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.
Self care is an important issue when dealing when mental health. It’s one of those things we seem to neglect some times, especially when we are in a low swing.
Here are some tips to help with self care:
1. Be sure to get some sleep: It’s hard to do when you’re having an episode of mania or when you work a crazy schedule. But your body needs sleep. It’s how you process information and your body restores systems. Try to schedule it to where you can get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night. If you are having trouble sleeping, you may want to talk to your doctor and let them know that you aren’t getting enough sleep at night and discuss a good course of action. My doctor was kind enough to prescribe a sleep aid for me. Some times, I still don’t get enough sleep, but that’s my own fault for being a night owl.
2. Drink plenty of water: Water is great for the body! I’m not going to ask you to drink a gallon of water a day, but you do need to drink more than 8 oz of water a day. Your body needs water, considering you are mostly water. Daily activity drains you of water. And drinking a soda does not count as water. Drink up!
3. Make sure you eat: Believe it or not, breakfast is important, though I usually skip breakfast because I’m running out the door in the morning. But your body needs food. And when you’re manic, you might not notice that you’re not eating. Please try to remember to eat at least 3 meals a day. Maybe have a light snack in between meals, something healthy?
4. Listen to your body: This can be as simple as “I’m hungry” or “I’m tired”. If you need to take a nap, find the time to take one, and if you need to eat, find something to eat. Your body knows what it needs you just have to listen to it.
5. Make a wellness toolbox: A wellness toolbox can look like anything. Most people have a box with a few of their favorite things in it. Some have a journal and pen, music, a favorite book, a stuffed animal, it can really be anything. But it’s like something that will help cheer you up.
6. Take a shower: Even on the days that you don’t want to get out of bed, getting up and taking a shower can do wonders for you. Yes, it requires some energy, and it may take some coaxing, but you can do it, and you will feel better.
7. Go for a walk: If the weather is nice, go for a walk, especially on sunny days. Your body will thank you for the sunshine. It gets your body moving and your heart pumping.
8. Call a friend: Sometimes it’s nice just to hear someone else’s voice other than your own. Plus, it’s a great way to catch up.
9. Play with a furry friend: Dogs and cats have been shown to reduce depression. If you have a pet, play with them or simply take some time to pet them. It makes them feel good and you too.
10. Journal: Journals are great tools. They can be set up in any way, shape, or form. They can be scattered thoughts, or bullet journals with concise lists. A journal is for your own thoughts on the day, on something that is bothering you, maybe some poetry, anything you want.
Hopefully, some of these tips help. Keep your chin up!
I started a new job, I’m working for the hospital now. It’s different, and so far I like it. I’m still doing CNA work, but it’s a lot different from the nursing home.
I have a great nurse on my shift. She’s from England and has the cool accent. She’s a hard worker, and is always checking on me to see if I need any help.
One day, we were talking and she was telling me about a former patient she had. She was telling me how crazy they were to work with. And then she whispered, “they had bipolar disorder.”
I have to tell you, that my heart stopped. I don’t usually disclose my diagnosis at work, it makes people look at you differently. People just don’t understand. And now, I know for a fact, that my nurse is one that just doesn’t understand.
Bipolar disorder is not a bad thing. I used to think it was. The ups and downs are hard to deal with sometimes, sure. And there are several things that you have to do in order to stay healthy and stable. And sometimes, in order to get stabke, you have to go to the hospital.
But the way she said it, it just hit me wrong. She whispered it, like it was a curse, or something much worse.
I wanted to scream at her that I was bipolar. See, I’m stable now, you wouldn’t know! Do I have my days, yes! But it’s not like we’re homicidal maniacs waiting to chop you up or something. We just need stabilization.
Bipolar disorder can be hard to live with. But it’s doable. You can live with it you can get stable. You can have good days. You can have a life. And you can hold down a job. You have to work at it, which is hard, because your mind works against you. But you can do it.
The thing that helped me, I found someone who listened to me, found a proper combination of medicines. I have to ensure that I’m eating and sleeping, make sure to drink water and stay away from caffeine and alcohol. But I finally feel like I’m stable. It’s possible.
But the way she said it, reminded me that the stigma is out there. That we still have to work to bring awareness to disorders and normalize what is going on in our brains. To remind everyone, we’re not crazy, we’re sick. That you shouldn’t be stigmatized for having to take medication, because you wouldn’t say anything to someone who has to take medication for diabetes or high blood pressure, so why are you judging me for taking meds for my brain? We have work to do.
But I can tell you, you can be stable. Will you have bad day? Yes, I have them. But your track record for bad day survival so far is 100%, so keep going. And if you need help, reach out. There are people who will listen. Call a friend, call the lifeline. Anyone. Don’t struggle alone. You’re real, and you matter, you are not alone.