When All We Want to Do is Cry: A Nurse’s Experience with Anxiety, Becoming the Patient, and Humor

By Alexandra Ott-Peon, RPN


Being in nursing at this time is scary for everyone. It’s terrifying not knowing if you have contracted COVID, if your patients have contracted it, or if your co-workers have contracted it. The worst part is, by the time you know, you’ve already infected everyone you’re in contact with. It’s created so much fear and anxiety.


Working full time on midnight shifts, we have the least amount of help and double the amount of residents per nurse or PSW. Being busy keeps you... well, busy. Too busy to worry about what you might bring home. Too busy to worry if you’re eating or drinking enough. Too busy to take a break you so desperately need. But when you’re too busy and tired you snap. You snap at partners and animals who have to compete for your attention. You ignore messages and comments because you don’t have the patience to answer people right then. Then you see the posts about idiots protesting the quarantine, or the biggest mass shooting in our country’s history.


Then you crack. You bawl on the couch for half an hour. Wash your face, eat some food, chug some water, and do it all over again.

Humor is sometimes all we have when all we want to do is cry. The head gear we have to wear is heavy and causes headaches, and yes the mask is annoying with the hearing aids, so laughing a little is the best way to get through it.



Image via Unsplash


Those who have been around me for a while know all about my health journey. The ups and down. The way downs. I have asthma and am immunocompromised. My husband is asthmatic as well. This puts us both at high risk of contracting it and high risk of complication if we do get it. With pulmonary hypertension, chest pain can be super scary and very dangerous. I very quickly can go into respiratory distress. I, however, am very stubborn. The last place I ever want to be is a hospital as a patient, and will do everything to prevent myself from going.


Yesterday was no different. I took my inhaler when I felt the tightness and pain, took naproxen to help with inflammation and pain, and laid down with cool water to sip on, hoping it would pass and I could sleep. But no. After two hours of excruciating pain and being unable to move without feeling light headed, I decided I was ready to make the trip to ER. When I got there my initial BP was 170/105, and tachycardic was at 140 BPM. Cue blood work, oxygen, ECG and cardiac monitoring.


It always gives me such a new view when I am on the other side of the curtain—especially as a deaf person. I don’t often talk about my deafness and working as a nurse mostly because it doesn’t hinder me or define me. I am not inspirational because I am hard of hearing, it just means sometimes I do things differently! But masks make communication very difficult for me, even with my hearing aids in. When I napped off medication, I would turn them off. Then, techs and nurses and doctors would come in to check on me, and I wouldn’t respond to them because I couldn’t hear them. Shift change made this more difficult, because as soon as one would know and understand they’d have to tap me to get my attention, they would remember each interaction.


Thankfully, I am ok. They got the pain and BP under control after a few hours. Tests all came back within normal limits and I was able to go home.


Edited for clarity by the FOTFL Team


"Shortage of protective equipment & mental health are the two biggest issues facing frontline workers.

Thank you for doing this."

-C.O., frontline physician

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