My struggle with depression and anxiety. And how it changed me as a nurse.

My struggle with depression and anxiety                     

Depression is something I have struggled with since I was a teenager. At the time, I really didn’t understand that it was depression I was struggling with. It wasn’t until I was 20 years old, that I finally realized that there was something wrong. After the birth of my first son, I was diagnosed with post-partum depression. I remember when I heard the words leave my doctor’s mouth, “You’re struggling with depression.” I felt relief and ashamed. I was relieved because there was finally a name for what I knew was wrong. Unfortunately, at the time, I felt like I had caused the depression. I felt weak and worried about the stigma that would be associated with my new diagnosis. I didn’t tell anyone for a long time other than my husband and close family. I didn’t want anyone to know, which just added to my shame.

When I went to nursing school, I was worried when people found out I suffered from depression, they would think I couldn’t care for clients. Most people with depression care too much, and therefore they get so overwhelmed. Many put others before themselves, which causes them to lose themselves, and depression can sneak in. So, I never really spoke about it in nursing school either. I looked forward to my psychiatric rotation to learn more about the illness that had inflicted me. Attending nursing school made me realize that depression was not my fault. In fact, it runs in families and is considered a disease, illness, or condition, depending on who you talk to. It is not that your weak or caused it in some way. That was probably one of the biggest reliefs of my life. I finally understood that I have an illness that I need to manage.

Depression and its symptoms have been searched on Google so much, that Google has partnered with the National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI), to make depression screening a part of your Google search. It is important that symptoms are recognized and reported to your doctor. When I finally wised up myself as my post-partum depression lingered. I was told I had clinical depression. This meant I was faced with a lifetime of symptom management. In the beginning, I didn’t really understand this. I would take my medication for a while. Then I would think to myself, “I am feeling so much better so I might not need these pills after all!” So, I would stop taking them. Then life would happen, and I would find myself struggling again with the symptoms of depression.

Eventually, through therapy, I found out I had terrible coping skills and learned some more appropriate ways of coping. Basically, I had no coping skills. I also learned how to spot my symptoms early. This helped me so much because my biggest fear was hospitalization or worse, death. I wanted to be able to understand my symptom’s and be able to manage them before they were out of control. I finally submitted to the idea that I was going to have to take medication for depression all my life. I swallowed my pride on this one and realized it was something my body needed.

I was doing pretty good at managing my symptoms. Like with any illness, there were relapses, but I was prepared for them. Then a perfect storm started to brew in my life. Looking back, I should have seen the storm sooner. I had just graduated nursing school with my Associates in nursing. I was finally a Registered Nurse (RN)! After I graduated from the Licensed Practical nursing (LPN) program, it was a goal of mine for many years. I also wanted to start working in an acute care setting because I wanted the experience. I received an acute care position and was on cloud nine for a while. I soon realized, at least for me, that the acute care environment was extremely stressful. I started to struggle with anxiety. I couldn’t sleep at night before my shifts. My days off were spent dreading going back, because of the stress and anxiety. I kept myself in this position for too long. My health started to decline. My blood pressure was high, and my doctor told me to either de-stress my life or start taking blood pressure medication. So, I finally decided to find another place of employment. I found another nursing job that wasn’t in a high-stress environment. It was more community health/public health nursing and it really worked for me. I went back to the doctor and my blood pressure normalized! I was in a new position and starting to learn a new specialty. For a short while, things were getting back to normal. Then my personal life fell apart, in a huge way.

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Photo by Fabian Møller on Unsplash

My mother became very ill. She had pneumonia, that turned into septic shock. Her infection had worsened, and her blood pressure plummeted. Her organs started to fail as her body struggled with the infection. She went into respiratory distress and could no longer breathe on her own. She was placed on a ventilator, a machine that breathed for her. Her kidneys started to fail. They put her on medications that saved her organs from failing but had the potential side effects of her losing a limb. I watched helplessly as my mother and a best friend struggled for her life. She moved from facility to facility as they tried to wean her off her ventilator, so she could breathe on her own. She ended up with a feeding tube and a trache. Eventually, she had to learn to walk again.

