Featured Guest Blogger

How a Nurse Practitioner Living With Bipolar Disorder Takes Control In the Workplace

I first came across Ann Roselle, an acute care nurse practitioner, via Twitter after reading the extremely personal and brave post that she wrote for the online magazine, Ravishly, which poignantly highlights the humiliation she experienced during one of her numerous psychiatric hospitalizations.  Given the stigma that surrounds mental illness, many may feel ashamed to disclose their diagnoses (especially as a professional in the medical field).  However, Ann writes so openly about living with postpartum onset bipolar disorder as a guest contributor on several websites and in her blog, Bipolar&Me.  She dispels the misconception that people diagnosed with bipolar disorder can’t live fulfilling lives, have a successful career, balance numerous roles and responsibilities (wife, mom of 3 boys, mental health advocate, blogger, to name a few), AND cope with the fluctuations in mood characteristic of bipolar disorder.  I am a huge fan of Ann’s writing and am honored to have her contribute to my blog as she discusses her commitment to maintaining stability in her personal and professional life.

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“It’s stylish to talk about mental health, especially how we maintain our own.”  As a nurse practitioner who lives with a serious mental illness, bipolar I disorder to be exact, how could I not fall in love with a blog with a psychiatrist who talks so frankly about mental health and her practice?

I am a surgical nurse practitioner, specializing in cardiac surgery.  I am fortunate enough to be able to be open about my disorder in the workplace.  I had fears initially about being open, however with time I believe it has proven to be a positive experience.  In my case, living with bipolar disorder never proved troublesome with my training as I was diagnosed after I had been in active practice for six years.  So, the questions that beg to be asked are — How does my illness impact my patients or influence my interactions with them?  And how do I maintain stability with full-time employment in a stressful environment?

First, it starts with the moment you accept that you have an illness.  That you have an illness you are going to need to learn to manage as one manages any chronic illness.  And, I won’t lie — accepting the diagnosis is hard.  I didn’t want to accept my diagnosis for a long time.  I cried and mourned the vision of the life that I thought I was going to have, that I was supposed to have, thinking everything changed in the moment I received my diagnosis.  It took a long time for me to realize nothing had actually changed and that the life I wanted and envisioned was still there waiting for me to seize it.

Part of my seizing the day, so to speak, was to commit myself to doing what I needed to do and stop fighting with my treatment team.  Stop fighting the need for medication.  To stop being the non-compliant patient I would roll my very eyes about as a practitioner.  I showed up for appointments, attended groups faithfully in the early days, and took my medications.  I played with my diet trying to find a proper nutritional balance.  I quit drinking on a regular basis.  I became fanatical about ensuring proper sleep hygiene and getting rest.  I fully admit that I am not great about the exercise piece as my work hours limit my ability to get to a gym on workdays and I am so busy with my family on days off.  I’ll get there, though.  Exercise helps mood and I feel infinitely better on the days I’m physically active.

Now, what about nursing practice you ask?  What about those patients?  Ultimately, if you are in treatment (on meds, working with a therapist, a prescriber, or even have a support group to fall back on) and stable, the disorder has no bearing on your practice.  None.  I hold the view my bipolar disorder is a chronic manageable condition no different than diabetes or hypertension.  I learned (and am still learning) to manage my moods in the same vein that a diabetic learns to count carbohydrates and manage their blood sugar.

Emotionally, I have always had the ability to hold myself together for the hours I am at work and dealing with patients.  My patients will never know I carry this diagnosis.  I may fall apart once I get home and feel safe to do so, but never within the walls of my employment.  I also make it a rule that no matter what happens, no matter the co-morbid psychiatric diagnosis my cardiac patients may carry, I never reveal myself to them.  They come for cardiac care and not to hear my story.  I do find I have become more empathetic to those who carry psychiatric diagnoses.  I discourage staff from saying inappropriate and stigmatizing things both in and out of earshot of patients.  There is a huge difference in a patient who is emotionally labile because of a mood disorder and a patient who is emotionally labile trying to cope with their physical illness.  I view it as my responsibility to help staff understand such a critical difference.  Emotional lability in and of itself does not a bipolar make.  I make sure my patients’ home medication regimens are adhered to as closely as possible. And when a patient is acutely decompensating in terms of their mood or mental status, I make sure that medically we have dotted our I’s and crossed our T’s before calling the psychiatry consult service.

