To remind you, or let you in on what I’m talking about, I work in a hospital. And where I work, we don’t have a mental health unit, we don’t have mental health doctors. In fact, in this area, we barely have anyone who treats mental health cases. We have MHMR, one private doctor, and a mental hospital that, apparently/supposedly, releases people before they are stable.
So with that little bit of knowledge, when we have patients that have a mental health diagnosis, some nurses seem to think that they are more difficult because of their diagnosis. Or that they are crazy, or something. But bipolar, that’s the one that always gets whispered.
I don’t really understand it. I know that some bipolar patients can be difficult to work with because of our swinging moods, but that doesn’t mean that we’re crazy or trying to be difficult.
Understand, too, that there are people in the hospital that just aren’t all there in their mind, regardless of their mental health diagnosis. And this particular patient was talking out of her head, kind of like she wasn’t all there. I was being kind and trying to help as much as I could. But she said that she wanted to report a couple of nurses. So I went to talk to the charge nurses, who was giving report to the night charge. They were both very understanding of the situation. They knew that she wasn’t all there mentally and that she “says things that just aren’t true.” But then the night charge goes and says, “Well, you know she’s bipolar.” By this time I had been closing the door, thinking the conversation had been over, but when I heard that, I said excuse me and he repeated his statement. To which I replied, “Well so am I but you don’t see me talking out of my head!” They both just looked at me for a moment. Unsure of what to do or say. And then he was saying something about her being severely bipolar. I was walking away already.
How is it that in a hospital setting, we have such a stigma on mental health? Shouldn’t there be less stigma in a hospital setting, you see these kind of people every day. People who are sick and dying or whatever, needing life saving medical attention who happen to have depression or bipolar disorder, it shouldn’t change the way we approach them, how we treat them.
The stigma is everywhere. And I want to change that. If it takes standing up to one nurse at a time who thinks that bipolar is something to be whispered and is something that is scary or makes someone difficult, then that’s what I’ll do.
Around the house, around the yard, at work… On my days off it’s a lot worse.
It’s like I can’t relax, I can’t rest. The longer I sit still, the more upset I get. I have to move. I have to do something.
At work, it’s not so bad. There’s plenty to do, so I just stay busy. But when there’s a lull in how busy it should be, I’m moving. Because I can finally sit, for a minute. But the minute ticks by and I have to move.
This weekend should have been fun and relaxing. We went to visit a friend. And I was anxious the whole way up there. When we got there I started pacing. Sitting on the edge of the seat, fidgeting with my hands, pacing again. I finally took an Ativan, it helped a little. I’m having to take them a lot more.
The same thing happened today. More pacing. Another pill, this time I went and took a nap because I just couldn’t handle it.
I go to see the doctor Thursday. So I plan on telling her that I’m more anxious. That I’m having to take my emergency pills almost every day. That my sleeping patterns are still off and that I need some kind of help. Something needs to change. I can’t go around feeling like this all the time.
So I had a bad panic attack today. You know the kind… the shaking, can’t breathe, crying, feels like your heart is going to explode, all of it.
I would have been fine, maybe, if I had been able to distract myself, or if I had my emergency medicine. But I couldn’t. And I didn’t. So I felt like I was dying. To make matters worse, I was at work. I was on my lunch break. I should have been fine.
Those of us who deal with panic attacks on a daily basis know that they can come from nowhere, can be triggered by anything, even when you are doing nothing at all. Including sitting outside on your lunch break.
Personally, even though I know all of this, panic attacks make me mad. I know that it’s a system misfiring, my fight or flight system going off when there is no apparent danger to me, I know this. I know I have panic attacks. I know that I have a panic disorder. But they make me mad. Because, in the end of it all, I feel stupid. I feel like I should be able to handle myself at work, even with the stress, because I do work a stressful job that likes to throw me some curve balls. I feel like I should have a good reason to be triggered. And sitting outside on my lunch break before I have to go back to work should not be a trigger. Work should not be a trigger.
It takes so much out of me when I have a panic attack, especially ones like today. With the shaking and everything, I’m just worn out. And of course, all I wanted to do was go home. So I did the only rational thing I could do, ask to go home. Well… that only got some raised eyebrows. Why? Because I couldn’t find the DSO, the one in charge that would tell me if I could go home or not, and when someone finally got ahold of them all I got was “Go to the ER”. So this nurse puts me in a wheelchair and is wheeling me down to the ER, and I’m just trying to remember to breathe and not bawl my eyes out while saying I don’t want to go to the ER, I just need to go home. We get there, and they all look at me to check in. Another nurse from the ER comes up and asks me what’s wrong and I tell her that I’m having a panic attack and that the DSO sent me down here. And she said something about me not having chest pain or being short of breath. Well, duh. So I calm down enough to call the DSO, she’s still telling me to go to the ER. I say fine and I call my husband to come and get me. I go and grab my things from the 4th floor. And tell them that I’m leaving, noticing that they are making a call to the DSO too. So this is just turning into a mess and a half.
