Episode 6 | Mikhail Nisenboym

Care2Listen Podcast | Season 1, Episode 6

I think a lot of, even family members, they struggle with this on a daily basis, having to fight, you know, guilt and things that they, you know, putting their loved ones and surrendering loved ones to a place like where I work.

Mikhail Nisenboym shares his story of being an immigrant moving to Canada, his mental health struggles while supporting a family, and the nuanced experience of being a man in a female-dominated industry.


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Sean Burke: [00:00:00] Welcome back to another episode of the Care2Listen podcast. In this episode, I’m joined by healthcare professional Mikhail Nisenboym, who shares his story as an immigrant moving to Canada, talks about his mental health struggles while supporting a family, and the nuanced experience of being a man in a traditionally female dominated healthcare industry.

Today’s episode is being broadcasted to you on the unceded and traditional territories of the Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm), Squamish (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw), and Tsleil-Waututh (səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ) Nations.

Trigger Warning: This podcast discusses topics that may be triggering for some viewers, including suicide, loss of a patient, and addiction.

So, hello and welcome back to another episode of the Care2Listen podcast. I’m joined today by special guest, Mikhail Nisenboym. Welcome to the show, Mikhail.

Mikhail Nisenboym: Thank you for having me.

Sean Burke: So today we’re gonna cover everything from your upbringing, your story, your transition being a refugee. And then progressing into the healthcare industry, talking a little bit about what it’s like to be a male in [00:01:00] a female dominated industry.

As well as some of the other challenges that have grown up or have gotten by in your current life. So I’m curious, maybe just to start us off, could you maybe just introduce yourself and let the audience know a little bit about yourself?

Mikhail Nisenboym: Yeah. My name is Mikhail. I’m a healthcare professional and I’ve been working in long-term care for the last 16 years.

I was born in Ukraine, which, at that time, was Soviet Union, to a Jewish family. And, life was very difficult for Jews at that time. So my family tried to immigrate when I was one years old in 1979, because, Soviet Union at that time, they let [00:02:00] only a certain amount of Jews out of the country at that time.

But unfortunately, my family missed that opportunity. So, I grew up in under the communist regime, and went through everything. You know, we always were second class citizens living in that country. So the next opportunity came around in 1988 and at that time, my mother was divorced from my father.

They got divorced when I was six years old and the only people that I had in my life was my mother and my grandma and my grandmother’s sister. So it was, two old women, my mom and myself, and we decided that, you know, life for us wasn’t an option living in that place.

And we, with the five or six bags to our name, we got on the bus and then we went [00:03:00] on a long journey and that took almost a year to get to United States as refugees. 

Sean Burke: I can imagine just, you know, being such a young guy at that age and not really knowing what that meant or the experience that you were about to begin and a journey you were about to embark on.

What was that like, that transition and from a mental health perspective, how did that show up when you started to settle in and live in the US?

Mikhail Nisenboym: It was a very, uh, scary is not probably even the word to describe the feeling, um, having absolutely nothing. Because the Soviet Union at the time, when you leave the country, they stripped you off your citizenship and you have nothing and you don’t know where you belong.

You don’t know where you can end up. We always had a path to Israel. I think one of the biggest reasons why they wanted to leave the country was [00:04:00] because they did not want me to join the military. And there was an obligated two year service with the Soviet Union and, being a Jew was almost a death sentence going into something like that because they put you in not a very desirable place.

So that was why she really wanted me out of there and being a living, because the process was very long. It was, you know, we had to live in Indiana, Austria for about a few months, and then Italy, we lived for close to a year,  waiting to find out where we’re gonna end up and, just being by myself feeling just feeling like you know, I needed to be a man and I was the only man in my family that needed to protect and, you know, watch over my, I was the only me, my, you know, my mom and two older ladies and just everything we had was in, in the bags.[00:05:00]

So it was a very difficult and scary experience that probably lasted forever with me. Kinda, I think kinda lingers throughout my life.