I’m not perfect.  I have days I need to take a time out and walk away.  This is beyond the usual code blue that may have been upsetting for staff or seeing a patient I really cared about suffer from a devastating complication.  I have colleagues who respect that need and allow me the moments I need to compose myself and come back calm and ready to do my job.

I am fortunate to do what I do.  And I am fortunate to be able to practice with both the patient and provider perspective.

While I am only human, at the end of the day, I think all those I encounter are better for it.

 

For more of Ann Roselle’s writings, check out her blog, Bipolar&Me.  You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

7 thoughts on “How a Nurse Practitioner Living With Bipolar Disorder Takes Control In the Workplace

  1. How thrilling to see my amazing friend/blogger Ann here at one of my favorite blogs! :)))

    I discovered Ann during my internet quest to find women who have experienced bipolar, peripartum onset (postpartum bipolar disorder) for the purpose of interviewing for my book “Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder” with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa. (Post Hill Press, Fall, 2017)

    After getting to know Ann & having the great fortune of making a wonderful friend in her, I referred Ann to Joni Edelman, the editor of Ravishly.com. I knew Ann’s writing talent along with the fact that her story was incredible would speak to Joni, who lives with bipolar disorder. As I predicted, Joni found Ann’s articles about bipolar disorder to be top-notch and she published them on the popular site.

    Lo and behold, you & Ann connected with one another via Ravishly. It’s a small world and it thrills me when this kind of networking takes place. It’s social media at its best!

    Cheers to both of you remarkable visionaries who constantly inspire me – my world is better with you two in it.
    XOXO
    Dyane

    • Hi Dyane! Seems like the blogosphere has proved to be an amazing way to connect w/ people, esp since it allowed me to connect w/ u and Ann! I actually recall retweeting Ann’s post on Ravishly and you replying that you appreciated me RT’ing your dear friend Ann’s post!! I’m always thankful and happy each time i see you on my twitter feed…u are an amazing supporter to those whom u connect w/ via social media (and are also great at providing insight and perspective regarding those who aren’t so supportive lol! i always love reading your posts and rants) and your continuous support motivates and inspires me to keep blogging, networking, and spreading awareness alongside u, Ann, and other amazing advocates 🙂

      • I can’t begin to thank you for this comment – it is very…chocolate-y! 🙂 (Supreme comment!!!) I love reading all your posts too and I’m grateful we’ve connected; you’re a bright, bright light in this blogosphere and I’ll keep singing your praises however I can through Twitter & beyond!

  2. Reblogged this on Birth of a New Brain and commented:
    I’ll be publishing my weekly original post later this week, but I couldn’t help but reblog this post. I’ll let my comment do the talking:

    “How thrilling to see my amazing friend/blogger Ann Roselle here at one of my favorite blogs written by Dr.Vania Manipod, psychiatrist of Freud and Fashion! :)))

    I discovered Ann during my internet quest to find women who have experienced bipolar, peripartum onset (postpartum bipolar disorder) for the purpose of interviewing for my book “Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder” with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa. (Post Hill Press, Fall, 2017)

    After getting to know Ann & having the great fortune of making a wonderful friend in her, I referred Ann to Joni Edelman, the editor of Ravishly.com. I knew Ann’s writing talent (along with the fact that her story was incredible) would speak to Joni, who lives with bipolar disorder. As I predicted, Joni found Ann’s articles about bipolar disorder to be top-notch and she published them on the popular site.

    Lo and behold, you & Ann connected with one another via Ravishly.com. It’s a small world and it thrills me when this kind of networking takes place. It’s social media at its best!

    Cheers to both of you remarkable visionaries who constantly inspire me – my world is better with you two in it. XO, Dyane”

  3. Pingback: How a Nurse Practitioner Living With Bipolar Disorder Takes Control In the Workplace | A Journey Into A Unique Mind

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