There are some things you may already vaguely know about me. My real name is Carrie and I have an alternate personality whom I call Charlotte (not to mention the poor guy, Jack, in the back ground who hardly gets a say in anything). I live in the UK near London, by the sea. I am almost 30 years old. I suffer from depression, I have recently been diagnosed with Emotional Dysregulation Disorder (the new name for BPD) and have lived with a host of psychiatric conditions since I was a child.
I am also a Veterinary Nurse.
When I first started writing my blog I never told anyone about my profession and it still scares me a bit to be so open about it.
You see, like many other professionals, when I joined the register I signed an oath and made the following declaration –
“I promise and solemnly declare that I will pursue the work of my profession with integrity and accept my responsibilities to the public, my clients, the profession and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and that above all my constant endeavour will be to ensure the health and welfare of animals committed to my care.”
Along with this declaration I have a Code of Professional Conduct by which I must abide. It states what I can and cannot do with regard to my patient, clients and the rest of the Veterinary team. If I break any of these professional responsibilities, I am liable to disciplinary action and could actually be struck of the register for misconduct, making sure that I am out of a job at the same time, because legally there would be a lot of things I wouldn’t be allowed to do.
What has always worried me is that as there is still so much stigma attached to mental health issues, by writing my blog and disclosing that I am a Veterinary Nurse and suffering from mental health difficulties, it could be perceived as bringing the profession into disrepute, as it may undermine the public’s confidence in the profession.
I wonder what my clients would think if I admitted my suffering? Would they think different of me? I know my patients wouldn’t care, but would clients not want me around their animals if everything that was perceived about people with depression, self harm, obsessions and BPD etc. was true?
I’ve been thinking recently, how some of my mental health problems have made me a better nurse. Could it be possible that I’ve just managed to focus some of the BPD (and whatever) in a quest to make something positive come from the thoughts and feelings? I don’t know, it wasn’t intentional, but it excites me that there are many BPD’ers out there who I could inspire into thinking that this isn’t all bad, and eventually turn it into something positive (even if it requires a little work and channelling some of that BPD awesomeness).
For example, I sometimes feel like I lack a personality because I’m not really human, which I understand as the identity disturbance aspect of BPD.
Something I was reading the other day on the concept of BPD stated that we are often referred to as “chameleons” because we are able to take on the personality of the person we are with. I also have intense interpersonal relationships. It makes my social life difficult, but this has been a huge help to me in Veterinary Nursing. Seriously. By being a “chameleon” I am able to pick up on how a Vet acts and reacts and use it to my advantage. I can anticipate their next move before they have even done it, because if I watch them for long enough, I just know because I become them. This is an especially useful trait when you have to work with a bunch of different Vets who all have different ways of doing things. Could I just be a brilliant nurse? I don’t think so, I think the BPD has a part to play because no other nurse I’ve worked with can adapt to other people so easily (and no other nurses I have ever known have been diagnosed with BPD).
Emotions are magnified to the extreme with BPD.
While it is extremely painful for me to watch my patients suffering, one of my favourite aspects of being a Nurse is being an advocate for the animal. I often feel their pain, I can take on a condition and think “how would that make me feel?” Sometimes I think almost too deeply about it BUT it helps me to provide the utmost nursing care and treatment to provide as much comfort possible.
Being able to change from emotion to emotion quickly also has its benefits. Every patient is different. I can move from one to the next, changing my ways to suit them.
My psychiatrist says that because I feel emotions so intensely, I am also better at picking them up in other people. I guess this is true, but with my “animal brain” I pick it up quickly in them too.
It has long been established that I do not give a shit about myself. Why does this make me a good nurse? I will out myself out to make sure my patients are OK. Sure it can be detrimental to my own health if I don’t manage it correctly, but as a professional it is important that the animal comes first and I can definitely say I am good at that!
Obviously because emotional dysregulation is also my downfall, if anything bad happens to my patients I really get upset, but on the other side a waggy tail or a croissant cat can really make my day. Not to mention the other benefits my patients bring to my own mental health and wellbeing. It is almost a symbiotic relationship – their healing heals me, their pain puts mine into perspective.
So we’ve covered lack of sense of self and emotional dysregulation, what else makes a Borderline awesome?
Ahhh the good old black and white thinking.
While nurse training tought me law and ethics and how to integrate these into decision making, I think black and white thinking helps me hugely here. With regard to such dilemmas what it all comes down to in the end is the patient’s welfare, the client’s wishes and legal aspects. When you only see black and white, this can be achieved quite quickly when the situation is not your own (ask me to make a decision based on my life, I will spend at least a week thinking about it, but that is a whole different kettle of fish)!
The same goes for emergency situations. Being black and white helps me make a decision quickly, it either is going to help the animal or it isn’t.
You could imagine that dealing with all this nursing stuff and life and death every day makes me feel anxious. Let me tell you – not at all.
I think because I have suffered with anxiety for ALL my life (I can’t remember not being anxious), dealing with other people or animals anxiety, or life and death situations, does not make me anxious in the slightest.
I’ve felt that familiar feeling of anxiety many times. The rising of bile in my throat, feeling like my trachea has tightened because there are hands around my neck so I can’t breathe and my heart is beating out of my chest. As my blood pressure and respiratory rate rise, I feel light headed and fuzzy, as adrenaline courses through my veins.
Once you have felt panic and anxiety like this, essentially like you are going to die, a work associated emergency seems minimal. I am one of the most calm, level headed people I know in an emergency. Pretty contradictory seeing as I’m emotionally dysregulated. But when you have suffered with anxiety for no actual reason (as well as about a million reasons), no situation can make you feel as bad as YOU make yourself feel.
As for obsessions, I know I have a few which are harmful, but I also have a few which are beneficial (I guess I’m just having a good day today so I can point this out).
When I completed my nurse training, despite the fact that I was depressed and a bit mental, I qualified first in my class, in the minimal amount of time, due to my obsession with getting things perfect. I went on to become an A1 Assessor so I could train students, and helped them qualify in a minimal amount of time. In my obsession for becoming perfect I have completed almost every qualification I can in the quest for being perfect (my post nominals almost amount more than there are letters in my name). Of course I still don’t feel perfect, I will never feel perfect, but that is how it benefits my patients and client, I will never give up trying, even on my worst days.
So, as a Borderline, depressed Veterinary Nurse, with a bit of PTSD, possibly some DID and a few obsessions chucked in for good measure, should I be worried about being struck off the register? I don’t think so. I’m not saying that by having BPD and the mentals I am a better than a non-BPD nurse, I’m just saying that you can have a mental illness, do a job and do it just as well as a non-suffering person, no one should be ashamed and your life does not have to end.
No one should be scared of the repercussions of admitting their illness, professionally or otherwise. No one should have to suffer in silence and suffer the stigma, because good things CAN come from this. It just takes strength and a bit of courage. I look at all I’ve achieved since I was first diagnosed with depression when I was 14 years old and think “how the hell did I do that?” I should be proud, but I am not special. If I can do it, anyone can.
Love Sailor xox
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