The wonderful Cara Lisette who works as a mental health nurse and has bipolar disorder herself agreed to answer some questions for me on what it’s like to work in the mental health profession while struggling with mental illness. She is a powerfully strong mental health advocate and a lovely person, I appreciate her input a great deal.
What is your own mental health diagnosis?
“I have bipolar disorder and anorexia.”
How long have you been a mental health nurse?
“As a qualified nurse, two years, but I have worked in mental health for ten years now.”
Was the motivation to go into that profession based on your own experiences with mental illness?
“Yes, I had an amazing nurse when I was in the hospital and she is now my manager!”
Do you find that your job impacts your own mental health, making it worse or better?
“It depends really. Working for me is definitely good for my mental health; it gives me a focus and sense of purpose, as well as a routine. However, if things are really stressful then it will impact my wellbeing, though I think the same could be said for most of us.”
Have you faced stigma in your job because of your own diagnosis?
“I almost didn’t get my very first position in mental health as a result of my own history. However, since then I haven’t, although I was very secretive about it for most of that time so it’s hard to say.”
Is there anything you feel could be done differently to support your own mental health within the workplace?
“No, my work are amazing! I’m very lucky, they are a great support for me when I need it.”
Do you or would you disclose your own diagnosis to patients and why?
“No. I don’t feel comfortable doing that nor do I think it is necessary. Their care isn’t about me and I don’t want to make it about me.”
As a patient, would you be more or less inclined to trust and open up to someone who has had their own experiences with mental illness?
“To me, it doesn’t make a difference. If the professional is competent, qualified and caring, their own experiences don’t matter to me.”
Do you feel that your own experiences with mental illness have been an asset or detrimental to your ability to work in the mental health field?
“Definitely an asset – I feel like I can understand how people are feeling in a different way perhaps to those who haven’t experienced mental illness. I know how hard recovery is but I also know it is possible which helps me to hold a lot of hope for my patients.”
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in regards to managing your own disorder through your work?
“To be honest. I spent many years not telling people when I was struggling and suffering through it alone. Now if I need time off for therapy or to speak to occupational health I just ask.”
Have your views on your own diagnosis been affected by the work you do and if so how?
“No – I’ve lived with these illnesses for such a long time that I’m not sure that much could influence how I feel about them.”
Having been in this profession, looking back do you think there is anything that could have been done differently during your own diagnosis and treatment?
“Definitely. Bipolar disorder was queried when I was around 16 but I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 25 – there were a lot of missed opportunities I think. I also wish that I had been given the right care for my eating disorder much earlier because I think I wouldn’t be still struggling with it now if I had.”
I hope you found reading Cara’s responses as interesting as I did, it was an honour to have her take part and give some insight into what it’s like working as a mental health nurse and managing her own mental health.
You can find the talented and lovely Cara over on Twitter and Instagram @caralisette
You can also find her personal blog caras-corner.com
She also has an Etsy store selling handmade mental health products carascornercreations.etsy.com