Monday, February 6, 2012

Back in the classroom, again!

Today was one of the high spots for me each semester at the local community college where I used to teach. Since one of my dearest friends took over the psych content I used to teach to the fourth semester nursing students, I go over at the beginning of each semester when they begin talking about mood disorders. The goal is not to necessarily "teach" the book learning to them, but rather to give them the viewpoint of a patient with a mental illness. I do a little book learning such as the basic differences in the ranges of bipolar disorder and general symptomology but I spend most of my time sharing my perspective as a mental health patient...who just happened to be a nurse (I let my license lapse, after nearly 22 years as a nurse, at the end of January as I have now been deemed unemployable due to my 100% service connected disability by the VA).

One of the first things I always start with is to find out how many of them are "wary" or outright "scared" of going into a locked down, inpatient facility. There are always at least a few hands that go up and I try to do my best to reassure them that they will survive. In four years and 16, week long clinical rotations with my students I only had one freak out a little and that was resolved by the 2nd hour after I pulled her off of that particular floor for the morning. No, I didn't whip her into submission...I simply let her get acclimated to the setting a little longer!

We, or rather I, talk about my history, suicide attempts, medications, triggers, symtomology, etc. to give them a viewpoint to look at that they may never had thought of before. I try to encourage them to see each individual as just that, an individual...who happens to have a diagnosis of a mental illness. I try to remind them that the patient is not the disease...that the patient has a disease. I tell them how hard it is sometimes to not say "I am bipolar" instead of what really is true..."I have bipolar disorder." We talk about any and all things that they want to bring up...not just what I or my friend, the instructor, have in mind. My overall goal is to help alleviate fears of their clinical rotations and to help them understand that mental illness is just another disease process except that it's brain and chemical based versus just being able to look at lab, xray and other procedural reports to help make a determination. 

I had some good questions posed to me today..."Can a patient see different providers and be told he/she does not have bipolar or a diagnoses that they had been given earlier?" The answer is unresoundingly YES! With mental health there's really no cut and dry line saying this is what you have. A lot of it has to do with the clinical experience of the provider...have they seen this disorder, how much experience have they had treating the disorder, do they have the full story? Yes, diagnosis can differ from provider to provide, but it is also the responsibility of the person with the illness (or their caretaker) to learn about the diagnosis and bring up questions and concerns, if possible, to clarify the diagnosis. Another was "Was it a relief to finally be diagnosed with bipolar disorder?" For me YES!! I knew something more than major depressive disorder what wrong with me, but I didn't know what. When I was finally diagnosed and started studying the disease I could automatically see just how closely I fit the criteria for bipolar disorder type 2. To finally know what was wrong with me was a definite relief. Another question was about how the diagnosis affected the family. Well, when your kids find you, when they are the at the ripe old age of 8 or 9, after ingested multiple pills in an overdose attempt (several times), there's going to be some affect. My son harbors resentment, my daughter tends to avoid the subject, the husband tries to watch for my symptomology while at times denying his own (recovering alcoholic). So yes, it takes a huge toll and like I said in a previous post if I knew back then what I know now I probably wouldn't have had kids.

I did a little bit of a social experiment with my purple hair too, which is going back to a dark auburn or what ever color it turns out to be if I can't strip the purple out of it this evening. I just showed up and started talking never really bringing up the subject of my hair. Finally after the Q&A session and no more questions were posed, I asked them..."So who has been sitting there wondering if I was manic when I dyed my hair purple?" I had told them over and over again during my visit that I was completely open to ANY questions during my visit. I saw a few people kind of get that look of " did she know?"  and finally I'd say about half a dozen hands went up. I told them that it wasn't a mania but fundraising that led to my purple hair and hopefully a bald head on May 11th. I wonder if I'm a little imposing or unfriendly that they were afraid to ask? Naw...probably more like they just didn't know how to ask. Well, hopefully they learned something out of this guest speaking gig. The last class I did it with seemed to have a good time. Some of them even remembered me as I was shopping in the local WalMart months after the presentation. I guess time will tell...

100 Days Challenge: 
  • Day 37
    • 2.43 mile walk with the grand pup in 45:46 around the neighborhood
What I Ate Today: (Still being updated)

  • 12 oz low fat chocolate milk
  • 5 pcs Albertson's fried chicken - 2 thighs, 2 wings, 1 drumstick
  • 10 oz non-fat, lactose free milk
  • 4 chocolate chip cookies

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