My nursing career is officially over.
It was time to renew my license, which of course I had no intention of doing because I haven’t worked since 2014. You have to have 960 practice hours in the past five years to be able to renew without taking a refresher course, and I don’t. So it was time to apply for either Inactive or Retired status, and I chose the latter because it allows me to retain the title of RN as long as I put “Retired” behind it.
I cried a little as I filled out the form. I’ve known for years that I would likely never work as a nurse again, but this drove the point home because it means my career is irrevocably over. Stick a fork in me, I’m done. And unbidden, an old anger washed over me as I signed the form and popped it into an envelope. Bipolar disorder did this to me, I said to myself. It killed my career and then it almost killed me. Fuck you, bipolar!!
I haven’t really thought much about my illness in awhile. Even my blog posts are usually about other things going on in my life and I may feel fleetingly depressed for a few days because it’s winter, but it’s been some time since the BP has been a major focus. There’s just too much going on in my head to worry about it much. This is a good thing. It was years into my diagnosis before I stopped allowing the illness to consume me, so to have the old feelings return with a vengeance was disappointing. I don’t want to think about bipolar. I’ve gotten so much better and other than the mild hypomania I had last spring and summer, I’ve been stable.
But the truth hurts, and the truth is, I feel like I’ve been robbed. I should have been able to work till I’m 70. I shouldn’t have had to go on disability when I did. I look back on the last few years, and I never expected to be where I am today. Yes, it could be much worse—I’m sane, I have a place to live and family and a great support system. But five years ago I was a nurse-surveyor for the State, making great money, and living the good life in our beloved house in the woods with my husband, dog, and our three cats. I know I’m idealizing it now because if you go back and read my blog posts from 2014, you’ll see how much I actually hated the rat race. I wanted a simpler life with fewer demands on my time; wanted a smaller house with a yard I could keep up; wanted a JOB, not a career.
I never found what I was looking for, but then I never did during my career either. I was always searching for my “forever” job, and it eluded me to the very end. Part of my trouble with hanging onto jobs was the restlessness that comes with bipolar disorder, but it wasn’t just that…I simply never found a place for myself in the working world. Oh, there were plenty of times I thought I had, and sometimes I’d go as long as a couple of years thinking I’d finally landed in a sweet spot, but I’d either grow restless and bored and quit, or I’d become depressed or irritable and be shown the door. It wasn’t that I didn’t have a work ethic; I just never learned how to be consistent. Being a good nurse isn’t the same as being a good employee.
And I was a good nurse. I loved taking care of people and helping them solve problems. If that’s all there was to nursing, I’d have worked till I dropped dead. But it’s not. It’s short-staffing and impossible workloads and politics. It’s nurses eating their young and managers bullying those lower on the food chain. It’s slogging through a 12-hour shift lifting 400-lb. patients and not having the time to eat or even pee sometimes. And of course, the documentation was ridiculous, and from what my nurse friends tell me it’s only gotten worse in the years since I left.
Still, it about broke my heart to sign a paper saying I will never practice again…and as I’ve learned to my sorrow, “never” is a very long time.