Posts Tagged ‘bipolar disorder’

I have Bipolar Disorder. I am a nurse. I am a writer. I am an artist. I am a mess.

Nursing is not like it used to be. Not at all. I chose long term care as my discipline because I genuinely like old people. The issue is, these days, nursing is not about caring for people, it’s about money. It’s an industry, a business, and no matter how much you actually care, how good your clinical skills may be, the most important aspect of an individual patient is not whether their kids came to visit, or their fear and pain when they are dying, but what kind of payor source they have. They are a number. A dollar amount. And today’s “new” nurses, they have no sense of work ethic, will call out 15 minutes before their shift starts, treat the patients without respect, just draw a paycheck. Work double shift after double shift to pure exhaustion for the money, not because they care. And the patients suffer. Yes, there is a nurse there. But it becomes quantity over quality.

I am not that nurse. I was recently let go from my previous job because I could not understand why a new admission to the facility was being treated as a VIP. I had to make this person a priority over my other patients, NOT because she was the family member of staff, or a celebrity, but because she had really good insurance and had a history of being lawsuit happy. I was expected to prioritize this person over the other patients assigned to me, the Holocaust survivor, the World War 2 veteran, and the school principal. This obese, demanding, young, narcotic seeking patient I was asked to prioritize over others. I did my work as I usually do for every new admission, I stayed 2 hours after my shift was over to make sure all of her paperwork was correct and because I didn’t kiss this patient’s ass…I received a call at home the next day dismissing me from a job I had grown to love.

I just don’t get it. And when you have bipolar disorder, magnify the intensity of the emotions you feel when you lose a job 1000 Times. Devastated, defeated, scared shitless. self worth and self confidence, gone. You analyze and over analyze until your head hurts, and you truly believe you’re absolutely a failure at a profession you chose because you actually care about people. Now I did not mistreat this patient in any way, in fact, I developed a rapport with her immediately, she was an art teacher and I am an artist. She wanted to see my work and I spent time with her discussing art. What I didn’t do was anything different than what I would do for any one of my patients. I didn’t spend my shift catering to this VIP. I catered and cared for ALL of my patients as if they were ALL VIPs, as I did every day of my 30 year career. And I was let go from my job. As my co workers stood around and refused to help me finish the admission paperwork which of course was extensive. The facility is not computerized so I had to hand write at least 25 pages of medication and treatment orders. As I’m doing this my coworker is dragging a demented patient down the hallway backward in her wheelchair as the elderly woman is screaming in distress while the nurse is telling her to “shut the fuck up!” All on camera, in front of the shift supervisor, and she still has her job. I’m confused, disappointed, discouraged. Bipolar disorder does not effect my clinical skills, the way I treat my patients, only my interactions with coworkers and administration because I believe in caring for each patient as an individual, not just a number or a dollar amount.

So here I am now, about to be out in the streets, working night shift against the advice of my physician, with a nursing agency, staffing facilities I do not know, with patients I do not know, trying not to care, but it’s hard to not be who I am, and it’s a struggle to just do my “eight and the gate” for a paycheck. Having no set schedule and no routine. I keep going, trying, pushing as life throws me hurdle after hurdle with a disorder that most of my family and friends negate, believing I’m just lazy, a slacker, a loser, a drama queen…they refuse to acknowledge that I have a disability. Others, mostly my friends who suffer from similar disorders are very understanding and supportive. And my best friend has gone above and beyond to support me in this chaotic time in my life. I’m proud to call her my friend and after 46 years of friendship, my sister. I love you robin!

And so I’m determined to overcome this rough spot in my life and I am truly humbled and grateful for all those who have stepped up, sat with me while I cried and wanted to give up, those who understand ‘ long term care politics’ and know the turnover statistics (61% for LPNs) in skilled nursing facilities and that unwarranted termination has become commonplace…I’m not alone, it’s rampant. I guess I just feel it more intensely than most and take it to heart, then beat myself up for feeling like a failure. This too shall pass! And again thank you all for your understanding, love and support!

