My Life Journey

Flush… Is That My Career Going Down the Toilet?

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Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

I’ve moaned about this before, but it feels like it’s time for some more moaning.  Sometimes I feel like my mental health nursing career has been flushed down the toilet.  Despite having 15 years of experience, a master’s degree, and a ton of continuing education, I feel like my career is done, for a combination of reasons.

Things really started to fall apart 3 years ago.  I’d quit my job because of workplace bullying, and long story short I ended up blacklisted by the small number of local health authorities, all of which have centralized recruitment, that control almost all of the nursing jobs in my area. 

After nine months of unemployment, I got hired as a casual at the mental health & addictions transitional program where I still work, which is outside of those health authorities.  They don’t like me, because independent thought is completely unwelcome there, as is mental illness among staff.  I also had another casual job that was not psych-related, which I recently left because it just wasn’t working with my illness.

Even at the one job that I have, I’m not able to work much, and I only work night shifts.  Cognitively I struggle with processing multiple pieces of information at once, and I would be overwhelmed during the day.  There’s also an intolerably high level of BS during the day, with a substantial likelihood of someone taking issue with something I do.

While doing night shifts that make it easier for me to manage, it also means that I have very little interaction with the clients, which is the reason I enjoyed nursing so much in the first place.  I have all these skills that have just sat idle for the past three years, and I don’t know if I’ll ever end up using them again.

I don’t see myself being able to work on a regular basis anytime in the near future, especially since shifts in my illness tend to happen rapidly and unexpectedly.

On top of that, I’m becoming increasingly un-hireable.  I learned a lot about the nursing job market during my nine months unemployed (despite being well qualified in a high-demand field).  For one, I learned that employers don’t like gaps in your resume or irregular work patterns.  I learned that references (at least 2) from managers are non-negotiable, and at this point there is not a single manager I would trust to ask for a reference.  I learned that nobody is interested in genuine answers to questions; they want neat and tidy answers that go along with what you “should” say.  Blacklisting can and does happen, and qualifications and skills mean next to nothing.

I was never particularly good at job interviews to begin with, but now I would be a disaster.  My brain works a lot slower than it used to, and I really don’t do spontaneity.  I can’t even handle an unexpected question at a store checkout, much less having to come up with something semi-intelligent in a stressful interview situation.  Chances are that I would freeze, feel trapped, cry, and walk out.  It’s happened before.  It’s not a matter of anxiety; rather, it’s recognizing what my illness-related limitations are.

And none of this has to do with me being a bad nurse.  I was a very good nurse, although I’m certainly no longer capable of performing the way I did when I was well.  Perhaps that’s part of what’s so frustrating about the whole thing.  I doubt I’ll ever again do what I used to be really good at, primarily because of my own illness, but to some extent because of a system that values conformity over all else.  And I’m not comparing myself to other people or their expectations; I’m (selfishly?) comparing myself to myself and what I have been able to do in the past.  My level of functioning has tanked compared to what it used to be.  It’s the effects of my illness and I don’t see it as a personal failure, but I’m still the person that has to deal with the consequences.

It all seems like a bit of a waste.  The thousands spent on tuition for my master’s program, the many hours spent watching webinars and doing other continuing education.  After all, what was the point, really?

Part of the frustration is not being able to talk about it. Whenever I’ve tried, I was met with well-meaning but misguided attempts to minimize the problem, which felt extremely invalidating. I’ve lived through it, I know the extent of the problem.  How I react to it is another matter, but the central problem simply is what it is.  And sure, I’ve got blogging and other writing to focus my time and interest on and that’s great, but it’s still a change that I haven’t fully wrapped my head around yet.

There was once someone who was passionate about her career and excelled at it.  I just don’t know who she is anymore.

Anyway, this is just me having a bit of a grumble.  Life is what it is.

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48 thoughts on “Flush… Is That My Career Going Down the Toilet?”