Through all of this, I become the legal guardian of my disabled brother. My brother has down syndrome. He came to live with me. I always knew that this would eventually happen, but it just came a lot sooner than I expected. So, we were adjusting our lives to become a family of 5! Through all this, I continued to work. I tried to be strong and pretend everything was fine, but my body finally couldn’t take the stress. My anxiety intensified, and I started having panic attacks that woke me out of my sleep. I became really depressed and found it harder to get out of bed and complete the simplest task. I ended up having to take some time off work, to help heal. With this was more stress, because I am the main income of our family. So, it wasn’t an easy decision. I leaned on my faith and prayed to God that he would provide. I know I needed the time off, but how bills were going to be paid was frightening!

The time off was really what I needed. Currently, I haven’t had any more panic attacks! It has been almost a year since my mom became ill. We are now looking forward to her possibly coming home. Now we will be a family of 6! I have found my stride again. Rachel has got her groove back! I am playing catch up on bills. For some reason, they didn’t go away, ha! I am back to work and have a new-found passion for nursing!

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Photo by sydney zentz on Unsplash

How it changed me as a nurse

Depression comes with a stigma and many people are ashamed or frightened to say anything. This can cause a delay in treatment and host of other problems. It is important for me to get my story out there to hopefully inspire others to be more forthcoming, and bring down the stigma.  I feel that having depression myself, has made me a more compassionate nurse. I feel through my personal experience with depression, I am a better listener, and my patience is better. It has made me more open and approachable. Most of my patient’s sense this about me and tend to open up to me.

For me personally, as a nursing professional, it was harder for me to really be open about my struggles with depression. I didn’t want others to be judgmental or think it would hinder me from doing my job. It’s no secret among nursing friends and other medical professionals, that depression and anxiety are prevalent. I tell my patients not to be ashamed and to beat the stigma. Yet I never followed my own advice. So, it is time for me to not be ashamed and own who I am. It does not define me. It is only a small part of who I am.

 

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

To conclude, I hope anyone who suffers from depression and anxiety is to know your not alone. Our story isn’t over because of an illness. We must manage it and grow from it. I took my illness and found the positive. It has made me a better nurse, more understanding, compassionate, gave me patience, and I became a better listener. There have been dark times and suspect there will probably be a few more in my life. But now I understand more about my illness and have reached a point in my life, where I am more mindful and understand the importance of taking care of myself. This has helped me to be better equipped to care for others.

The top 10 things I wish someone would have told me before I became a nurse… and you should know!

I knew from an early age that I wanted to be in the medical field. Later that shifted to nursing. Most of my information I obtained about what a nurse was or did was from observation in hospitals while visiting family, or TV/movies. Now that I am a nurse, I know TV/Movie nursing is a joke! It is nothing like this! And you really don’t get to see the behind the scenes of nursing when your on the family side! If I knew then, what I know now, I don’t think I would have changed my mind on my career choice, but I would have been better equipped to understand what was expected of me. So if I were talking to the pre-nursing me, what are the 10 things I wish I would have known going in. I hope this helps some future nurses or even current ones. It took me awhile to figure some of these out and I am still learning! Nursing is a career, where learning should never stop!

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10) It is okay to cry!

I’m not sure how this got into my head, but I felt it was not okay for me to cry, when I was overwhelmed, or emotional about a client. I felt like I had to be the strong one in the families time of need. It wasn’t until I got my associates degree, that a nursing instructor I had, who used to work trauma, told us she cried with families all the time! We are human! Now don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t cold with families experiencing heart ache. Matter of fact their were hugs, and I was a great listener, and most of the time even if they were not my clients I was sought to provide comfort. I just didn’t think it was appropriate for me to cry. I felt like it would add to their grief. So I held it in, and it balled up inside me until it couldn’t anymore. So now I cry, a lot ha! I have cried on the way home after a long shift. I have cried praying for a client I am taking care of. I have cried with family when their loved one passed away. I think I might have cried in an elevator. Never once has someone told me I am a weak, or a cry baby, at least to my face, Ha! So moral of the story, your going to feel all sorts of emotions as a nurse, as a new nurse or experienced. We are human! Sometimes we like to think we are super heroes, or can handle everything, but we need to allow ourselves to feel! Or else you end up like me crying over spilled milk! Ha!

9) You are going to make mistakes!

