Not a nightshifter forever
I’m looking at a major lifestyle change and am extremely nervous about it. I’ve been a nightshifter for years and think of myself as “a night nurse.” Nurses know what I mean. The pros on paper outweigh the cons for me; I make quite a bit more money, I have some chance of some downtime (theoretically, but not generally in practice since we’re short-staffed constantly on nights), and I get to work with people who are even stranger than those who work days. You have to admit that nightshifters have a slightly off sense of humor. You have to be more creative on nights because the ancillary services just aren’t there. I could go on, but my point is that I have pretty much said to myself and everyone else “I’m just a nightshifter at heart. Get over it.” Now I hope that’s not the case because I’m moving off nights. I don’t know when or to which shift (we have midshifts in my department, so it could be 10-10 or 12-12), but I put my name on the list.
I have a critical mass of reasons for doing so balanced against “I’m a nightshifter.” Some are personal; some are professional; some are social/lifestyle-ish (notably, none of my current friends works nights, so I never see anyone except my boyfriend, and even HE is a dayshifter). Most I’ve attenuated by various means, but the one I can’t get away from is health. Longtime readers of this blog know that I have an industrial-strength anxiety/panic disorder problem. After the few years I’ve been working nights I’m now forced to consider that flipping my sleep schedule constantly is not helpful for regulating it. The people whom I see for help with this issue have been first gently, then not so gently telling me to knock off the nights, but I have a nearly flat learning curve; every major step I’ve taken that’s actually helped my panic attacks has taken me a few years to arrive at. Seriously. I’m a terrible nurse insofar as I tell patients constantly that psychological issues are just as important and legitimate as medical ones and they should treat them with the same attention and gravity, and I completely ignore that advice for myself. Until. I can’t take it anymore and have to try SOMETHING.
Sometimes you have to make big changes because “if nothing changes, nothing changes.” Nothing’s changing. I’ve researched the connection between increased anxiety and working nights, and evidence weighs pretty heavily against my “I’m different because I’m a NIGHTSHIFTER” determination. So. I had one false start a few months ago when a shift opened and I put in for it, but the actuality of it freaked me out and I withdrew. This time I’m going to stand behind myself with a cattle prod and do this thing. Few changes can’t be unchanged, after all. If I can’t handle the change or if it doesn’t help, they always need nightshifters, so I can probably go back. I’ll lose my seniority, but with change usually comes risk.
This morning I woke up early and experienced a cool foggy start to the day. I remember the years I spent getting up at 4AM to go for long runs. I wonder if I can do it (be a day person). I guess we’ll see. I felt pretty good about my ability to be awake in the morning and even went for a swim. Then I came home and slept for 3 hours. I just don’t know how well I’ll tolerate this whole “awake ALL day” thing.
One thing is certain: I will be anxious about the uncertainty until I discover my fate. Obviously.