When I was about eighteen, my uncle had suggested that I become a nurse, but back then I viewed it as a woman’s job and I never considered it because I was carrying a shield of masculinity. At the time, I looked down on men wearing scrubs as nursing aides or nurses. As a mature adult, I realize how this toxic view limited me. I see this way of thinking limiting many other men socially and economically in the same way.
Today I work as a psychiatric nurse, which is a very misunderstood profession, inside and outside the healthcare community. Psychiatry is the study and treatment of mental illness, emotional disturbance, and abnormal behavior. As social beings, we’re always inside of our own heads navigating our thoughts and emotions, and to function in society we have to be amateur psychologists. This attributes to the undervalue of the work of people in the psychiatric field because many believe they can become experts on the topic without studying it. People are also very reluctant to accept how much a role biology plays in our conscious mind that we believe we have so much control over. Until society accepts the role of biology on our mental wellbeing, the stigma will persist.
I work primarily with patients who suffer from addiction, which is often more stigmatized than other mental illnesses. We are constantly fighting the stigma from the general public and within the hospital community. This brings me both frustration and a sense of purpose because I’m advocating for many patients who would otherwise have no one. Mental illness takes over people’s lives and it’s a powerful feeling to help them regain as much of their lives back as they can, which can be something as ‘simple’ as enjoying a day in the park sober.
My job is emotionally and mentally taxing. Addiction is a chronic illness in the same way diabetes and chronic heart disease are so we see the same people come back. It’s easy to fall into the thought trap and believe you aren’t helping, but I see it as a positive every time they walk through the door alive – maybe they used a coping skill they acquired from the previous admission to help them make it back to our door.
My fear is one day I will experience burnout like so many other nurses and this is something I’m mindful of each shift I work. But for now, my work brings my life value and I feel I’m a lucky individual to have fallen into my current line of work.
The theme for the November Assembly is ‘Work’. Join us in exploring this topic together on November 18th, 2018, 10:00 am, at Community Forge located at 1256 Franklin Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15221!