Friday, April 15, 2011

on work, and being recognized as cuckoo

It's so strange to think that in a week or two I'll be back at the hospital, working days, part of the 9-5 Monday-Friday, weekends off club.  No patients, just meetings, typing, more typing, computers.

I'm trying to brace myself for it socially.  When I was an EKG tech, I used to pretty much work the same schedule.  Now I'm going to constantly be running into my old coworkers that are, of course, going to be asking how things are going, why I stopped working overnights in the ICU, why I'm not in school right now, etc.

I suppose the quick offhand answer that I can tell people is that a) I just couldn't tolerate the overnight schedule and needed to switch to a daytime job and b) it's summer (close enough), and I'm not taking any classes until the fall.

Still, though, I don't think there's much of a point in being really evasive about the fact that I pretty much crashed and burned (no doubt hastened by lack of sleep), and took about six months just to get a grip on my metal health.  I don't really want to be an open book about it, but I also don't want to feel like I am hiding the truth.

I'm still on the ICU listserv so I get hoards of department e-mails, even though I won't be working there when I come back to work.  One of the nurses recently injured her leg, and everyone is going all out.  All the other nurses have a schedule posted for each day of the month and different people are signing up to deliver her meals.  They are going all out to offer their support.

On one level, I think this is awesome, but it also really demonstrates how differently people react to a physical illness or injury, versus psychiatric illness.  Even though I wasn't particularly secretive with my coworkers about what had been going on in my life, there was still this extreme hush-hush mentality which really lended itself to my general sense of social isolation.  I don't know if my coworkers were worried that word would get out about my newly recognized flawed character, or what.

There seems to be this sort of uber-confidentiality thing going on with psych issues.  Even at our hospital, whenever you go into someone's medical record who has been admitted to the behavioral health unit, you receive an electronic reminder (that you don't receive with non-psych patients) that the patient's medical record is confidential.  What's up with that?  I think it's sort of archaic.

I don't know where I'm going with this.  There's some stigma with the psych stuff.  I don't want to proliferate the stigma, but it's funny, it's like society is already geared to proliferate it for me.


  1. It's very true. The anti-mental health bias is deeply ingrained in society--to the point that people believe the right thing to do is to sweep it under the rug.

    Best wishes in your new role.

  2. If people ask you too many questions, you can always just say something like, "I needed a little break, so I took one! I realized that I took on too much...story of my life," or something like that, and leave it at that. You don't have to give them the play by play at all!

  3. P.S.-I love the new background and your ad for sponsors is hilarious!

  4. I really wish there wasn't this stigma, but it still exists. I have no problem telling people I'm on singulair for asthma, but I am very selective about who I tell I'm on lexapro for anxiety. It's unfortunate, but still prevalent.

    I think if you just say you needed a change people won't question. Good luck, I'm glad you're feeling better!

  5. I sometimes really think that taking an SSRI for my anxiety would be really helpful, but I don't because I don't want to deal with the stigma.

    Say, "I didn't realize that working full time nights and then taking class during the day 4 days a week, AND caring for my son would be so difficult. After doing that for a semester I really needed a break, and I took some time to figure out how I could make my schedule more sane."

  6. You know when my mom was a resident and really depressed, working endless hours, never getting to see us, she saw her doctor instead. She said she wanted therapy, some counseling, perhaps an SSRI. But you know what the doc said, "You *might* get kicked out of residency. Even though it's technically confidential, it may not pass by your director's table unnoticed." So she chose not to go. The biggest mistake ever in terms of her mental health, but a chance she was willing to take for her family and her career. Isn't this sad? She didn't even tell my dad till much later (who would have probably told her to bite the bullet and go to counseling).

    It's sad to me that people have to make up excuses for mental illness, because it's almost a biggest deal than a physical illness and can be much worse than physical because it can debilitate one physically AND mentally as opposed to just physically. I think United States is much more conservative when it comes to mental illness as well. People here like "the norm" the "American standard" and are scared to deviate and it's saddening in such a country where so many things are available. Questioning the standards and the norms is taboo.

    I think you're dealing really well with the "taboo" topic of your situation with your friends and co-workers. Hence, I'm glad you're feeling better!