I’ve had another quiet day today. A rest day to catch up on sleep before four days at work in a row and my first performance review for the ward I’m working on currently.
I’m sure it doesn’t sound like much, and to most people, it probably isn’t much, but between my anxiety and physical health problems and my current job, so far I’ve not managed more than two days in a row and more than three days in a week. The last time I tried working just three days in a row I ended up sick by the third day and went home after 45 minutes.
I must admit that may have had more to do with Rose giving me (and the whole family) gastro enteritis. But in many ways, being really sick was just a convenient excuse to miss work. It was at the height of the month of severe anxiety from work that led me to being so depressed that if dying was the only way to avoid the choice of going to work or getting fired/quitting, I’d have chosen dying. Anyway, thankfully the higher dose of cymbalta kicked in and now I’m back to a bearable level of anxiety.
But it doesn’t stop me from worrying about this coming week.
I haven’t discussed my health problems in detail but this post is as good as any. Basically if it ends in “itis”, I have it. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, enthesitis, bursitis, tendonitis, tendinopathy. I also have various permanent injuries due to assaults and sporting mishaps. And finally I have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. Those are the ones that interfere with my working anyway. It means I have a constant level of moderate pain and fatigue and the more I work, the more the pain approaches severe.
I guess while we’re talking health I should add all the other minor issues. I have insulin resistance from having PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and at risk of it developing into full blown type 2 diabetes, I have an underactive thyroid and a whole heap of vitamin and mineral deficiencies that contribute to my tiredness and pain, and in the case of my magnesium deficiency, it leads to pretty bad restless legs syndrome if I don’t take high doses of supplements every day.
For the last 5 years, when I’ve worked, I’ve generally only worked two days a week if doing physically demanding nursing work, or three days a week when I was working in mental health. Even that is difficult at times. Now I work five days a fortnight. Of course being a nurse, means it’s shift work and the way my roster has worked out this time means I’ve got four of my five shifts in a row.
I was planning to go to the gym tonight, but I made the mistake of going to the gym the day before several shifts in a row and I ended up unable to walk by the end of it so I’ll be staying home and trying to get an early night. As early as Rose will allow anyway. She’s not a good sleeper.
I think though, I’m more worried about my performance review tomorrow. The nursing unit manager is ex military and she’s tough! Tough but fair from what I’ve seen. On my first day she told me my shoes weren’t good enough (had to be leather), on the second day it was that my hair wasn’t up enough (I had it in a ponytail so it was kept back but she likes people to have it up in a bun). I’m sure that whatever she says tomorrow it will be fair but I am still terrified.
My last performance review 11 months left me shattered. The funny thing is it was a really good review. That NUM said that the patients loved me, that she had lots of good reports from the patients. The problem was comments other staff had made. Apparently few staff members had complained about my asperger traits – that I was awkward, didn’t fit in, that I sometimes talked too much (something I do when I’m anxious) and that they only wanted to talk about positive things when interacting. At the time I was crushed – I’d tried so hard to fit in, tried too hard apparently. The whole time I was there I was battling a mixed episode (depression and mania) and severe anxiety but I hadn’t shared any of that. All I’d talked about was Sammie and how I was struggling to find affordable therapy for her and a few times when people were talking about bad exes, I’d talked about my exhusband. When I got better, I think I was left feeling quite annoyed about the whole situation. None of what I’d talked about was raised by me – it was by other staff who actually did want to get to know me and kept asking me about those parts of my life. If certain other staff didn’t want us to talk about such topics, why didn’t they just say so?
Maybe it’s the aspie in me, or maybe it’s because I’m used to support groups where people speak up if something upsets them, but what is wrong with being honest and saying “Hey sorry, could the two/three/however many of you please not talk about this topic. It bothers/depresses/annoys me”. Why complain to the NUM about it?
But I guess that’s the nature of some people. I’ve discovered the same with people who I thought were friends. Just because someone asks how you are or acts interested in your life, doesn’t mean they really want you to talk about it. It’s a mistake I haven’t made since. At work, I wear the happy mask even when I’m breaking inside.
I guess it was a rude shock to me, because my previous job (in aged care), my colleagues were happy to talk about anything and everything. We talked about happy things and sad things. We talked about many things that some people would find taboo like religion, politics, sex etc. As much as I hated what hard work aged care was and found it unstimulating, I miss the interactions there – I miss the interactions with the residents who lived there and I miss the majority of my workmates who were great to talk to while we worked.
But I learnt my lesson. Not everyone in life can be trusted to be honest with them about your life, so now in work situations I just keep quiet. I think it just hurt because I’d have thought psych nurses would be more caring about listening to people, and don’t get me wrong – some were very caring and kept encouraging me to talk – but some were the total opposite and saw “listening to people” as something they were only paid to do and if they weren’t being paid to, they didn’t want to know.
After that, in my following rotations (I was rotating through different psychiatric facilities) and in my current position (as a ward nurse), I just stay quiet.
At least I know it’s not an issue that will come up this time. But I’m still worried. Because of my health, I find it difficult to keep up with the workload some days on the extremely busy ward I’m on (one of the busiest in the hospital), and because of Rose, I’ve been five minutes late a few times, and of course there is the problem I’ve had 7 sick days in two months, all of which worries me.
My current job is a temporary contract and I’m hoping if tomorrow goes well to be offered a permanent position which would make my job a lot more stable. My last position, the one as a psych nurse was only a temporary contract so when I asked to take some extended leave (to get help for my postnatal depression episode and because I was struggling with something I’d witnessed at work) earlier this year I was told no, if I wanted time off because of the nature of my contract, I’d have to quit. I needed the time off so I quit. Which is something that really broke my heart to do. I loved my job as a psych nurse and was really good at it. The plus side is my boss encouraged me to reapply in the future which is something I intend to do. Clinical nursing is ok but my heart is in mental health nursing.
I know it was for the best. I needed more than the few weeks I’d ask for off and by quitting I got an extra month off. As well as that, I’d always had some regrets going straight into psych nursing after uni. Even though it’s what I’ve wanted to do long term for a long time, I always regretted that it would mean giving up my clinical skills. Now by spending a year (or more – my contract is for a year) working in clinical areas means I can always change back to clinical nursing in the future if I want to, and I get a chance to practice my clinical skills I learnt at uni.
Anyway, this post ended up being a lot longer than I was expecting. That’s where things are at with my work currently. I hope tomorrow is a passable performance review and that I get offered to be made permanent (if not, there will be another chance in a few months). Part of me is scared that the NUM will turn around and say (politely) something like “you suck, we’re letting you go” but I keep trying to tell myself I’m not that bad, that they are only assessing me as someone who is new to clinical nursing, but the anxiety is starting to build up tonight unfortunately. I’m really terrified about tomorrow.
Thankfully it’s not crushing anxiety (not yet anyway). It doesn’t feel like the anxiety a month ago where I was having panic attacks and couldn’t breathe because of fear of work. But it’s not pleasant. But I have to face it. Hopefully I can get a decent sleep tonight.
Wish me luck!