  1. That is really hard! And its a lot to accept especially when you want to be working and using your good and well-earned skill set.
    Its frustrating for sure. I have spent many hours feeling the same way about my career. I think its good to talk and vent all the feeling around it. I believe that validation is huge when it comes to this. Careers are a big part of our lives, its how most of us earn the money we need to live. When that is over, its a huge adjustment. Take good care of You today. ❤️

  2. Ashley, I so understand how you feel. I’ve been out of work now since August 2015. The job that I had that closed back in 2014 was my life. I loved what I did. I was great at it, and my manager would even admit I was his right arm.
    I had to employers I worked for that I loved, and not a single day goes by, that I don’t think of it.
    The sad fact, of the matter, is I simply couldn’t do the type of work again, even if I tried.
    My mind isn’t sharp anymore, quick decisions and multi-tasking flew out the damn window.
    I think it’s terribly unfair that you were blacklisted, especially because you are so qualified. God knows you are certainly knowledgeable about all things mental health.
    Like I said, I can certainly understand the frustration of thinking about the person I once was. Passionate and excelling at your job. I wonder the same thing all the time… I just never write about it because it actually hurts me more when I think about it.
    The craziest thing is, I won’t talk about it, but I dream about those two jobs so often. At least a minimum of 4 times a week.
    How are you coming along with your new book? I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again… I really think you should write a novel about you life. All the good, bad, and ugly of evertything that has happeed to you.
    You know you can grumble anytime, Ash. Lord knows, this is the perfect place for it.
    I hope you go easier on yourself in the meantime… None of this is your fault. xoxoxo!!

  3. Oh no! Oh my. No, getting your education was definitely worth it!! No matter what! Granny Smith always used to say that if you get an education, no one can take that away from you. I think she meant it was the sort of accomplishment you should always feel proud of.

    This is just a wild, random thought, but why don’t you move here to America? There would be no blacklisting at all! Also, if you ever go to any interviews, please feel free to ask for my interview tips first! Insider info!! And the tips work, for seriousness!

    If you don’t or can’t work any longer, please don’t devalue all the work you’ve already done! Like, you know I worked at a reading center for three years, teaching kids how to read. Now I’m incapable of working at all, but I feel like I really earned some good karma by having done that. And that’s good. You, too, have been a great nurse to a lot of people. That means a lot! And maybe someday you can perform an emergency tracheotomy, or something, and save the day. (I’d be the person yelling, “Oh my goodness! What are you doing with my straw?!”)

    I wish there was some other field you could work in and feel better about… hmm… I don’t know. But you do so much good in the world no matter what!! 🙂

    1. Yeah, it’s kind of hard to disagree with that! 😀 We Americans are a wild bunch. If you ever change your mind, just come south!!

  4. I hear you. This must be such a horribly hard transition for you, after all the time you’ve worked as a nurse, with your knowledge, experience, passion and dedication… I wish things could be different with your career and something could be changed. At least you can always feel free to grumble and unload here. 🙂 🤗

  5. You’re entitled to grumble, your limitations have magnified because of the bullying. There’s a high likelihood that had you been in a secure and supportive work environment the spiral to where you are now wouldn’t have happened. Mental illness feeds on bad experiences and uses them to tell us how we deserve all the sh*t.
    I have no doubt that you were a better nurse than those who bullyed you, weak people who know they aren’t as good try to bring down those who are better than them. You have so many good qualities Ashley, you are intelligent, compassionate, and while you may struggle face to face, certainly in blog world you come across as being friendly and supportive.
    Yes, life is different and difficult, but you are trying to make the best of where you are now, keep using that strength and determination to progress with the writing <3

  6. I am so sorry, Ashley. I get what you mean about not being able to talk about it – “Whenever I’ve tried, I was met with well-meaning but misguided attempts to minimize the problem, which felt extremely invalidating” – I’ve found the same. I lost my job because of my ongoing surgeries and worsening health, and it was incredibly difficult to deal with. It still gets me now, with just how devastating it was. I enjoyed my job and it was a stepping stone towards applying for a doctorate because I wanted to be a Clinical Psychologist. I look at it now and think ‘what a waste of a first class honours degree’ that I can’t do anything with. The next kick in the face is with knowing I can’t work anywhere like I used to – like you with your thoughts/mental ability not being like it was, and I can’t even sit in a ‘proper’ chair anymore so office jobs are out. It’s crushing. I really can’t offer any useful thoughts here, but I just wanted you to know I hear you. Sending hugs  ♥
    Caz xx