This was a hard lesson to learn. I think as nurses, or at least me, can tend to be perfectionist. So when a mistake is made, it is hard not to be triple hard on yourself. I have heard it said before that all nurses make at least one mistake, and they are either lying, or don’t realize they did! My first mistake was giving someone the wrong medication! It was actually someone else’s medication! Thank God it was a afternoon dose of medication, and it was mostly vitamins. The thought of what could have happened still stays with me! It was an older lady and she was not verbal. Her husband was with her. Later I found out he was either hard of hearing, or not cognitively there, or both. So I was a new nurse, and instead of asking them to tell me their name, I said “so this is Jane Doe?” and the husband said “Yes”. So I gave her the medicine. It wasn’t until I left the room and returned to my cart, that I realized I had the wrong client. I quickly glanced at what I gave her, and the supervisor called the doctor. He was in the building, and he looked over the medications, and said she would be fine. We monitored her per protocol, and she was fine. The doctor used it as a teaching moment, and was stern, but made me realize what I did wrong, and how to fix it. He did it in a way that was supportive. I am so thankful that it turned out okay. I never EVER get in a hurry anymore, and say someone’s name and have them verify. They tell me their name and information, and then I verify!

8) Burnout can happen, take care of yourself!

Of course this would be on the list! Burnout can happen, but you can bounce back from it! Like anything in life you can make something good out of it, or you can let it defeat you. I used my experience with burnout to try a new area in nursing, blogging, and start creating again! So if burnout happens to you, it is not the end all be all! Listen to everyone when they say take care of yourself! It is so important. We cannot care for others if we are in horrible shape, mentally or physically!

7) 12 hour shifts are not easy!

Yes, the 12 hour shift. Please, more like 14-15 hour shifts! Between travel, report, charting, and emergencies, it is really more than 12 hours! Sometime your off days are spent just recouping from the previous shift. Having more days off a week is nice, but it does come with a price. They are hard on the body and sometimes you feel your away from home more! I am always in a love/hate relationship with these longer shifts. There are times I miss the days of my 8 hours and done. Then I remember I get 3-4 days off a week!

6) The aches and pain, oh my!

Speaking of 12…15 hours shifts, your body will ache! I have limped from the car to my front door. I travel about 45 min to work everyday. There has been times I did not eat, take a break, or verily use the bathroom. So when I sit in my car I finally slow down. Then when I get out, all the pain of the day sinks in! I have had plantar faciitis in both feet, at the same time! Usually runners get this, I am no runner! The strain and work put on my feet from work caused it. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone! It took almost a year to be completely healed! Also, take care of your back. Sometimes it is not that one patient lift that hurts your back. It can be years of improper bending and lifting that finally takes it toll! You have the time, remember your back! And take care of yourself! (recurrent theme anyone)

5) A social life is hard!

This was the hardest pill to swallow with nursing for me. As nurses you work holidays, weekends, nights, days, both! This means you will miss weddings, birthdays, reunions, and everything else in between. It can be really hard for friends and family to understand your schedule. Especially if your on night shift. I have worked both shifts and for me night shift has been the worse at adjusting and trying to spend time with family and friends! Also, don’t forget there can be times you will not go home. I have had to stay the night during a snow storm to care for the clients the next day. Or cover a partial shift because of short staffing.

4) Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!

I wish I would have really paid attention to this more early on! Not only is it a must, because it helps jump start your metabolism. It might be the only real meal you get that day! If your night shift that could mean dinner. I have, on way to many occasions, went to the vending machine, and ate so unhealthy because I wasn’t prepared. I have also survived the day on peanut butter and saltines! Goes back to take care of yourself!

3) You will experience death and it never gets easier.

As health care providers, we really get into the mode of caring, curing, and saving. The reality is sometimes there is just nothing we can do, and there will be death. This was hard for me at first, and is still not easy! I wish someone would have told me just how up close and personal you get with death. I remember holding a mans hand that was my age, and his mother was at his side. It was known he was going to pass away, but that doesn’t make it any easier. His mother watched as he passed and so did I. I was comforting her, but also just witnessed this myself. I was glad I was with her because I got to answer a lot of her questions as things were happening. Also, this was not my patient, I just so happened to be called into this room by another nurse because they sensed that the client was declining. We all cried! I know this was an expected death, but it doesn’t make it easier!

2) Hope you have a good memory!

Doctors are lucky in a sense, because they can specialize! Go up to a neurologist and ask him about someones intestines, or anything other than their brain, and they will say go talk to the other doctor, I don’t know! Or care depending on who you talk to, Ha! They will also probably look at you like you have two heads! Because it is his/her job to know about a particular area only! With nursing these many specialties will come up to you, and expect you to know what is going on with their client in each area! The cheat sheet is a must. If I had just a nickle for every-time I was stopped in the hall way and asked questions like, “what was John Does blood results” Or “What medication are they taking for this or that” I would be rich! I get it! They are seeing multiple patients and more stuff is being thrown on them also. That is where a good brain sheet comes in handy. My memory is decent, but there are times I can’t remember what I had for breakfast. So in the morning prior to my shift, I spend time getting the details that I feel I might need to know, or a doctor might ask me!