My Bipolar Life

Posted: November 21, 2015 in Life
Tags: , , , ,

I believe it all began when i was about thirteen. My parents were too busy caught up in their own mental illnesses to realize there was even a problem. Actually, maybe it started when I was even younger, because in elementary school, I excelled academically but never made the honor roll because of negative marks on the behavior portion of my report card. “N”-needs improvement or “U”-unsatisfactory in “shows self-control” with comments from teachers like “extremely talkative but very bright.” Yes, that’s where it probably began. Today I would’ve been sent to the child study team for evaluation and probably get a recommendation that I get put on Ritalin or Adderall for ADHD. This was the beginning, I suppose, of this rough road that I’ve been stumbling along for over 40 years.
I can’t exactly blame my parents for how my life is unfolding today. I can blame genetics and heredity. Mom is bipolar and Dad was major depression and alcoholism. Like I had a shot in hell to avoid mental illness. Mom and Dad’s illnesses fed off of one another for years, even after they divorced. Lucky me, being the oldest, I pretty much witnessed the dysfunction from its
inception. Granted, my father died from prostate cancer but I blame it on the depression and alcoholism first and foremost. He just didn’t give a shit about anything anymore and didn’t get treatment for his prostate cancer which IS treatable in the early stages. It’s so much easier to tell people he died from cancer rather than depression and alcoholism. He was quite a tortured soul. I know he’s at peace now-free from the physical pain of cancer, and most importantly, free from the emotional pain.
This bipolar thing I’ve been dealing with for the past six years, it’s not pretty. I was finally properly diagnosed in 2009. In retrospect, every fucked up thing that’s ever happened in my life, well, all “text book” bipolar disorder. I’ve pretty much lost every nursing job I’ve ever had for “misconduct” not related to my clinical skills, but for my behavior. Mostly my mouth when I’m on a “high”, there is no filter. Or when confronted or criticized, I go from 0-60 in a nano second, my emotions take over. What my brain thinks logically doesn’t come out of my mouth correctly. Not a clear thought, only fragments of jumbled words. I’ve never reacted violently towards anyone. I’m an imploder not an exploder. I cry when I’m sad, angry, or happy. I can’t have a successful relationship, the longest being a whole whopping five and a half years. A record for me. I blame my poor choices in partners for the relationship failure as well. I don’t see the potential red flags because I’m too manic and euphoric in the beginning of every relationship. I can also be very moody. not everyone is equipped to handle me and my disorder and because of my poor choices, my significant others had disorders of their own, too. Toxicity at it’s finest.
So, here I am, almost fifty years old. No house of my own, three months behind on my rent, a car that is dying a slow death, no power steering and the head gasket’s blown, looking for a nursing job, full time with health benefits so I can afford my medications and psychiatric visits, being turned down halfway through the hiring process four times because of a really dumb thing in 2006 when I was neither diagnosed with bipolar disorder nor properly treated with medications. I got a disciplinary action on my nursing license for “professional misconduct”. I took a picture of a resident on my cell phone and texted it to another employee who thought that the lady was “cute”. I’m in debt up to my eyeballs. I sometimes wonder why I haven’t given up yet. I have involuntary facial movements from my medication so now I’m taking another medication for that and it’s making me feel like shit. I’m going through menopause on top of everything else. I make art that collects dust. I write books of poetry no one buys or even reads. I’m never taken seriously. This disorder has totally dehumanized me. I’m stigmatized and my cries for help go unnoticed. Left to fend for myself. I don’t want to throw in the towel, so to speak, and collect disability. I’m not disabled, I’m misunderstood. Bipolar disorder does not define me. I don’t want to be a pariah because of this stupid diagnosis. I’ve been in denial since my proper diagnosis in 2009. So are my friends and family. It seems like it was easier to “come out” as a lesbian than to “come out” as bipolar. I hate to admit I can’t do this on my own. I hate that I always feel like a victim. I hate that I become immobilized and incapacitated at times. It IS a disease like any other disease, insidious as it may be. But it’s my reality and at times, my curse. Somehow, someway I’m going to gather up the strength I need to see my way out of this darkness and become human again.

