Aspie Nurse:Proud to be in service to others

My career of 23 years as an RN was always interesting. Every place I worked had it's own set of problems and assets. Critical care was my love, but I also worked as a manager at the blood bank and in long term care. I wanted to be a psychiatric nurse, this is what I went to nursing school for. When I graduated from college no one would hire me for this specialty without experience. I worked at Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake Washington as a Hospital Attendant(now they are Psychiatric Technicians) while I went to the Intercollegiate Center for Nursing Education of Washington State University(a consortium for four universities at that time). This psychiatric hospital was a big corrupt place with a lot of patient abuse. I once was threatened by the Director of Nursing Services when I wrote up a man for patient abuse. She said she would turn my complaints back around on me if did not stop writing them up. Any one who knows me knows this did not stop me, I will do what I think is right whether anyone else agrees or not. One of the attendants I complained about physically assaulted me leaving me black and blue. I tried to charge him with assault and the local police would not allow it. Of course I received a lot of threats. I am a DES daughter and have a tendency to have a lot of male characteristics. At this time I was into body building which was not all that popular for women then. I was able to protect myself a couple times from staff aggression due to my strength. This also helped me in dealing with the mentally ill legal offenders I was working with. I went to Olympia the capital and spoke to a legislator whose name I can not remember any more. A couple months later a new Administrator(physician who acted as ceo and medical director) showed up and the old Director of Nursing Services was gone. Ulysses Watson was a very large black man with a witty sense of humour and obviously very intelligent. I was surprised to find out he wanted to know about the abuse and was very interested in the welfare of the patients. I enjoyed being in his presence and talking to him. This facility changed dramatically after he came.
I have always been different. I now know this is called neurodiversity. I would read the text books at the psychiatric hospital and the library at the nursing school to try and figure out what it was. I thought I might have a personality disorder and asked several of my coworkers who were psychiatrists and psychologists which personality disorder they thought I had. They always found this hilarious, but I was dead serious. Sometimes they would ask me which one I thought I had. As it turned out I did not have one, but the one I thought I had is the one that was the usual misdiagnosis for what was really going on with me back then. When I asked Dr. Watson the question he said, "I think you have that new form of autism they are talking about in Europe". He told me the name which was different than what it is called now, this was around 1981-1982. I was puzzled as I was working with some autistic patients and I was able to speak. I thought he was probably wrong until I saw some books in a store about Asperger's Syndrome. I actually yelled out in the store when I read the first chapter of one. It was a description of my childhood. I then read everything I could get about Aspergers and came to understand myself better. Aspergers has a lot of aspects to it, but the most prominent one is that it is a social disability. Aspies are very bluntly honest, have a strong sense of justice and can appear to be arrogant. These three characteristics have caused me many problems in my life. You know that saying that they will get you if you tell the truth, I find it is very true. Aspies also are not usually interested in small talk, it either does not occur to us to do it or we think it is a waste of time. When I was young I found it very painful. Later in life I have even learned to enjoy small talk and realize it makes neurotypical people very comfortablle. I see it facilitates communication. This does not mean I am good at it. I just keep trying and find I often have success now that I have had a lot of experience with it.