  7. I can understand as this is basically what happened to my librarianship career, except due to autism and social anxiety as well as depression. It does feel like I wasted my time doing my MA in librarianship (which took more than three times as long as it should have done because of depression) as I can’t get a library job and have messed up those that I have had. I’m not sure where I go from here, as getting started as a writer is not really going anywhere at the moment (writing is not a problem; pitching and getting commissioned is the problem) nor have I succeeded in starting a secondary career as a proof-reader to supplement my income.

  8. I don’t think any of it is a waste. Your experience and education combination allowed you to grow and help so many of us struggling to understand. You’re that in between that a lot of us with mental health illnesses need. Thank you for being you, and I’m sending you love and support!

  9. Sending you a big virtual hug! That is a really tricky situation, and I’m sorry that you have to go through this. I agree that there is SO MUCH BS in the interview process, and also in expectations of employees who suffer from mental health issues. Hoping the virtual support helps a bit!

  10. Aww, that’s so sad that your illness and some mean people have affected your career so much. 🙁 It sounds like you’re grieving your past self, which is very valid! It kinda reminded me of the song “She Used to be Mine;” have you heard that?

    Is it worth it to consider moving to another town or something? That wouldn’t solve every problem, but it might help with the blacklisting?

    Also I hate and struggle with interviews too, and I find it really helpful to practice with someone and write out and memorize some responses to common questions. And if they ask you something that catches you off guard, you can stall and say, “hmm, that’s a really interesting question, I might need a minute to think about it…” and you can even ask if you can come back to the question at the end of the interview — I’ve done that a couple of times!

    But mainly I’m sorry 😔💕

    1. Thanks ❤️ I hadn’t heard that song before – it’s really good! I had considered moving a couple of years ago, but just couldn’t face all that would be involved in that.

  11. We’re trying to move past the “productivity” mindset. Yes, you’ve “invested” in your career. You are so much more as a being than any one role you fill.

    Also, letting go of what isn’t and accepting what is now is a practice that is hard and rewarding.

    We see your nobility. Your giving and caring. And your struggle. It’s like sinking in icy water wearing a sweatsuit. Struggle less. Free yourself from what doesn’t serve you now so that you can focus on health and live to swim another day.

    You are stronger than any blacklist or calculation of time/money/energy spent. 💕

  12. What if instead of trying to stay in nursing (which sadly doesn’t seem like the right fit for you right now) you coached/trained other people who want to get in the medical field in some way? Maybe an online course and personal consulting when you are able? Or maybe coach others with mental illness how to cope or compensate in other ways? You have a lot of skills in addition to nursing. Maybe it’s time to move your career in a different direction….

  13. I also agree with all the comments above and send hugs, prayers, and good vibes your way. I wish you could find a workable solution, or move here as suggested. Since you don’t feel that is possible, maybe make the most of your writing, people make big bucks blogging, writing as freelancers, all over the world. I have lots of inspiring websites that you can check out-such as Freedom With Writing, where you can get paid to write for magazines, websites, guest blog and more. Hey, maybe I should take my own advice and get busy, lol. Actually, I try all the time. Anyway, try to think positive and have a great day!!

  14. I have a 4 year gap in my resume due to the fact that I took time off to become a caregiver. I’ve been on 4 job interviews in the last few months but no call backs. It’s already hard enough trying to find part-time work (cannot work full-time as a caregiver) . So frustrating 😡

  15. I assume this is the post you were referring to in your post today. Bullying is a terrible problem in many jobs. It is a big part of why I became unable to work, although the physical problems I developed were the icing on the cake and the final straw. I feel your pain. I never got to achieve all my career dreams either and it is sad. Sometimes you have to grieve for what never was or what no longer is.

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