Sean Burke: Yeah. And hearing how, just your approach to life now and understanding being a male in that female dominated industry, do you feel like part of that experience growing up as a child is now translated into you know, giving you better awareness and being able to navigate, some of those structures and what it might be like in a traditionally female dominated industry.

Mikhail Nisenboym: Yeah. Like, I think growing up just with my mother and two older ladies and everything that I had to go through.

Yeah. I think I am able to read better people. I’m able to kind of assess my situations a bit better. I think reading people is extremely important [00:06:00] in my job, especially, you know, when you’re dealing with somebody with mental health problems but also, you know, just being there for your coworkers, right?

Being able to comfort them or if I’m there that they feel more safer. When we’re dealing with a more dangerous or stressful situation.

Sean Burke: It helps that you’re a pretty big, big guy here.

Mikhail Nisenboym: That helps. And, it works. You know? I find that sometimes it can be a positive thing or a negative thing.

I find that sometimes, you know, it all depends on approach. Sometimes I can walk in a room and I can diffuse a situation, just with my presence and because, just the way that the resident can respond to me being there versus, or sometimes I can walk in the situation in a room and make it worse.

You have to basically approach each situation differently and kind of assess.

Sean Burke: So [00:07:00] let’s jump back then to that period of time you immigrated to the US. How did you ultimately end up in the healthcare industry?

Mikhail Nisenboym: Uh, well, getting to healthcare took a long time. But I think in the end, like if I had to kind of quickly summarize, it would be, I did have to take care of my elderly grandmothers after my mom kind of went through a rough time, so she kind of left, abandoned me when I was in my very early age.

So later in my life I was having to take care of both elderly women, both ended up with dementia. The first time I experienced dementia was with my grandma. I call her grandma, but it was my grandmother’s sister. She one day just woke up and didn’t know who I was, was looking straight at me and didn’t know who I was.

It was very sudden, she looked at [00:08:00] me and called me by a different name and looked around the house and did not realize where she was. She was just storming out of the house and, you know, doesn’t matter what I said like, no, I’m not home. I need to get home. I remember having to call an ambulance and we had to pretty much put her in the home at that time.

Sean Burke: And being a healthcare professional yourself. You know, and maybe not at this time, but having the understanding and the awareness of what dementia is and how it shows up with respect to your work. Do you think that now having that understanding and awareness, would’ve helped you, when you were personally experiencing a family member who was going through dementia?

Mikhail Nisenboym: Yeah. Well, definitely with my experience now, it would’ve been a different approach. There’s so many regrets. I think a lot of, even family members, they struggle with this on a daily basis, having to fight, you know, guilt and things that they, you know, [00:09:00] putting their loved ones and surrendering loved ones to a place like where I work.

I think it’s a very, very difficult thing for a lot of families to deal with, but I think it’s very hard for families overall to just, I mean, all depends on the severity of the illness and how far it progressed in a person’s life. It could be something like my grandma, my actual grandma, she did get dementia later, but I was able to take care of her much longer before she had to go into a home because it was just progressing at a much slower rate. She just became a bit confused here and there, but I was able to help her more, and we didn’t have to kind of give her up.

But, yeah, it’s a process. I think that it’s a very difficult thing too. I see families constantly struggling with this.

Sean Burke: And what do you think [00:10:00] about other coworkers? We talked a little bit about it today. Whether it’s working with patients who have dementia and relating some of those experiences back to your personal experience or you know, patients who consistently are passing away and dealing with death on a daily basis. What’s that like and what toll does that take on your personal mental health?

Mikhail Nisenboym: Oh, it’s huge. The thing is I think a lot of people don’t realize that professions, a lot of people in going through their normal life do not experience death on a daily basis or weekly basis.

It happens once and it’s devastating when it happens in your life. But we’re expected to just basically, you know, just move on. You know, somebody passes away and it’s weird sometimes when I look at my coworkers, how we all deal with it in our own little [00:11:00] way.

