On January 3rd 2020, I had a meeting with my university and decided to take a 6 month break from my course. I had 8 weeks of management placement left to complete and would have been qualified by now. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make and some people may question why I decided to take a break then instead of pushing through the 8 weeks and qualifying.
I wouldn’t have made it through the 8 weeks without snapping.
My mental health had been getting worse since experiencing ‘second year blues‘ which never really went away and I reached the stage where I couldn’t cope with daily life again. I had missed some placement time, spent days in bed without talking to anyone and ignoring all responsibilities. I’d put my fake face on and drag myself to work because I knew that I would lose my home if I didn’t force myself to do that. But 40 hour weeks on placement and 20-30 hours paid work were really starting to take their toll, for nearly three years I had been burning the candle at both ends and I was rapidly running out of wax. There were things going on in my personal life as well which only added to the stress I was feeling at the time.
University were really supportive of me taking a break and I had a plan in place for my return that afternoon. So I now had 6 months to get myself back in the right frame of mind to give my management placement my all and qualify as an adult nurse. As soon as I walked out of the meeting I felt lighter, lighter than I had for months. I knew instantly I’d made the right decision.
The hardest part about taking a break? Watching the rest of my cohort being signed off. Completing their management placements. Receiving their degree classifications. I am ridiculously proud of them all for finishing those three years and they will all make fantastic nurses. But knowing that that should have been me had I been stronger, more determined and without mental health issues really knocked me for six for a couple of weeks. I hadn’t really anticipated how hard those few weeks would be for me and how much of a failure I would feel for not being able to just stick it out for 8 weeks. Some people reached out and I am really grateful to them….some people didn’t reach out at all and I was surprised but I guess that’s life. Maybe they thought it would be easier for me if they didn’t mention it.
If you feel like you need to take a break, talk to someone and please take one if needed. I know now I should have taken one sooner but I was stubborn and did not want to admit that I really wasn’t enjoying myself at all. It’s easy to put on a fake persona and turn up to uni/placement with your ‘game face’ on…but when you’re crying yourself to sleep most nights wondering how you will manage to fight through the next few months it’s really time to start thinking about yourself and not what other people will think of you for having to take a break.
You are not a failure for needing to take time for you. It is a brave decision to make and if you know it’s the right decision for you, you are the only person who matters.