I walked in to work on a Monday with a bounce in my step and a smile on my face, reveling in the incredible experience I had in Annapolis, Maryland that weekend. I was given an opportunity to be an extra in a movie that my brother starred in, wrote and produced. I got to be a vampire, one of the undead. Being an avid horror fan, I LOVED it. One of the biggest highlights for me was having my make-up done by R.J. Haddy from the SyFy channel’s reality show, “Face Off”, since I’ve been a fan of that show since it’s inception. Just being on a movie set and it’s inner workings was awe-inspiring to me. I met so many incredible people. People who could say whatever they wanted, do whatever they wanted, write, act, anything, without being judged. I walked into work that Monday on cloud nine. In my mind, I was a rock star, and invincible. Much to my dismay, the “real” world doesn’t work that way.
You see, on a movie set, you can be bipolar, openly lesbian, have tattoos, be inappropriate at times…you’re among your own kind…writers, artists, actors…I felt so comfortable there. No matter how insignificant my “role” was, I felt like I “fit in”. Yeah, not the case at my “real” job as a nurse in a long term care facility. Within a week of my personal triumph, I was fired after working there for 3 years.
This is where it gets pretty intense. I have tried so hard to stay away from playing “victim”, but I truly was this time. A victim of discrimination against my race, my disability, my sexuality, and when I spoke up for myself for the above mentioned, a victim of retaliation from the facility’s administration. I know I seem like “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”, as my mother refers to me. People who are close to me, family and friends, basically said, “AGAIN?” Do you have any idea what that feels like? You’re in a deep well, isolated, alone. no matter how loud you scream, no one hears you. When you try to climb out on your own, the walls are slippery and you just keep on falling back into the icy cold water. It’s disheartening. Defeating.
This is how my employment at this facility came to a demise. I was working on a snow day. Snow was coming down in buckets. Nurse’s don’t get snow days off like most people, so despite treacherous roads and limited visibility, we’re expected to get to work. In a snow emergency in a nursing facility, you’re expected to stay until your relief arrives. That was the word that came down to the units from administration that day. Funny thing is, the Director of Nursing wasn’t there. Now, you have to understand, I was in a 4 year relationship with a Director of Nursing and she HAD to be at the facility during a snow emergency to help out in case of staffing issues. Many times I had to dig her car out of FEET of snow to get her to work, so I found it curious that this facility’s Director of Nursing wasn’t there during a snow emergency.
This is where my invincibility comes into the story, or rather, lack thereof.
I love to create, whether it be drawing, photography, writing. I love to make people laugh, to have fun. This day was no different than usual. after all we’re in the middle of a snowstorm, in a nursing home, what’s wrong with a little comic relief, as long as it doesn’t hurt the patients or their families, right?
So that day, I found an empty patient’s room, took a “selfie”, and created a funny meme relating to the snowstorm. I found some blue dot chart stickers laying on the desk, stuck them on my face, and took the picture. I went to my photo lab application on my phone and using a meme generator, I wrote, “I can’t stay for mandatory overtime because of the snow, I somehow contracted measles.” I showed it to my staff, got a good laugh, exactly the reaction I expected, so, like with my art, writing, photography, things I create, I posted the meme on social media. My Facebook friends, well, I got over 50 “likes”, and comments like, “that’s cute”, “you always make me laugh”, “Love it, Betty…this is awesome”, “LMAO”, “LMBO”, “Ha Ha Ha”. I commented at one point, out of curiosity rather than malice, “DON MIA in snow emergency, hmmm.” I have a couple of Facebook friends who are DON’s themselves and got some comments back, nothing negative, however. I never wrote the name of the facility nor mention anyone by name. It was simply a curious observation.
That’s when it all went to shit. NOT invincible.
The next morning, I walk into work, still bouncing and smiling from my movie experience, even after a week, and the Unit 1 manager, an LPN like me, walks up with her finger in my face, reprimanding me for my comment about the DON. She tells me to delete the comment. So I did. Unbeknownst to me, it was entirely too late. This Unit Manager, who went to high school with my brother and cousin, who’s sister and I belonged to drama club together, who’s aunt was a patient in our facility, who I cared for and befriended, took it upon herself to take a “screen shot” of my Facebook post and comments, and proceeded to give an ENLARGED copy to the administration. I knew the moment she confronted me first thing that morning, I was going to lose my job.
That Unit Manager, who I grew to trust and considered a friend, betrayed me in a way that hurt me to the core. For what? I bought Easter candy from her son to help get the prize he wanted for selling the most candy. I even sat with her son one day while he was at our facility and taught him how to draw zombies. What did she gain by doing that? I mean, she directly took away my livelihood.
Why are people so mean? I’ve reviewed it over and over in my head to the point of nervous nausea and I just can’t figure it out. To me, that was the worst part of losing my job. I trust too much. I have faith in people as a whole because of my kind-hearted nature, so that sucked on so many levels and of course, I blamed myself for being too trusting.
