We often take our mental health for granted until we don’t have it. This was the case for me.
Like most nurses and midwives, I had a busy life. You could say I thrived being busy.
My life included a challenging and rewarding job, study, supportive partner, family and many friends.
I consistently extended myself.
I accepted extra responsibilities at work and helped my family and friends. I felt stressed, but stress is part of life and I was managing my priorities.
Things changed when my job became bigger. The organisation I was working in promoted me to a senior nursing role. I took on extra programs with the allocation of new funding and my job required me to be on-call, 24/7. Calls from work between 2 am and 4 am were a regular occurrence; sleep deprivation became my new normal. If we couldn’t replace unplanned leave for the after-hours manager, I filled the shift.
The shift that broke me required me to be the emergency manager. I attended an emergency with an agitated and aggressive patient who assaulted three staff. I also became injured while intervening. I ignored my injury — I had others to support.
I supported staff, communicated with the police, medical staff, families and the executive on call. I organised critical incident debriefing. I followed up staff, wrote reports, missed meals, sleep and neglected my own needs. The incident seemed endless.
I returned to work the next day feeling exhausted. Over the next few months, I became highly stressed. Not the ‘normal’ stress of life but that type of stress that doesn’t let you rest; that controls and consumes you. I became irritable, hypervigilant, tearful and anxious.
My manager noticed the change in my mood and we had a confidential chat. I finally received much-needed acknowledgement of my experience — and support.
The support that assisted in my recovery included:
- emotional care— being listened to and heard
- paid personal leave — acknowledgement of my experience
- sleep—rest is vital to recovery
- regular nutritious meals — good nutrition aids healing
- exercise—movement creates calmness, and
- time with loved ones — this anchors us.
My GP supported me and we discussed a mental health plan. It formed an integral part of my recovery. The plan provided me with access to government subsided sessions with a psychologist, an invaluable part of my recovery.
My journey back to good mental health has been a process. I changed the way I work and live. I learned to set boundaries.
Most importantly, I no longer take my mental health for granted!