I finally clock out and just leave the building. And while I’m waiting on my husband, my boss texts me and asks not so politely why I’m leaving in the middle of my shift. And lo and behold, there she is, pulling up next to me. “You, I need to talk to you. Walk over here.” So I follow her. And she’s got her hands on her hips and asking me what’s going on. I explain again, and start crying again, because I’m still having a panic attack and she’s only making it worse. “Well I don’t understand how you can have a panic attack while you’re on your lunch break.” Well aren’t you lucky that you don’t have to know how it feels?
So I’m probably going to be written up for sure this time, because she told me this counts as an absence. And she’s telling me that I’m not dependable and she needs dependable people she can trust to do their job. And I totally get it. And I’m trying to be that person. But I couldn’t be that person today. Because when I’m having a panic attack, it’s not safe for my patients. I can’t focus like that. She tells me that I need to see a doctor and suggested that I go to the ER. The thing with going to the ER is that nothing is going to be done there. It’s a panic attack, not a heart attack. They will send me home.
But this got me to thinking, how many people truly don’t understand how debilitating a panic attack can be? And instead of being so hard on someone about it, why wouldn’t you want to help them? I understand she’s a boss, and it’s her job to be tough and get things done. I get it, I really do. But when you have an employee crying in the parking lot, I would imagine a little compassion can go a lot further.
Panic attacks are weird things. People experience them in different ways. Whether they are being silent and staring off into the distance, or making a scene (like I did today). Panic does things to people. And I doubt that any two people go through them the exact same way. I shake, my face turns red, my heart beats fast, I hyperventilate. But there are times, too, when I have a panic attack and I simply get sick to my stomach, or stare off into space.
For those who need a little further explaination:
“A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you’re losing control, having a heart attack, or even dying. Panic attacks typically begin suddenly, without warning. They can strike at any time – when you’re driving a car, at the mall, sound asleep or in the middle of a business meeting. You may have occsional panica attacks or they may occur frequently.
Panic attacks have many variations, but symptoms usually peak within minutes. You may feel fatigued and worn out after a panic attack subsides.
Panic attacks typically include some of these symptoms:
- sense of impending doom or danger
- fear of loss of control or dying
- rapid, pounding heart rate
- trembling, shaking
- shortness of breath or tightness in your throat
- hot flashes
- abdominal cramping
- dizziness, lightheadedness, or faintness
- numbness or tingling sensation
- feeling of unreality or detachment”
So a lot goes into a panic attack. And if you have panic attacks and face each day the best way you can, you’re a bad ass. Just saying.
I’m doing better now. Just resting. I hope everyone has a great day.
These are words spoken in wedding vows and they mean so much to me.
When we got married, I figured that I would be the one with the bad days. Having Bipolar Disorder gives you some ups and downs in life, days where getting out of bed is a feat in itself. But I found someone who has grounded me in safety and security. And when I have a bad day, it’s not as bad as it used to be.
Now, I take care of him. And some times, it’s not easy to do. Not because I don’t want to do it, I would do anything for him. I would change the world for him if I could. But some times, it’s difficult to watch.
I remember a test that we had to do, to see how his muscles responded to stimuli. No one prepared me, when we took vows, that in sickness and health meant watching a doctor basically torture your husband for a test. A test that he needed, but you could tell that it was painful.
“In sickness and health”, we really think of the healthy times. I see families together being happy, you don’t want to think about what happens when someone gets sick. And some times people think that sickness means just a simple cold or something. But a medical mystery? That’s something entirely different.
It’s been an adventure. With the good days and and the bad days, I can tell you that we have taken our vows seriously. We take care of each other. We take turns some times, and some days we take care of each other at the same time.
They don’t tell you, when you take those vows that you’re going to worry. Or that you’re going to want to know more, that you’re going to try to research everything you can to try and figure this out. They don’t tell you that you’re going to call every doctor several times a week just to get an appointment, or a certain medication refilled, or an MRI scheduled. They don’t tell you all of this.
But they can’t tell you that it makes you stronger. That it makes your marriage better. Love and marriage, sickness and health, it takes work. You have to want to work on it – I’ve seen illness tear people apart. But, for us, I feel like this adventure has made us stronger and made us love each other better.
I know in my heart that I love my husband more and more every day. I want to be with him and take care of him, no matter where this takes us. I want to grow our family together. This has brought us closer than I ever thought possible.
To my husband, I am so proud of you for being you. For waking up each day and fighting your battle. For loving me like you do. You are an amazing man with such strength, we can only keep going from here. Together, we will make it through this. You give me courage and strength when I need it. I will always be here for you. I’m proud of all of your accomplishments. I love you to the moon and back, Siempre por Siempre.