Lisa’s Story of Strength and Resilience - **TW: Suicide**
We rely on healthcare workers to help us heal from our physical and mental health ailments. They’re often seen as superheroes, experts and keepers of the cure. What we don’t see behind the walls of the exam room are real people with real struggles, just like us.
Healthcare workers have some of the highest rates of burnout and it’s been shown that they are 3-5 times more likely to be at risk of suicide. Sadly, there is a great stigma for healthcare workers who struggle to share these experiences publicly.
Even superheroes have soft spots. Lisa Kear shares her story to bring awareness to the struggles that healthcare workers can face, and to encourage anyone who is struggling to seek help.
Living with Perfectionism and Anxiety:
Through years of therapy, Lisa realized how far back her mental illness had gone. As a Navy child, Lisa aimed to please. Her perfectionism made her anxious and self-conscious and led to social anxiety. Outside of a core group of friends, she really didn’t interact with many people.
Lisa married her high school sweetheart when she was 18 years old and had her children by age 21 and 23. While Lisa was happy with her life, she yearned for more professionally and decided to enter nursing school.
Burnout and Breakdown:
As Lisa continued to struggle, an instructor noticed and pulled her aside to share resources. Lisa was diagnosed with generalized anxiety and she did well with treatment for the first 6 months. But then one day, a traumatic work experience changed that. A conversation with someone with whom she respected immensely led to an awkward encounter that humiliated her in front of her peers, and completely shattered her.
No one realized how fragile Lisa was at that time, and she experienced her first breakdown—which led to being admitted to hospital. She spent the weeks after her hospitalization feeling like a failure because of her mental illness. Tragically, she attempted to take her own life. She wrote a note to her husband and left her instructors' names for him to talk to in order to help him understand it was not his fault.
After this attempt, Lisa had multiple hospitalizations. She was put on probation because her school saw the impact that her mental health was having on her ability to proceed with her education in a healthy state. Lisa ended up graduating; but had to keep her depression and anxiety hidden because of the stigma that exists in the medical community.
Walking on Eggshells:
For the first ten years of her career, Lisa walked on eggshells. She was never seen as incompetent or failing on the job, but she felt it took her longer to do a task that should have been simple to do. She was told that if she had another hospitalization she would be terminated. Lisa could not understand how seeking help was a bad thing.
Lisa shared, “our goal in the medical community is to make people have the best lives as they can, but who is ensuring that we live the best lives that we can?”
A Guardian Angel:
Lisa firmly believes that God puts people in our path when we need them most. In the darkest days of her career, she found a guardian angel at work. Lisa’s guardian angel helped her navigate her hospitalizations and the politics of working in healthcare while living with a mental health condition.
Lisa also gives back. She’s learned to channel her struggles into her greatest superpower – helping others understand that mental illness is not their fault. Today, Lisa is doing very well and has not been hospitalized since before Covid-19.
The Power of Movement and Community:
One way Lisa manages her mental health is through movement. She’s always been an active person, and knows she needs to move her body every day to feel her best.
After her first suicide attempt she realized that she physically felt the need to move, and she went for a run the moment she was discharged from the hospital. She shares that she feels her body relax when she exercises.
Her therapist encourages her to run but cautions her to stay balanced. Her therapist can tell when she is hitting a low point because she hasn’t been running or in a high anxiety state when she’s running too much.
Lisa first learned of Still I Run through a podcast she followed and knew the creators personally. One of the podcasters knew about her story and suggested she join the ambassador program. Lisa applied, eager to share her story with others.
The SIR ambassador program has made her feel connected and not alone. Lisa shares that it’s “it’s nice to have a community that feels comfortable - and how they use running to help navigate whatever mental illness they’re challenged with.”
Embarking on new Adventures:
Lisa’s guardian angel, who was never a runner, is now seeing the benefits of running and is training with Lisa to complete her first 5K.
Lisa has since moved out of the emergency room and is working to get certified as a stroke specialist. After Lisa’s experience with nursing school, she never expected to go back to school, but now she feels stronger than ever and is excited to tackle this new challenge.
Normalizing mental illness has become Lisa’s mission, starting in her very own home. Her experience has had a positive impact on her husband, who serves as a police officer, and her daughter recently went into social work to make an impact.
Lisa always had a lifeline – her family and her guardian angel – and she encourages those who struggle to seek out help. She shares that “understanding that mental illness is like any other illness that someone is going through, you have to manage it effectively, and even when you’re doing your absolute best, sometimes you need a little bit more. It’s ok to ask for help.”
This September, as we acknowledge Suicide Awareness Month, we must look out for each other. Lisa’s story shows us that you never know the battle someone else is fighting. Be kind and if you see someone struggling, offer help. You might just be their lifeline.
Regardless of an underlying cause, suicide is preventable. Refer to: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.