Nursing and mental health

Nursing and mental health go hand and hand. Nursing is hard. Nursing is hard not just physically but emotionally. We hold everything in because we are the ones that are supposed to help. We heal. We often forget that we can sometimes be the ones that need healing.

I was diagnosed with depression years ago, years before I became a nurse. I was placed on meds that I no longer take, I’ll explain why later on. Nursing school didn’t help, it just kept me so busy that I couldn’t take a moment to acknowledge the depression. Nursing, especially in a hospital that I hated, added anxiety attacks to the picture. I would wake up at night in a panic without being able to pinpoint why. That made me feel worse. I felt like an idiot for panicking over nothing, which made me hate myself even more. It was a downward spiral.

Before nursing school, when I first voiced suicidal ideation, my parents sent me to therapy. That is when I first received the diagnosis of depression (my mother died when I was 16, I watched her take her last breaths, I shut down big time). I was placed on trazodone and Zoloft. I hated it. I went from feeling depressed to feeling nothing at all. So I stopped taking both of them (don’t be like me) and instead stuck to therapy. It worked for me. She helped me come up with other ways to manage my mental illness. It worked for quite a while. Then enter nursing school and full-time nursing. I ended up back in therapy but due to my schedule I just couldn’t keep up with it. Hey, I’m a nurse, I can figure this out on my own. I’m tough. I’m a fixer. I’m a healer. I help everyone else so why can’t I help myself?

I am my own worst enemy.

I wear a smile for my patients and my coworkers. I am happy Fred the nurse. I’ve got a smile and a joke. My patients love me. My coworkers love me. Everyone believes I am ok. I look like I’m ok. I also spend most of my off days sleeping, I’m talking 12-13 hours. I don’t want to leave the house unless it’s to get food. I isolate myself from my friends, my brother is my roommate and he may not see me the whole day. I have dark thoughts that I know I should not be having. I wake up with my heart pounding feeling like some unknown thing is wrong and if I don’t fix it the world will implode. I am Fred the nurse and I have depression. I am Fred the nurse and I am not strong enough to battle this alone. I am Fred the nurse and I am strong enough to know that I need therapy again. I am Fred the nurse and I will get out of my own way. I am Fred the nurse and I will be ok.

 

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Forever alone

Sometimes I feel “forever alone” when I am around non-nursing people. As a nurse I get to be a part of something amazing. I’ll always be proud I am a nurse. I don’t feel like my profession makes me better than anyone else. I do feel like my profession changed me.

I have seen death first hand.

I have had to hold back tears while a family kisses their 16 year old goodbye. I have watched a person suffer in the ICU because the family guilted them into remainding a full code, and endure multiple surgeries that ultimately wouldn’t fix anything, until they finally passed away in that bed. I have watched families lose hope as the transplanted organ fails. I have had to comfort patients after a devastating diagnosis.

I have had my ass handed to me at work.

I have worked 12 straight hours without being able to eat or even stop to pee. I have dealt with physical and emotional abuse at the hands of patients and their loved ones. I have been talked down to by medical professionals that feel they are above me thanks to a difference in degrees.

I hold it all in when I’m with family and non nursing friends. When people say my job is “easy” since I work nights and everyone is asleep, I just laugh. When people are certain I’m “paid” because nurses make “so much money”, I just stare blankly. I listen to people complain about their jobs intently while they dismiss my complaints because I knew nursing was hard.

It can make you feel alone.

It’s not all family members and not all non-nursing friends but enough to make me not talk about my job unless I am talking to a select few. It’s why the nursing community is so INVALUABLE to me. We can swap stories about the worst of the worst. We can laugh about some seriously dark sh*t with no judgment! We understand each other. The nursing community keeps me from feeling “forever alone”. Sometimes we are all we’ve got 😁!

Web MD is the thorn in nursing’s side

Web MD is the devil. It is the bane of nursing’s existence. There is almost nothing worse than a patient that has researched their symptoms on Web MD and knows what they have. Thank you for that. Really…

It’s cancer. It’s always cancer.

Somehow the cough that you have isn’t a cold. It isn’t even an upper respiratory infection. It’s lung cancer… with mets… to all the organs ever… because Web MD said so. Even better, we nurses just love when you argue with us on the fact that Web MD can’t actually give you a definitive diagnosis.

Look, people, I know being sick is scary. I know you want to know what’s wrong as quickly as possible. Web MD is not a doctor. Yes, “MD” is in the name but the website is NOT a doctor. The symptoms you are having are generic and could probably apply to anything. You really haven’t figured out what you have, you have just freaked yourself out. Now you are paranoid and plotting out your funeral.

Stop.

Step away from your computer. Pick up the phone. Schedule a doctor’s appointment. Get a real diagnosis. Please.

Self-care and nursing

You are a nurse. Your job is to take care of everyone else. When do you take care of you? As nurses, we are so conditioned to take care of others that we may feel guilty focusing on ourselves. That’s not fair to you.

At some point, you run out of steam. If you keep giving and giving but receiving nothing in return, you will become empty. An empty nurse is a dangerous nurse. An empty nurse can barely take care of themselves much less anyone else.

An empty nurse lacks empathy. An empty nurse stops caring. An empty nurse has nothing left of themselves to give.

THIS IS WHY SELF-CARE IS SO IMPORTANT! You cannot take care of others if you aren’t taking care of yourself. You have to practice self-care. You need to take moments to do things that you like to do. Like to shop? There is a lovely flea market on Saturday, go check it out. Like to cook? Well, whip it up chef! Like to sleep? You enjoy that nap like you’re still in kindergarten. Do whatever it is that makes you happy. You have to. You are just as important as anyone else. Your sanity matters. Imagine how much better you will feel. Imagine how much happier you will be. Imagine how much energy you will have to be the best nurse you can be. You are worth the time.

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