The Breakdown

As I’ve mentioned before, I recently moved from a small town in Michigan to Orlando. Major culture shock! We went from living in the country (our house had a cornfield on three sides) to now living in a gated community on a 6 lane highway. On top of the changes with traffic and population size, we’ve dealt with new schools and of course new teachers, new surroundings, new people, new jobs, and overall just trying figure out where we fit in. Major, life altering adjustments.

I’d like to think I’m pretty resilient considering growing up I moved more times than I could even count, but once I settled down and got married, I lived in the same small town, in the same house for 13 years. I had finally found that stability I lacked as a child.

Then I landed a job at a hospital here in Florida and everything changed. I was stressed to the max and everything was building up. I worked on an oncology unit back home (I’m and RN) and the job I took here is on an oncology unit, so no huge changes you’d think, right? Wrong! The way things are done are completely different here and I felt like a new baby nurse coming into her first job. I was scared to death. I knew my work but policy and procedure was a different story, so I was constantly asking questions. I’d never had to draw labs on a patient before and at my new job you were expected to draw the labs! I’d never done this and was terrified. Remember how I said I’m extremely hard on myself? It applies to work too. I thought I should be able to just pick it up and run away with it (I always had in the past) but it wasn’t happening this time.

If you asked my manager I was doing a marvelous job but couldn’t convince myself of that. I went in everyday and came home everyday feeling defeated. I’d become nauseated just thinking about going into work. I’d have panic attacks over going into work. All because I put too much stress on myself to be the perfect nurse.

I eventually had my “breakdown.” I had called my husband at work and told him I was having a panic attack and I couldn’t stop it. Normally some deep breathing and a good crying jag would take care of it but this time I felt I was really “losing it.” My husband came home to me rocking back and forth on the bed, crying uncontrollably, and pulling my hair. The next thing I knew I was in the bathroom dry heaving. This was more than my usual attacks and I knew it. I needed help.

My husband got me calmed down, asked me if I needed to go to the hospital. I said no because the kids were home and I didn’t have anyone to babysit. I didn’t want to subject them to that hospital visit. I decided I’d go in the morning once the kids were on the bus.

I remember the entire drive to the hospital crying and telling my husband that I hope they didn’t admit me but I was afraid they would. This is because the psych nurse in me knew I needed to be admitted.

The doctor came in the room, talked to me for 5 minutes while I’m in full blown panic mode. He asked me if I wanted to hurt myself. I said, “I’ve had thoughts but I don’t want to act on them.” The doctor said he wasn’t going to allow me to go home. As distraught as I was, he was afraid those passive thoughts would soon become reality. To tell you the truth, I was pretty damn close. The doctor did the right thing.

I went to a behavioral hospital that was more like a resort. Much nicer than the three hospital stays I had before. I wasn’t happy to be there but it was definitely a change from what I’d experienced in the past. I stayed three days while my psychiatrist figured out some medication to help with my anxiety. After my three days, he felt I was safe to go home but would have to do intensive outpatient therapy as well as see a psychiatrist on the outside. I was scared to death and excited to go home all at once. I knew all the stressors would still be there when I got home but I’d have some medication to help me stay leveled.

I’m still attending the intensive outpatient group three days a week as well as seeing a psychiatrist. I’ve already had numerous changes to my medication because I’m so resistant to psychotropic drugs. My psychiatrist is recommending a procedure called TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation). It’s a procedure done on patients who don’t respond well to medication. I don’t know if I’ll do the procedure or not at this point but it gives me hope of recovery if nothing else works. Hell, at this point they can give me ECT again. I’m game. I just want to recover.

At this point, I’m sure you’ve figured out I am in no shape to be taking care of patients. I can barely take care of myself. Thank God for my mom and husband for stepping up and doing the things I should be doing. Some days I cannot even get out of bed let alone feed my babies. My doctor has taken me off work and I’m not sure when I’ll go back. I need to get “my head on straight” before I delve back into nursing.

I’m learning now there is no perfect nurse. There is no perfect person. And I just have to take it day by day. Some days I actually do pretty well and get up, shower, brush my teeth, and if I’m energetic enough I’ll put on some makeup (those days are few and far between). Hopefully things will start looking up. With my new medicine I have fewer crying episodes so that’s a plus. I do think I’m headed in the right direction but it’s going to take some time to get back where I used to be. To WHO I used to be. At this point, I just have to continue moving forward. If you’re struggling too, just keep moving forward. Eventually you’ll get where you need to be.


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