Is There Life Out There?

Seriously, I’m asking: what can I do besides nursing?

Among the many other changes wrought by this long, weird summer is the realization that I can’t do what I used to do. I don’t know if it’s because my bipolar has finally altered my brain to the point that it no longer functions as well as it once did, or because the meds I have to take to control it are notorious for causing ‘brain fog’ and forgetfulness. At any rate, I have to figure out what I’m going to do for the rest of my working life, and I’m struggling with that concept because I don’t know how to do anything else BUT nurse.

I have a pretty good thing going with my current job, to be sure. They know me well and understand that I have a mental health condition, and they also get what I’m going through with Will’s cancer. In fact, we’re more like family than co-workers, so they’ve done their best in finding a place for me on the schedule that accommodates both my needs and his appointments. You can’t ask for any better than that… last employer certainly wasn’t this helpful.

So I’m on-call during the weekends, going in only to do admissions and the (very) occasional med pass. I’m not fond of working Sundays because I often miss Mass, which makes me feel vaguely unsettled all week; but I’m not going to complain because it’s work, right? Not to mention the fact that I need the money……

But sometimes I wonder just how the hell my life—and career—have come to this. I used to be so adaptable; I could think fast on my feet and cope with constantly shifting priorities so easily that I never even stopped to think about it. Naturally, my supervisors and co-workers came to expect it of me, and I expected it of myself; so when I became less and less able to deal, it baffled everyone….including me.

I’ve been fighting this for a couple of years now, and I’ve reluctantly come to realize that the cognitive changes are permanent and that I’ll never again be able to do the kinds of nursing that I did for so long. I can do what I do now only because I don’t have to be responsible for more than one or two people at a time—I assess their psychosocial status, I ask them questions, I perform a physical exam, and then I hand them off to the REAL nurse and finish all the paperwork.

In the meantime, I’ve just played ambassador for the facility and given the patients and their families what I hope is a great first impression…..all things I enjoy (and am reasonably good at) doing. But I can’t keep body and soul together by working only eight or ten hours a week, and I don’t know what else I can do that pays more than the minimum wage.

So where does an older worker with mental illness (and a host of other medical problems) fit in? Is there life out there?

If there’s an upside to all this, it’s that I find myself actually wanting to do something different, now that circumstances have forced it on me. I’d love to keep my weekend gig and then do something that’s a little more fun and a little less stressful than nursing for a couple of days per week. Or, failing that, I’d like to find a job that utilizes my nursing knowledge and experience, but doesn’t require 24/7 responsibility, a five-day work week, or the ability to focus for long periods of time. I’m done with that. I did it for years, and it damn near landed me in the psych unit. Which is where my p-doc has threatened to put me if I’m ever tempted to take another job like that last one!

So…..if any of my readers have any suggestions for late-life career options, please use the Reply button and let me know what YOU think, because I’m at a loss. Oh yeah, and it has to be at least somewhat dignified and age-appropriate—no streetwalking, no asking people if they want fries with that, and absolutely NO wearing animal costumes that weigh 300 pounds and feel like 300 degrees inside. Fuhgeddaboudit!!









Published by bpnurse

I'm a retired registered nurse and writer who also happens to be street-rat crazy, if the DSM-IV.....oops, 5---is to be believed. I was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder at the age of 55, and am still sorting through the ashes of the flaming garbage pile that my life had become. Here, I'll share the lumps and bumps of a late-life journey toward sanity.... along with some rants, gripes, sour grapes and good old-fashioned whining from time to time. It's not easy being bipolar in a unipolar world; let's figure it out together.

3 thoughts on “Is There Life Out There?

  1. Hey Marla!!! How about case management for a MCO? The patient interaction is telephonic. Try googling Aetna careers and apply with them, Cigna, or even WellCare. Many even transition to work from home positions.


  2. My suggestion is getting into case management, not easy but with networking among your vast knowledge, i think you could pull it off, and thre are places that would allow 3 days week.

    Another idea could be getting into ins exams, this might be more periodic but could work with another position. Phone triage s another area i tried. This was mostly evening, nights or weekends..but being first line of defense for a doctors call system even comes with the answers they want you to use. Again this positions hours are mostly flexible.

    Stop working with your body and use your knowledge. I know meds make you off kilter but if you can get in the door, you can learn to relax and pace yourself, not slack off. Just not go atmanic speed.

    Working on psych unit might be another option. At least you can relate but internally not externally.

    Currently you have much too much to deal with Will and i would never want you to miss any of his time. Do not worry about medical bills what so ever. You can refile bankruptcy later on. Now with his catastrophic care plus your lack of income, you still can not qualify for anything from state??. I know i received that years ago for TN when i had to have surgery. Do not assume..get yourself down there and get it in writing. It is way to easy to say No to someone on the phone. you have to learn to play hardball concerning Will. You paid taxes for many years so now it is your family’s time.

    Other ideas, what could you do to get some cash..sell 2nd vehicle if you own one. Accept help from food banks, your church and / or other churches. I have been there several times dealing with my illness. And people were so kind it brought tears to my eyes.

    I am not positive of your home dynamics but access everyone. When you work set up schedule for people to visit to keep Will company. I set up 2 hr segments, family, kids, even a responsible teenager just to sit and watch TV with him and get him a sandwich or a drink. Be resourceful. I have been aware of you for awhile now and i know you are resourceful, so I have faith in your ability. Besides TV does Will like to read, no ofcourse he is not going to read but could get audio books where he could follow a simple plot. Yes, i know he has very limited attention span but make the most of it. Find someone who shares hos love of models, just to talk about it Little at a time..who knows he might pick up some interest again.

    While i am all for persuing treatment options, try not to do what alot of spouses and kids do….don’t do the “Hold on till such and such gets here” the patient will hold on and suffer and it is so unfair. Make sure Will knows you want to grow old with him and will be there thru thick and thin but also let him know you will survive if it is his time to go. Give him permission to meet his needs.

    And you remember to access the support people you have in your life for your needs, your friends, your kids, your online community.

    Since you know I am the one who is bossy and do not sugar coat things “can not change now”….i have given you the ideas that just come to mind right now. Many ideas as you will likely need parts of several ideas. Try it, if no go throw it out and try something else?

    Love ya girl!


  3. Yes! COGNITIVE changes! whether the meds do/did it, or the bipoloar does it – (shaking my head) SO UN FAIR!! but it’s so true! I’ve lost a very vital part of myself and whatever it is “has finally altered my brain to the point that it no longer functions as well as it once did.” It’s criminal if you ask me 😦


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