Cynthia: I was an RN and I was very good at what I did. I always worked critical care ER, and then, all of a sudden, in my late thirties, I got diagnosed with Bipolar.
At first, it wasn't too bad, just subtle mood swings, and then it got worse. I went into the hospital [to get treated for bipolar] and instead of coming back to a work environment that was friendly, it was, "Oh my gosh, we can't let her touch a patient; she's mentally ill. She might kill someone." I still had the same knowledge. My moods might switch, but they were trying me on medications. Instead of giving me a leave to see how the medication worked, they booted me from the ER. I came back in the next day to get my stuff because I figured I was fired, which basically, I was.
My supervisor told me that if I didn't leave the ER with or without my stuff, she was gonna call the police. I had never hurt a patient; I had never caused any medication errors; I had never caused any errors in patient care, even when I was manic. She told my friends that if they associated with me, even outside the hospital and she found out, they would lose their jobs. So, I lost my friends, including my best friend.
BW: So, you lost all your friends, your work, everything?
Cynthia: My life!
BW: How did they diagnose you?
Cynthia: I got depressed. I was going through the stages of depression, so they put me in Valley Hospital in Chattanooga and had me talk to a psychologist. They tried me on Zoloft, which is an antidepressant, and sent me back to work. Boy, you don't give people with Bipolar Zoloft because that will send them way into mania. And it did me. I realized that there was something wrong and called the psychiatrist and he said, "You need to come back to the hospital,"
So I told supervisor. I mean, I felt like it was a necessary thing to tell them. I wasn't upset or discouraged about it. I was just wanting to get help and get well.
BW: What do you think life would've been like if people would've supported you?
Cynthia: I think if I'd been given a chance, going back to work would've been fine. I might have needed a less stressful environment for a while.
BW: And before the Bipolar, were you respected as a nurse?
Cynthia: Very. I had all kinds of awards. Little things, but I mean, they meant something to me. They were representative of my hard work, my love [of the job], and my love of people.
BW: How ironic that it was a hospital that turned their back on you and they turned their back on you because you had an illness?
Cynthia: I was very bitter at first. I finally, got over it because it was eating away at me.
BW: If there's anything you'd like to say to them today, what would it be?
Cynthia: The supervisor today has a chronic illness; she can't work. I think I would have compassion for her instead of hate. That's what I felt she had for me, hate, because of my mental illness.
People hate you. They are afraid of you. If I'm gonna do harm, it's gonna be to myself, not to anybody else.