling, mainly because I do not yet hold an undergraduate degree. However, I pray that I find some inspiration while continuing the program.
    Last edit by myallnursesusername on Mar 15, '14
  8. by   myallnursesusername
    NurseDirtyBird - I'm currently on (what may be considered) a high dose of antidepressant medication and have been managing my anxiety with prescription drugs as well as with breathing exercises. Also, I realize that depression is a chronic mental disorder and something you have to learn live with. When I said "gone forever" I should have said gone for a while. I've been experimenting with different drugs while continuing therapy for almost 6 months now, and for the first time I'm making noticeable progress. However, still no where near I want/need to be.
  9. by   CecileSF
    Hello. It is very tough to be in nursing school with depression and anxiety. I went through some bad times after becoming severely ill and had to take months off of nursing school. When I came back I was tired, depressed, and barely able to keep up with the physical demands of clinicals. I still did very well in my on campus courses though, ended up getting honors. But, it was hard work and my mind did feel "slower". My social life was bad because I just did not have the energy for it and people didn't seem to care. I wouldn't say i am totally out of my depression and anxiety, but I am doing well academically and better socially. What motivated me was my own future and getting a job as a nurse will allow me to live independently. I am not the type of person who would used my past illness to make people sorry for me or do things half heartedly. Nursing is a field which I am feel like I belong in. But many times I feel like giving up, spend all day ruminating in bed drinking vodka (its not a great coping mechanism, but it works sometimes). depression is not easy to overcome, but I know you can do it.
  10. by   brad0428
    I went through the same situation in nursing school and started working on a GI floor in a level 3 trauma hospital in the inner city and that was just to much for my anxiety and depression. I am currently treating my depression and anxiety somewhat effectively with effexor but I've been told that lamictal (wait until it starts working) then start taking abilify is one of the best combinations for depression but I have not tried it yet. The anti-depressant seem to make me flat so I may try mood stabilizers. I would seriously rethink starting off on a fast paced high stress medsurge floor as a new nurse if you do not have your depression and anxiety completely under control. I had to step back and find something more of a fit for me at this point in my career like endoscopy or a nursing home or a small rural hospital that I could handle and get experience at until I have my depression and anxiety completely under control. Let me know if you have any questions I will be more then glad to help.
  11. by   LadyFree28
    Quote from myallnursesusername
    Also, I realize that depression is a chronic mental disorder and something you have to learn live with. When I said "gone forever" I should have said gone for a while. I've been experimenting with different drugs while continuing therapy for almost 6 months now, and for the first time I'm making noticeable progress. However, still no where near I want/need to be.
    It will take time with a "happy medium" with your symptoms-one of the issues that a lot of us realize is that having a mental health disorder is having a chronic health condition.

    I have anxiety and depression related to PTSD; I've developed PTSD while working as a nurse (long story) and had to battle disability while trying to work-I was told I would never be a nurse again; yet was able to work for myself and go to school-that took a lot for me to do; I am still battling many issues and after 6 years it's finally getting better, and I found a medication that works and a therapist that works well; I have a pdoc that works with the medication management side. You will find what works for you; just be patient an gentle with yourself.

    Best wishes.
  12. by   brad0428
    I struggled many times in nursing school because of my anxiety and depression. The fact that you are struggling does not necessarily mean you are not suited to be a nurse. You may just have to find your niche. Maybe psych nursing, case management, nursing homes, home health, rehab. Some nurses and doctors do not work well with psych patients for many reasons. But you may be a great psych nurse if you have a passion for it and I already know you have and understanding of serious mental disability and can relate to psych patients which many in healthcare do not. Which will give you an edge over other nurses. You can always find a slower paced less challenging nursing job that fits you. BUT DO NOT DROP OUT BECAUSE OTHERS DO NOT UNDERSTAND YOUR MENTAL ILLNESS. As long as its in your heart to help people, I say stick with it and you will find the right fit for yourself. And as far as not doing well in nursing school well welcome to the club! There are a many great nurses out there that didn't get stellar grades in nursing school. Who you are in college does not define who you will be in the real world. But you will have to work hard to treat your illnesses ,psychatrist, therapy, self care, do research and don't be in denial that it is affecting your life still or a certain medication is not working. I know you can do because I have gone through the same thing.
  13. by   msygrnbw
    I struggled with anxiety and depression throughout nursing school. While I have never been hospitalized for it, I really understand the toll it can take on every day life. My best advice would be to not give up. It sounds like you also might be stuck in a lack of motivation. I feel that way a lot of the time. I have found that what works best for me is being involved. The more involved I am (reading forums about nursing, chatting about it, volunteering for groups at the hospital or on campus), the better I tend to feel. If I'm at home left to myself for long periods of time I just end up getting lazy and depressed. So find what works for you - maybe talk with a counselor if you don't already to help you get through this. It's worth it once you finally reach graduation.
  14. by   annaotis
    Do not let the present define your future. You will find your place.