Recently on a Larry King show about Autism John Schneider said this about his son with Aspergers Syndrome," ...I found that many children with autism are -- they just have an inability to express themselves the way that we would like them to, the way that we understand it. I've had Chasen early, early on when a teacher was calling one dinosaur by the wrong name, and he corrected him, but he didn't say, excuse me, sir, I think you meant to say a Tyrannosaurus Rex. He said, no, T-rex, which was abrupt. But he was right. He had processed the information and determined that it was incorrect. ...He was just unable to say it in a way that was palatable for the teacher." I had some difficulties with my abrupt, honest ways throughout my whole life. My intentions were frequently misinterpreted. John Schneider also said, "But if you don't detect this and you don't do something about this and teach children social skills, there could be a perfectly wonderful -- it usually is a perfectly wonderful, incredibly bright human being in there. But the signals that they're giving as they're 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 are that they're mean or they're uninterested or they are just sometimes nasty people who are socially misdiagnosed over and over and over again. And that leads to a very bad life for someone who just has something that should have been -- could have been addressed when they were two." Those words spoke to my heart. Aspies in my age group did not even get diagnosed let alone any help. Mostly I was told I was a bad person. I knew better, I knew what was in my heart. My social training came when I went to work in ICUs and CCUs, those critical care nurses are a blunt lot themselves and helped me with my interactions with themselves and patients and their families. I rarely had any difficulties with coworkers as I knew what I was doing, cared about the outcome of the patients, was hard working and was willing to help out. It was always the managers I had problems with. I once had one at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tacoma WA tell me she was comfortable whenever I was on because she knew all the patients would get excellent care, but she did not like me. I was puzzled by this and asked her if she was looking for a good nurse when she hired me or her best friend. This made her dislike me even more. I found that with patients and families my detailed understanding of everything that was going on and my ability to explain it to them made them feel comfortable. Family who would normally spend the night in the patients room on night shift would sometimes tell me that since I was on they could go home and get some sleep. This was because I watched my patients very closely and did my very best to give them excellent care. My biggest supporters were the physicians, they went to bat for me with supervisors on more than one occasion. One even got in a screaming match with my supervisor in her office. He told her if she ran me off he and his partner could take their patients down the street to the other hospital. Oh, there was one cardiologist in Tacoma who could not stand me because I was good at reading EKGS which was part of my job, I worked at being good at it. His nick name was Little Hitler what more can I say, LOL. There were a couple others, but for the most part physicians are for any nurse who takes excellent care of their patients, especially in situations where it means the difference between life and death.
In my early 30s I became very ill. My symptoms were a mystery. I was fatigued, had horrible headaches, my skin hurt, I actually hurt all over most of the time, I had weird rashes and my bladder was hurting more and more. I had problems with diarrhea my whole life and it got much worse. I was put on prednisone a steroid for about three years. The symptoms got worse and the fatigue was better for a while. I gain a lot of weight and became very depressed. During this time I was on a lot of pain medication. I saw a rheumatologist who was a professor at the University of Washington, had a general practitioner, a neurologist, infectious disease doc(in my work I could have been exposed to anything), a gastroenterologist, a pulmonologist, a cardiologist, an endocrinologist, and more. No definitive diagnosis was made. Eventually by a process of illumination it was decided I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Interstitial Cystitis(a very painful bladder condition) and probably some kind of autoimmune disease.
On several occasions I told a couple of my doctors I thought I was getting addicted to the pain pills. One of them told me I could not get enough from him to get addicted. I took them as prescribed, in part because they contained tylenol and I understood the consequences of tylenol overdose. The neurologist gave me Stadol which is squirted up the nose for my severe headaches. They told me it was used because it had a low potential for addiction. As it turned out that was the opposite of the truth. In 1997 I knew I was addicted. I was confused, ashamed and felt very alone. I felt I could not talk to anyone about it. I quit my job and took myself to chemical dependency treatment. I did not tell anyone where I was. I just disappeared. Unfortunately I picked the wrong place, Lakeside Mylam. This place was out of control and there was no treatment going on. They held me prisoner. I finally got out and called the police who extricated my things and got my truck keys. I had pneumonia and they would not let me go to the ER. They rolled their eyes when I tried to talk to them about it like I was just nuts. I get that a lot when I tell the truth. When I went home I was so scared they would come and get me I barricaded my doors and told the neighbors if I called them to come right away. I went to my doctor the next day. He was irritated with me for not telling him what was going on, but pleased I had escaped for two reasons,1) I had pneumonia, 2) "You went to the wrong place kid". I went to Sundown-M-Ranch in Selah Washington which is an excellent treatment program and I was so lucky to go there. I was still very autistic behaving and was very difficult in groups which is how chemical dependency is treated. The Intern that was facilitating the group said she thought I had been sent from hell to ruin her internship. Her mentor told her she learned more from me than she would from anyone else. I can say it goes both ways. They helped me a great deal. I listened to everything they said and processed it. When I left there I went to AA and stayed clean and sober for about 8 years. The board of licensing in Washington state has the most progressive program in the country for nurses with addiction problems. I went to their groups and was monitored for two years. I learned from support groups, books and online support groups how to manage my health problems without narcotics for pain. A doctor in Puyallup taught me to run up and down the stairs for my head aches and it actually works.
After a period of time I decided to work as a travel nurse. I worked in two hospitals in New Mexico as a house supervisor and staff nurse. Then I was in southern California for about 2 years. Everywhere I went AA was there fully accessible and healthy. I mentioned earlier that it was in Bakersfield after taking some college courses and having my old car die I decided it was time to go to Alaska.

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