After the morning confrontation regarding my Facebook post, and after the Unit Manager proclaimed, “someone took a screen shot and sent it to me” , which was later revealed to be a total lie, to alleviate her guilt, I suppose, I pondered my fate all day. I knew I was done. I continued smiling, you kind of have to when you’re in the “caring” industry, but the bounce in my step was gone. My cloud nine dissipated. I kept on working though, and as always, doing my job well. Then, I got “the call”. It’s the Director of Nursing. “Come see me in my office at 2pm.” My heart sank. I knew exactly what it was about. I finished my work as though it was the end of the day because I knew this wasn’t going to be good at all.
I went down to the DON’s office promptly at 2 o’clock. She tells me to meet her in the administrator’s office. My head down, knowing that meant something bad, I walked into the administrator’s office. I’ve had other run-ins with the administrator. He is not a nice man. He’s a bully, to women anyway. An overweight, unattractive bully. he tells me to sit down. I don’t want to, I’m too nervous. It’s the DON, the Assistant Director of Nursing, the administrator, and I. I felt myself sweating and shaking inside, on the verge of tears. I look at what he’s holding in his hands. It’s a printed, enlarged copy of my Facebook post. I can tell you what went through my head at that moment, “the Unit Manager, she really fucked me over.” The administrator confirming that it WAS the Unit manager, my alleged “friend”, who brought this to his attention. I about lost my mind! I was trying so hard to be strong, not to cry. He told me to sit down and shut-up. I handed him a copy of The U.S. Bill of Rights with the First Amendment highlighted, Freedom of Speech and expression. No, they couldn’t fire my or discipline me for my Facebook post. You know what I got fired for exactly? Taking a picture in a patient area, using my cell phone in a patient area…the administrator says, “I enlarged it, you can see the privacy curtains in the background. I checked, they are our privacy curtains.” WHAT????
So I say, “You want to play the cell phone game? OK, I’ll play.” Nervously, trying so hard not to cry, I find a picture of another nurse sitting at the nurse’s station, in the middle of the day shift, with a chart opened playing Farm Heroes on her cell phone in a patient area! You want to know how I know what game she was playing? I ENLARGED it! Of course the bully administrator tells me, “You need to worry about yourself.” Finally he says, ” You’re being suspended for three days and will probably be terminated.” That basically means you’re fired. One thing you have to understand about me, I’m bipolar, there’s no handle on my emotions when I’m cornered, scared, bullied, confronted, and ganged-up on. Remember, there are 3 of them and one of me.
I know why there are 3 of them, so they can corroborate and fabricated a statement in case I should call Human Resources at the corporate office. Naturally, I lost my temper at that moment and told the administrator, “I know I’m a damn good nurse! You people just fucked up!”, in a cracked, verge-of-crying voice. He said, “Get out of here!” and waved his hand at me. So I did.
I walked down the hallway with clenched fists, choking back tears, and who do you think comes walking up the hallway? The Unit manager who ratted me out. I couldn’t hold back. I said, “I hope you’re happy, you fucking bitch!”
She was acting innocent and says, “Who? Me?” I just kept walking back to where my things were so I could gather them up to leave so I could just get in my car and cry. Close on my heels are both the ADON and the administrator, like I was some kind of criminal. I just wanted to get out of there so no one would see me cry. I’m pretty sure they were trying to prevent me from talking to other staff about my situation. I would never physically lash out at another person because of anger, that’s just not my style. I’m a lover, not a fighter…but they followed me to the exit door anyway. Just as I predicted, I got in my car, and as soon as I was out of the parking lot, I started sobbing.
This all happened on March 6th. It’s been almost 2 months now. I keep beating the shit out of myself every day thinking of what I could have done differently to avoid losing my job. I used names on myself such as loser, fuck-up, idiot, moron. I can never do anything right, I guess I deserved this…I SUCK!
I got so depressed, so defeated.
Then I thought about it after a couple of days and yet another unsuccessful phone call to the corporate regional human resources person, I really didn’t do anything wrong. I AM A DAMN GOOD NURSE! The only thing I can think of that is wrong with me is that I’m a white, bipolar, lesbian and apparently that was an issue for my former employer. My rights were violated because I’m “different”. The thing is, I have no advocate. There’s that little New Jersey “at will” law, unless you belong to a union, and nurse’s did not have a union at this facility, only nursing assistants, dietary and housekeeping. They needed no reason to fire me, they could basically make things up if they wanted to.
Now I’m unemployed, depressed, broke, defeated. Where is my champion? Why doesn’t my story go viral? Social media led to this, why can’t it help me out a little? Where’s my pro bono attorney who will take my case to make the papers? Where’s my Al Sharpton to speak out on my behalf? Who has the right to treat me that way? Denying my rights as a person with a medically documented and treated disability, openly lesbian, and white, to make a living.
I could apply for permanent disability. My psychiatrist told me if I think I can’t work, she would help me with the paperwork, but I don’t want to “work the system” when I can be working at a career I absolutely love. I have NEVER lost a job for my nursing skill. I have never had ANY complaints from the patients’
or their families. As a matter of fact, I have an entire folder of cards, notes, and memos I’ve collected over the years containing only praise and grateful thank yous from patients’ and families. I have 25 years of nursing experience. I’m definitely not stupid. Why the fuck did all of this happen?
I brought something back from that movie set with me. Empowerment. Empowered to be different. Empowered to be who I am. A nurse, writer, artist, caring, smart, loving, funny human being. I was persecute unjustly for that by other human beings who are no better than me. I just don’t get it…