1) You absolutely have to be passionate about nursing!

I once heard that if your hiring for a job you should try and talk them out of it first. If they still want it, then it is the job for them! So many times we spend time on the great things of nursing. Nursing is an awesome job that has completely changed my life for the better! As nurses, professionals, educators, I feel we should spend some more time on the negatives. If only so you understand exactly what your signing up for and it doesn’t take you years to understand! I am very passionate about nursing, if I wasn’t I wouldn’t be in it!

 

I hope you enjoyed, or learned a little more about the nursing profession. There is no way we can learn it all! Nursing is a lifetime experience! I just think sometimes we do a disservice by not also highlighting some of the potential negatives. What could be a negative to one person, could be positive to others! I think if someone would have sit me down interview style, and tried to talk me out of becoming a nurse, and laid out some of these, I would have still took the jump! Most will, if there is a passion! Money can only take you so far. The feeling of caring for people when their not at their best, or the rare thank yous that you will receive, are priceless! Oh, and when someone tells you your a good nurse, it will make your heart get the feels! Best feeling!

 

Nursing School (Drop-out) Part 3

Welcome to part 3 of my nursing career story, thus far! So, I decided after being in long-term care for awhile I needed to go back to nursing school, to get my Registered Nursing License (RN). Also, the drama of the ADON and her crazy ways, finally had taken it’s toll. The bad part was, now I was working full-time as a nurse (stress), had a new born at home (stress), and my oldest was starting school (pull hair out, stress) Looking back, it was the most horrible time I could have tried to go back to school. I was also working night-shift! So, I started nursing school, and finished the first two semesters, with lots of problems! Notice I said problems! It was harder to find people to watch 2 kids, while I tried to do home work. My kids were no longer the only grandchildren, so it was harder for grandparents to step up. So my family support was also at an all time low. Gee, I wonder why I ended up dropping out! So at the beginning of the 3rd semester, my very first day I was scheduled to start clinical. I started to drive to the site, and realized I just couldn’t keep going like that. So I turned around, came home, and become a nursing school dropout. That was a hard hit to my ego and finances. By the time I was ready to go back, which was little over a year, they told me I had to start all over. So it felt like I wasted my time and had a bill to show for it. I felt defeated and honestly just thought about not going back to school. After the sting wore off, I decided to wait until my youngest was school aged before I tried it again. I needed a change, so I started working for a doctor’s office. It was the change I needed! I worked with some great people and started to get my confidence back! I learned many different skills that I still use! The doctors office was a specialty in allergy and asthma. Allergy and asthma is a huge deal where I live. So to add that to my nursing tool belt was very benifical.  Before I got too complacent, I knew I had an ultimate  goal still hanging over my head. With encouragement of family, friends, and co-workers, I decided to give my RN another try! This time I found a school that was mostly online, and just a few days required in class. It worked so well for me. I honestly don’t think I could have continued with my education had this not been an option! I wanted my RN badly! By the last semester I was working 5 days a week and going to clinicals on the weekend from 6-6. Looking back I’m not so sure how I managed! I had great family support and my husband really stepped up. When I finally graduated it was such a relief! I actually had a job opportunity before I took the NCLEX. The NCLEX is the dreaded nursing boards. I passed, but I prayed a lot, and was horribly anxious about it! It was really hard to leave the doctors office I worked. For the most part, they hired LPN’s. The couple of RN’s that we’re there were more in supervisor roles. I really didn’t want to be a supervisor, nor was there an opportunity at the time. I really wanted to get some hospital experience, because I knew eventually, I would love to teach, and I felt this would help me to understand, and be a better educator. So I left my comfy 9-5, no holidays, or weekends, and jumped into the world of hospital nursing! Little did I know my nursing skills were going to pushed to their max! It was a great opportunity, but one of the hardest nursing jobs I have ever had. It was also, the one that provided me with a lot of growth personally, and in nursing. So the take away is never give up. Life is going to knock you down, and throw hurdles at you. Take time if you need to, but get back up, and try again! It took 4 years before I tried again, but I did, and I’m happy I didn’t give up. Until next time! Nurse on!

