Isn't it always the way that once you've gotten one HUGE problem under a semblance of control, another rears its ugly head? My husband and I just received a new lease on life......and now I have to figure out what to do about work.
I had a very honest--and very upsetting--talk with my boss on the phone yesterday after we'd gotten the great news from the university hospital about hubby's stage IV pancreatic cancer being treatable after all. Frankly, I'm shocked that all this emotional whipsawing hasn't triggered my bipolar illness--I feel like I'm on the rollercoaster ride from Hell--but my daily gut-checks tell me that I'm only experiencing the normal ups and downs associated with major life changes. Which is a good thing, even as uncomfortable as it is.
Knowing this does not solve my dilemma, however. Yesterday I had to say No to picking up several floor shifts at the beginning of September, much to the dismay of my friend the DON at my facility.....and once again, I found myself having to explain why I couldn't do it. To say the least, I feel awful about it--as the fill-in, I feel like I've left her totally in the lurch, and from my own DON experiences, I know all too well what that's like. She's invested a lot of time (and company funds) in my orientation and training, so it's only natural that she's disappointed. She deserves better, and so do the staff and residents.
Then came the phrase that ended any hope of extricating myself from this awkward situation with a modicum of grace. She said that she'd had so many plans for me "because of how great you were".......and with her emphasis on that one tiny word, she summarized everything that's gone wrong with me in regards to my career.
Yeah, I was a great nurse. I'm not a great nurse anymore. I'm not even a good one now. In fact, I'm really not even a nurse at all anymore, even though I still possess a valid license that says I am, and I still hold a nursing job of sorts. But I know I'll never work as a floor-running, wound-bandaging, IV-starting, doctor-calling, shot-giving NURSE again.....and that absolutely INFURIATES me! I wish people could understand how hard it is for me to say "I can't do it". I wish they could understand how much it hurts to admit--even to myself--that my career is essentially over.
What I don't say, of course, is that I am sick and tired of losing parts of me to bipolar disorder. I lost the job that I'd planned to retire from someday. I've lost a good deal of my dignity and self-respect. I've lost my ability to concentrate, to get and stay organized, to cope with ever-changing priorities. I can do resident admissions and paperwork, but that's it......and a trained high-school graduate could almost do that much.
Bottom line, I'm losing a big chunk of my identity. Who am I, if not a nurse? Yes, I'm a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a sister; but so much of my substance has been inextricably linked to my work that I don't know how to untangle what I do from who I am. And where do I go from here? What do former nurses do to keep a decent roof over their heads and give themselves a sense of purpose?
I've received several excellent suggestions from friends and family that, unfortunately, are difficult to pursue in a rural area, so my options are somewhat limited. (And since relocating is not on the table, I'm going to have to get creative.) Like me, a couple of these friends had to give up active nursing because of their own mental illnesses; they did it because they knew that even with medication and therapy, they were unable to practice safely. And much to their credit, they were honest enough with themselves to admit it before they committed a serious med error or missed a critical assessment that could have resulted in harm to a patient.
I'm proud of them for having the courage to do that. Heck, I'm proud of ME for having the courage to do that.
So why do I feel so bad?