I was talking to my coworkers recently and somebody kind of told me this, and it’s not my own words, but they said that it’s kind of like being a soldier in the battlefield. They find that they lose people that they care about and they kind of have to keep on going. They kind of have to keep on fighting, you know?

And, um, I never thought of that like that, but, yeah it affects you. It definitely affects you when, in your everyday life. You don’t think it does. You think it’s just part of your job. But I don’t think it’s a normal human mechanism. That’s not how we as people kind of deal with that normally.

And I think we’re just expected to just move on. And we don’t. I think we pretend that we do. But I think a lot of times it kind of manifests itself in different things in our relationships and just how we deal with it at home.

Sean Burke: I know, you know, you’re somebody who has an amazing supportive wife, Tara, also in the healthcare industry. [00:12:00] What do you guys do to process and work through some of that grief and loss that vicariously you’re living through by having some of your patients who are passing away.

Mikhail Nisenboym: Well, it definitely helps to be able to talk to someone that understands, like she understands completely. Not only she understands, she knows who I’m talking about, right?

She knows how much the person affected my life. We all bond with our patients, but some of them more than others, right? Some people are extremely special into your life. They become like your grandparents and they become somebody you love. And we both love that person so much that when they pass away, it’s a devastating thing.

And at work we do try to kind of talk about things like that with our coworkers. We talk about the fun times we had with these people. You know, a lot of times we bring them up constantly. Like, you remember this person, but with someone that I live with and my [00:13:00] wife, yeah, we definitely, when I come home and when I’m bothered and stuff that I can actually have that opportunity to talk.

A lot of my coworkers don’t have that opportunity. You know, they come home and their husbands or their wives do not understand what they go through every day.

Sean Burke: And if we jump back to your personal journey, your experience, you’re somebody who I know has an immense amount of empathy and support and understanding for people who may be going through difficult times. From your journey perspective, how has that shown up for you in your life?

Mikhail Nisenboym: Well, in my journey, I have a few difficult things in my life that happened to me that I had to overcome. Part of it was when we immigrated to New York, my mom [00:14:00] was an engineer in Soviet Union and then coming to New York, she needed to upgrade and having no English and not having the skills needed to upgrade she became a babysitter.

And I think part of that just, she fell into a very deep depression and started drinking on a daily basis. She became a really bad alcoholic. I remember because me and my mom, I didn’t live with my grandma, she wanted to live on her own. So it was me and my mom.

She started drinking very heavily when I was about 13. And I can tell you that as a 13 year old boy living in New York City, in Brooklyn, and having your mom drunk every single night, it was a devastating experience just because you feel so vulnerable. That vulnerability being like, you know, if something happened right now, there was a [00:15:00] fire, there was, uh, some kind of an emergency. Like, what am I gonna do?

I have nobody else. There’s nobody there to protect me. Like, I’m it, I’m the adult in the room now. So that was a very scary experience. I remember, she would get drunk and she would usually kill a bottle every night, and I would go and if she didn’t finish it, I would dump it down the toilet just cause it was a very scary thing.

She struggled with that I think until the end of her life.

Sean Burke: And obviously having to grow up much faster than any other individual who an 11 year old boy. I mean, you were basically being asked to be an adult like right away. And I can only imagine the challenge that would’ve been and.

You know, I think [00:16:00] we are really lucky to have someone like yourself who has the wherewithal, who has gone through so many of these different experiences in life and now has been able to build something for a family with eight kids, just casually throw that in there, um, and really make a significant difference in the lives of others.

So what do you think, hearing a little bit about your upbringing and your story, why do you think you’ve turned out the way that you have or you are?

Mikhail Nisenboym: I think I could have went both ways. I think, and I see it with many people, I think one way is you live this experience with your mother and then some people give up and then they kind of follow their parents’ footsteps and they do those things and I think that fear that kept me from like, I don’t drink at all because of my mom. I never been drunk in my life.

[00:17:00] I never did any substance abuse in my life because that fear, I think kinda and having to be responsible, having to be, like I said, the adult in the room at a very young age, kind of gave me that focus that I needed, you know?

