For Rent: Used Nurse. Dirt Cheap!

I’d better explain that. I am not, of course, a ‘lady of the night’ who dresses up in a nurse costume and gives bed baths to her, um, patients for money. What I AM is a newly unemployed, 50-something nurse who’s showing her age, and as such, does not suffer fools gladly. Although I was fired, essentially, for working while bipolar, it became evident that I had to go when I stopped co-signing peoples’ bullshit.

As a nurse in 21st-century America, I’m more like a glorified food server than a skilled technician. Nurses in almost every healthcare setting are expected to fluff pillows, bend straws, suck up to administration, doctors, patients and their families, and even use scripted messages when addressing their “customers”: “Is there anything else I can do for you right now? I have the time.” Oh, sure, by all means let me fetch that warm blanket for you while ignoring your roommate who’s turning blue…..

It’s even worse in management. At least when you’re a wage slave, you get to clock out, go home, and let somebody else deal with the irate family member who’s making completely ridiculous demands on behalf of his relative. As a salaried executive type, you not only have to listen to the jerk, but you must bend over and take whatever he dishes out, fix whatever led him to complain, and then apologize profusely so that maybe—just maybe—it will raise your Press-Ganey (customer satisfaction survey) scores. Or failing that, you might be able to convince him not to file a lawsuit against the facility for not giving his 300-lb. diabetic grandmother a piece of cake.

Yes, it’s that bad. And I’ve got to admit that after several years of dealing with this sort of thing every day, I finally marched in to my boss’s office and refused to handle any more of it. By that time I was literally on the verge of a nervous breakdown (which I proceeded to have a couple of weeks later) and no longer cared what he or anyone else said: I was done catering to idiots. He was more than welcome to continue doing so himself; I, on the other hand, was over it. In fact, I’d already decided that the next 70-year-old “child” who got in my face about Mamma’s laundry getting mixed up would be informed that she a) had obviously mistaken me for someone who gave a shit, and b) might want to take that up with the poor woman who was actually in charge of that department.

But it wasn’t until the nervous breakdown happened that someone decided that I was no longer fit to work in the capacity to which I was accustomed. I could’ve understood it if I’d been fired when I declared my freedom from petty crap and verbal abuse, but having panic attacks and going out on medical leave? Really??

So here I am, healed up and ready to go back to being a worker bee…..but nobody’s hiring. And at my age, my prospects aren’t exactly dynamite (even if my temper is). Now what do you suppose a used nurse with a bad back and a sketchy work history is to do?

You know what, I should become a waitress! I’ve been slinging hash and kissing ass for years……and I never even got any tips for it. Where’s the closest Denny’s?

I Hate Being Bipolar. It’s AWESOME!

If ever a bumper sticker needed a beverage alert, it was this one. I saw it a few months ago on the back of an old Honda that was held together with prayer and duct tape—kind of like my life—and promptly spewed Diet Coke all over my dashboard.

Then I went home and told this story to my family, only to have them stare at me like I was wearing red ribbons in my hair. I keep forgetting that people who are not cursed/blessed with a serious mental illness can’t quite wrap their intact little minds around the humor inherent in carrying around a big, bad ol’ DSM diagnosis like bipolar disorder. They don’t get the jokes. You know, like Foghorn Leghorn saying, “Boy, I say Boy, you’re exceeding the limits of my medication!”

Then again, those of you who are too young to catch the reference to a 1960s-era cartoon chicken might not get that one either. ‘S okay…..sometimes, you just have to get to know me to understand my peculiar brand of warped. The fact that I’m a registered nurse of some years’ vintage also has done things to my sense of humor that would make a sailor blush. Poop stories? Nurses know ’em all: we’ve seen it, smelled it, cleaned it…..and they’re made fresh daily. Ba-da-boom!

All kidding aside, being a health professional who just happens to have a nasty case of manic depression really sucks sometimes. Well, it sucks more often than that, but I digress. It’s a difficult thing to hide when you’re working side-by-side with other nurses, doctors, patients, and the assorted characters who populate healthcare facilities. These people usually know each other’s business only slightly better than they do their own, so when you experience a bout of mania or depression, everyone in the building knows about it almost before you do.

I’m a rather unusual case, seeing as how I wasn’t even diagnosed until the age of 53. Now I look back and can see that I’ve had bipolar for most, if not all of my life; it explains the melancholy of my childhood, the tempestuousness of my 20s and 30s, the crazy things I did (like throwing a change of clothes and a pack of cigarettes in the bed of a co-worker’s truck and driving down to Ensenada, Mexico on a Friday night). But like too many people with the disorder, I thought I was merely defective and didn’t deserve any better, and I was also terrified of mental illness. My parents used to talk about people who were “loco en la cabeza” (IOW: nuts) in hushed tones, and of course there weren’t any crazy people in OUR family……no, we just had parents who drank like fish, and aunts, grandmothers, and sisters who had quiet nervous breakdowns behind closed doors.

So I got to be the ‘special’ one. I don’t get what my mother called “the vapors” or pass out drunk in the parlor; I have a MENTAL ILLNESS. And sometimes the label seems to weigh more heavily than any patient I’ve ever lifted.