(Photo credit) https://www.nrsng.com/quit-nursing-school/

New Journey in Nursing & Life!

Nursing is a hard profession! There are highs and lows, and it isn’t for the faint of heart! When I started in nursing and still today, it was for the clients. Really, throughout my nursing career I really didn’t have any issues with my clients. It’s just the healthcare system itself is rigged against the safety of our clients, and our staff. It isn’t anymore fair to them that we have huge patient loads than it is to us. My mom currently is in a facility for rehabilitation following a very serious illness. The poor nurses are very much over worked, and to see it from the other side was horrible also. Imagine, having to wait for a pain medication for your family  member for over an hour, because the clients nurse has 40 patients she is taking care of, and she just simply can’t get there. The nurse in me feels for the other nurse, but the family member part of me, doesn’t care, that is my mom! So I understand both sides. These types of scenarios is what led me to become burnout in nursing. As I have been leaning about nursing burnout and it’s cause. I feel like it isn’t necessarily that I don’t want to be a nurse anymore. I still have a deep passion for nursing! I think I just need a change, not just in nursing, but in how I cope with stress. So that led me to take up various hobbies, and starting my Journey to my Master in Education in Nursing!

Writing

I have always enjoyed writing. I like the research process and even writing papers. Now sometimes in nursing school your required to write so many papers you wanna pull your hair out! When I suffered with depression as a teenager, I kept a journal and it was really helpful. There is something therapeutic about getting your feelings out on paper and then looking back, and being able to see any changes. So the first step of managing the symptoms of burnout I used was writing. This led me to stumble upon an old sketch book that I had started 20 years ago. It was really eye opening to see some of the writing in there, drawings, and poems that reflected my mood at the times. One thing I did notice my last entry was in 2009. That was depressing in itself. So that’s when I decided to start a blog, because writing in a sketch book is so 1997, ha! It is a very public way to go through feelings and emotions, but a good trade off if it helps, inspires, or other wise encourages just one person! So far it has been a wonderful journey. It has really helped me to get my feelings out on virtual paper now, and has encouraged me to reach for other goals in my life!

Crafts

So I decided I need hobbies! Something other than getting lost in my own thoughts and sleeping. So I have started making all sorts of things from pins, to necklaces, and coin purses.

It’s been so much fun, I even have my youngest son involved! I thought about trying to make things for his schools craft fair in November. That would give me 2 months to make things for it. It’s silly how much something like this can change your mood, but it really does. I thoroughly enjoy it! I actually want to pick up a few hours overtime here and there, because I think of all the craft supplies I can buy!

Education

Last, but not least, I am starting my Masters in Nursing Education on September 1st! I am really excited to see where this new degree will lead me in nursing. I have always wanted to be a nursing instructor, and this will get me closer to that. It is always really scary knowing I am back in NURSING SCHOOL!!! Nursing is hard and so is nursing school! I went back and forth, if it was the right time for me to do it. I decided it was for me, because I needed a change in my nursing career, and this was the best way to bring it about.

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I am going to be a super busy person! That’s good though, less time to think! Be ready for some, I can’t do this post, or I am overwhelmed! Until next time! Nurse on!

 

Funny Nursing Memes

Well after the sad story of part 2 of my nursing career, I figured we could all use a laugh! Really, laughter for me has been a god send! Comedy and humor has got me through some of the darkest times in life. So I bring to you several of these memes that I have found over the years that are nursing related, that make me LOL! Like, for realz laugh out loud! Unfortunately, I did not create any of these! Some very smart people out there in the Internets did, and thank god for them!

  1. We all know that one person that says this…

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2) Am I the only one who thinks like this…

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3) I have worked both shifts ,so I am allowed to think this way, Ha!

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4) This was the look I pretty much had all day every day at the hospital!

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5) That right there is funny, and only a nurse can say LOL! (and for inquiring minds, yes both has happened to me)

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6) I always worry how the stress is going to effect me! Then I worry, that I worry to much lol!

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7) There is truth to this!! Ask anyone who works a full-moon! I keep track of them now that I am on night shift!

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8) Yep, pretty much sums up most shifts

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9) Say what?! Can I get a new patient, trade maybe…do we trade here?

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10) And when we finally get to leave…

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These were all in good humor! Hope you all enjoyed! I love my patients. Really, over the years they honestly are what keeps me coming back! And of course some wonderful co-workers! Until next time! Nurse on!