And now I see my children, you know, I can’t imagine my children being in the situation that I was, and I never wanted that for them. You know? So I think that’s part of it. Even, like I said, sometimes my wife would be going out, she’s like, well, have a drink. Like, you know, it’s like, no, I just can’t. It’s just such a fear that I have because of that.

Sean Burke: Well, I truly applaud you for that. I mean, there’s so many stories that we hear, whether it’s intergenerational trauma or the ability to really break that cycle. For yourself to be able to see that and [00:18:00] to live that life of sobriety and to be able to continue down that path, it’s nothing but applause and support from my perspective. So then, after that upbringing and you fast forward, you get into your first marriage and I know from our conversations that was also a difficult time for you. Maybe could you share a little bit about that experience?

Mikhail Nisenboym: Yeah. At that time I was 23 years old and I was in real estate in New York. I was pretty successful. I met my first wife. She came to visit. She was from Canada. She was from Surrey actually and she came to visit New York and we had mutual friend. So, we hooked up and [00:19:00] saw each other for that first week.

And, basically after talking on the phone for about a month or so, decided that I’m gonna come here to Canada and visit and we’re going to see if we’re gonna make this kind of a commitment because long distance relationship is probably not gonna work out.

So if we’re gonna be serious, we’re gonna be serious about it. So I flew to Canada for the first time and I remember talking to my mother on the phone. My mom at that time was actually remarried and living in New Jersey, still drinking heavily, I believe. I wasn’t living with her at that time, but, I know of her drinking was still pretty bad.

I spoke to her on the phone when I landed in Canada. I remember, and I was very happy because, I thought maybe there’s gonna be a very serious relationship that I’m gonna know somebody that I’m probably I’m gonna have a future with.

And I met [00:20:00] my ex-wife’s now, uh, I met her parents the next day and a few days later me and her decided to make an engagement. So we had a pretty wonderful day and, I remember it was evening time and I got a phone call from New Jersey, from her husband, and he told me that my mother killed herself.

So I remember when I heard those words for the first time I did not process them at all. Because he said, your mom died and I guess it was in Russian, so it was a different way than we talk about it. So it was like, you know, somebody died and I was like, you mean my grandma died because, you know, I expected somebody who is a little more, that would make sense.

But no, he was reassuring me like multiple times. It was my [00:21:00] mom that passed away and I remember after that everything just became a fog. I don’t remember much. I remember my ex-wife got the tickets back to New York. We flew to New York and I drove to New Jersey.

I think it finally hit me when I got into the house, what has happened. She had a fight with her husband, got really drunk and hung herself on his ties. So yeah, pretty much at that point I lost basically the only person that I had, like, you know, I had my grandma, but you know, an elderly lady at that time already, one of them was already in the home and the other one was about to go in the home.

So I really had nobody left, you know?

Sean Burke: Well, what a difficult [00:22:00] story to tell. Thank you for sharing that. I think, you know, listening to your story and seeing you speak about it, it’s something obviously that has impacted you. It’s something that we hope nobody has to go through having gone through it.

What was that feeling? What was that sort of next step that you needed to take and realize that, to move forward and live your life, it was important for you to do? Like, how did you get through that next period?

Mikhail Nisenboym: Unfortunately, I made a big mistake. I never spoke to anyone.

I think the right thing would’ve been to actually get some counseling, very needed counseling, in that moment. But just my culture and being a man and not thinking, being young, you know, I didn’t do those steps. What I did was [00:23:00] I couldn’t face a lot of it. Number one, I couldn’t even look at her body. Like I had an opportunity to see her body, I couldn’t do it. And now, many years later, I regret because I feel like I don’t have a closure. You know, I don’t have that realization that she passed away. It’s always in my head that she’s still alive. You know what I mean?

It feels like she just went away and just never came back. Because, you know, when I came to the house, her things were still there. Like, the food that she just cooked was still there. Like, that was very devastating.

