Of course, now that we have gotten one HUGE problem under a semblance of control, another one rears its ugly head: I still have to figure out what to do about work.
I had a very honest—and very upsetting—talk with my boss on the phone yesterday after Will and I had gotten the great news from OHSU about his cancer being treatable. Frankly, I’m shocked that all this emotional whipsawing hasn’t triggered me—I feel like I’m on the rollercoaster ride from Hell—but my daily gut-checks tell me that I’m only experiencing the normal ups and downs associated with major life changes. Which is a good thing, even as uncomfortable as it is.
Knowing this does not solve my dilemma, however. Yesterday I had to turn down several floor shifts, much to the dismay of my friend, the director of nursing at my facility; and again, I also had to explain why. To say the least, I feel HORRIBLE about this—I feel like I’ve left her totally in the lurch, and I know all too well what that’s like. She’s invested a lot of time and company funds in my orientation and training, and of course she’s disappointed. She said that she’d had so many plans for me “because of how great you were”…….and with her emphasis on that one tiny word, she summarized everything that’s wrong with me in regards to my career.
Yeah, I was a great nurse. I’m not a great nurse anymore. I’m not even a good one. In fact, I’m really not even a nurse anymore, even though I still possess a valid license in good standing that says I’m one, and I still hold a nursing job.. But I know I’ll never work as a floor-running, wound-bandaging, IV-starting, doctor-calling, shot-giving NURSE again. And it pisses me off!! I wish people could understand how hard it is for me to say “I can’t do it”. I wish they could understand how much it hurts me to admit—even to myself—that my career is essentially over.
I am SO sick of losing parts of me to bipolar disorder. I lost the job that I’d planned to retire from. I’ve lost a good deal of my dignity and self-respect. I’ve lost my ability to concentrate, to get and stay organized, to cope with ever-changing priorities. I can do resident admissions and paperwork, but that’s it……and a trained high-school graduate could almost do that much.
Bottom line, I’m losing a big chunk of my identity. Who am I, if not a nurse? Yes, I’m a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a sister; but so much of my substance has been inextricably linked to what I do for a living that I don’t know how to untangle what I do from who I am. And where do I go from here? What do former nurses do to keep a decent roof over their heads and give themselves a sense of purpose?
I’ve gotten several excellent suggestions from friends and family that, unfortunately, are difficult to pursue in a rural area, so my options are somewhat limited. And since relocating is not on the table, I’m going to have to get creative. Like me, a couple of these friends had to give up active nursing because of their illness; they did it because they knew that even with medication and therapy, they were unable to practice safely. And much to their credit, they were honest enough with themselves to admit it before they committed a medication error or missed a critical assessment that could have resulted in harm to a patient.
I’m proud of them for having the courage to do that. Hell, I’m proud of ME for having the courage to do that.
So why do I feel so bad?