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.
You can find more posts related to mental health and work on the blog index.
There’s more on mental illness stigma on the Stop Stigma page.