I didn’t get any counseling and I surrendered myself completely to a person that I barely knew. I let someone else take over completely for me and make all the decisions for me from that moment on. And, um, [00:24:00] it took me years, I think, to kind of come out of the haze. I was very badly depressed and I didn’t even realize what I was doing.

My fiance at that time, just decided to say, okay, well, you have no family left now, so you’re gonna move to Canada. I’m packing your bags and I’m gonna start your immigration process a second time. And, uh, that’s what happened. Before I knew it, I was living in Abbotsford with absolutely nothing and starting from zero.

I’m losing all my friends, losing all the connections that I have, you know, all the friendships that I made, I’m coming to a person I barely know, into a place I don’t know. No access to a vehicle. No driver license even, it was, yeah.

Sean Burke: [00:25:00] And, was that your first experience of then moving into the healthcare profession?

Mikhail Nisenboym: Uh, no. It was a few years later. The immigration process took, again, a long time. It took about a year to finally become an immigrant in Canada. Uh, and then I did bunch of different jobs. The painting and stuff like that. And then, because my ex-wife was a nurse, she said, why don’t you do something like that?

You know, would you become a nurse? And I was like, yeah, I think I might be good at it. And, you know, so I went to school again, and here I am.

Sean Burke: And so after that transition, having to go through the immigration process, grieving the loss of your mom, also your grandma and your support systems. What now, looking back during that period of [00:26:00] time, do you think would’ve been the most useful or beneficial for you, or what do you wish you had during that, that moment? 

Mikhail Nisenboym: I wish I had people to tell mekinda counseling. I think I needed counseling. I needed to have tools, proper tools to deal with everything that I was going through.

I was not prepared for any of it, mentally, like, you know, it could have been so much worse. Thank God it didn’t end up bad. I’m considering myself lucky that even though I had a failed marriage in the end, but at least it wasn’t something way worse, you know?

But, I think when you go through something like this, you definitely need people there for you to be able to talk to, to be able to put everything into perspective, [00:27:00] and help you grieve. You need that grieving process. Uh, which I did not have.

Sean Burke: Let’s fast forward through that next period where, you’re living with your ex-wife, it wasn’t the best relationship for you. What and how did that period of your time end up?

Mikhail Nisenboym: My ex-wife is not a bad person. But I think surrendering myself the way I did, uh, kind of… she has a very strong personality that kind of took over our relationship and basically I had no say in anything, you know.

From the beginning of our relationship to the end of our relationship, it was her way or the highway. Now that I see it, there was a lot of mental abuse [00:28:00] in that relationship from, I had to ask her for permission to buy a cup of coffee, you know.

But there was at one point in my realization that my marriage was really failing. I caught Norwalk virus at work and then I came to work two days after catching the virus and the symptoms start showing at work. I started feeling really sick. I was gonna throw up and I called my ex-wife and, you know, she’s a nurse. She actually worked with me as well. She worked at the same facility with me, right?

So I called her and told her, I’m not feeling well, I think I need to go home. And she’s like, no, you’re gonna go throw up in the bathroom and keep working, and, I couldn’t do it. After a while it was like, I went to my nurse and I said, no, I think I need to go home.

I [00:29:00] went home, I was just in the bathroom constantly throwing up and she was just yelling at me and making me feel so little, you know, belittling me. And then I remember sitting on the edge of the bed and my mouth was so dry and, uh, I was asking for a glass of water and she told me no, you’re not getting nothing.

And I remember falling asleep, waking up I remember my mouth dry. I couldn’t even swallow and I was like, I sat at the edge of the bed and thinking like, this is not where I want to be. This is not the person that I can rely on. This is not the person that if I’m getting older, if I’m gonna need her by my side. When I actually need help, that’s not the person that is gonna be there for me.

Sean Burke: And, what was that impact, having been in a relationship that wasn’t the most supportive for you, what was that like, showing up to work each day, not having the support that you needed, [00:30:00] but then also having others rely on you for that support to give them care. How is that impacting your ability to work each day?

Mikhail Nisenboym: It’s very hard. I mean, looking back, when you’re not happy in your life, and I find that even with, I’m gonna say everyone, but I see it with my coworkers, your personal life greatly affects everything you do.

You can’t be happy go lucky person walking in a room, taking care of a resident when your life is falling all around you. I see people just crying at work and that that affects not only them, but it affects the resident, right?

I mean, we all have bad days. But, when you’re constantly depressed, it’s very visible. It’s very [00:31:00] visible to all your coworkers and all my coworkers knew that I was very unhappy. It was very visible throughout, you know?

Sean Burke: Yeah. And so then, you come to this realization, you realize that it’s time to move on. What transpired after that?

Mikhail Nisenboym: I met my best friend. I met my current wife, who is the best thing that can ever happen to me. Like I said, that day that I sat at the edge of the bed, I made a conscious choice that I was gonna end my marriage.

I know I had two children with my ex-wife at that time, but I knew that my children’s not gonna be happy being in this marriage if I’m gonna stay just for them. So I made a conscious decision that I’m gonna end my marriage and then, well I did. I met my current wife [00:32:00] who has been my best friend and you know, my soulmate. And we’ve been together for 13 years.

It’s been like winning a lottery. And that’s what I can honestly say as far as, in love. That’s what I did. In the end, I did win the lottery.

Sean Burke: Yeah and that’s truly remarkable knowing some of the challenges and the struggles that you had to go to as part of your journey to get to where you are today.

And even having her here to support you as we’re doing this conversation, it’s a testament and something that you’ve worked really hard for and deserve, so I wanna just put that out there as well.

Advertising Break: This episode is brought to you by the Care for Caregivers Peer Support Line Care to Speak. Care to Speak is a peerbased phone, text, and web chat service that provides free and confidential support to health and social support workers in BC. [00:33:00] For more information on how to connect with us, please visit the show notes below.

When it comes too, then you two, building a life together, continuing to go to work and advance your career. Let’s fast forward to 2019. And then another car accident. So, walk us through this experience and what transpired.

Mikhail Nisenboym: Yeah, we were in Washington state going shopping and we were on the highway and we all came to a stop and we got rear-ended at a hundred kilometers an hour by a truck.

It was me, my wife, and my 10 year old son. And, I saw the truck coming. I look in the rear view mirror and I saw it. I kind of braced for it, which I think was a bad thing to do, and [00:34:00] about a day later, all the neurological symptoms kind of kicked in.

I had a spinal injury. I had a C4 C5 basically like my disc got collapsed and there’s a narrowing that the nerve that was coming out of the disc didn’t have any room to move. So, it was causing a lot of nerve pain and numbness in my left hand.

So, yeah, pretty much at that moment ended everything in my life as far as my work. I had to go on disability and then it started in the long journey of trying to get back and recovery.

Sean Burke: Yeah. And, and going on disability, being able to, leverage some of the supports that were in place. What [00:35:00] and how did that impact your ability to recover?

Mikhail Nisenboym: So once I got onto disability, I knew, after talking to my doctors and everything else, I knew the only path forward was surgery. I needed surgery. And unfortunately in Canada, the wait times for something like this, I was looking for about five years just to see a neurosurgeon, and then a couple of years after that to even get my surgery.

So, thankfully for the amazing benefits that were provided by my work, and the long term disability insurance company, took everything into their own hands and were able to provide for [00:36:00] me, a neurosurgeon so I could get my surgery, paid privately so I could get my surgery quicker.

Sean Burke: And were there any, you know, impacts from a mental health perspective that transpired after this accident?

Mikhail Nisenboym: Yeah. I was in excruciating pain, 24/7, seven days a week. I couldn’t sit down. I couldn’t lay down. The best way to describe it would be having a toothache in your head that’s constantly aching.

And nothing I did was taking it away. I got low. I got really low. As far as my mood and willingness to go on at that moment. As people, we kinda try to concentrate on the future and kinda see what I’m gonna do in two years, [00:37:00] three years, you know, we kind of have that, and I found that, looking into the future, I only saw suffering.

You know, there was nothing there that I could focus on. I just wanted it to end. And, uh, I think if the surgery wasn’t done as fast as it was done, I don’t know what I would’ve done, cuz I got pretty low. The only thing I think that was keeping me going was my wife.

My wife had to probably suffer a lot. My kids had to suffer a lot seeing me like this. I was depressed, like depression from pain. I think a lot of people can understand that. A lot of people, I think that’s why they fall into substance abuse and things like that. It was because of the pain. A lot of people have some kind of injury or something like that. And neurological pain. [00:38:00] it’s indescribable.

Sean Burke: And why do you think yourself, you had the wherewithal to be able to not fall into those coping strategies?

Mikhail Nisenboym: Uh, the only thing that I focused on, I started focusing on my kids, my family. And then I started focusing on exercise.

I started exercising and once I had some kind of a goal, like I knew I’m gonna get that surgery, I started having hope, you know, and that kept me going, the hope that I will get better. Because I don’t think, if I had the hope, I don’t think I would’ve, I would’ve made it.

I think if I knew that I would be like years waiting and not knowing when I’m gonna have that. The funny thing is, the doctor [00:39:00] that my family doctor requested for the neurosurgeon still hasn’t phoned me. And I already had surgery a few years ago, you know, so I don’t know what I would’ve done.

Sean Burke: So you had that support structure in place, you know, your family, your wife, your kids. Was there anything else that was helpful for you, outside of having that goal and drive to help yourself?

Mikhail Nisenboym: For me it was, this place that I went to was a core fitness.

There are kinesiologists that basically were there to kind of train me and, you know, they gave me exercises and things like that. It wasn’t taking my pain away, but it was definitely helping. So on the mental front, [00:40:00] unfortunately that’s another place where I think I kinda didn’t get the proper, being stubborn men and thinking that I can deal with it on my own. I think that was another mistake that I’ve made.

Sean Burke: So what if there is any, you know, guys or anybody in general just listening to this podcast and maybe struggling themselves, what advice might you give to them or wanna share with them?

Mikhail Nisenboym: The biggest thing that I can probably give anyone, as men, is get help.

Don’t think that you can do this yourself. I was lucky. I’m really saying I’m really lucky that I didn’t do something stupid, but I think the most important thing is getting help, being able to talk to somebody. I think even if your family is not good enough. It is good to have somebody there that can talk to [00:41:00] you, but sometimes you just need a different perspective.

Sometimes you need somebody to kind of give you tools to kind of cope with the situation that you’re in, you know? And I think it’s extremely important. I think it’s probably the most important thing that you can do.

Sean Burke: Absolutely. And I know we’ve, we’ve talked about this before on this podcast, but the sense of hope and the ability to recognize that you’re not alone.

There’s other people who have gone through this and your story and your journey is an example of that where, you know, there’s times where it’s gonna be really dark and really lonely. But, you come through those times and you lean on the people for those supports. So again, I can, you know, just applaud you with your being able to stick it out and to live with that hope and to eventually get through that period of time for you.

Mikhail Nisenboym: [00:42:00] Thank you. But as I mentioned, as great as everything in the end turned out for me, it could have been worse. And looking back, I definitely see the mistakes that I’ve made along the way.

And, uh, one of the biggest mistakes that I think a lot of men I was talking to somebody recently that was telling me like, yeah, we are men, a lot of times we go through these horrible things and we don’t share it.

We just kind of bottle it all inside and we think that we can deal with it. I’ll just kind of put it on the shelf and I’m gonna deal with it. And I see it with my own coworker, I’m not gonna mention any names, but, you know, he was going through a lot of problems, a lot of issues, and, you know, dealing with death at work constantly and, you know, never bothered him.

You know, [00:43:00] you don’t think that it was a big deal. And then one day he just stumbled upon a person that passed away that he didn’t expect that person to pass away and then had a nervous breakdown. You know, it was just something that snapped and that was it.

And he can never work again. He left work permanently because that was it. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back at that time.

Sean Burke: And do you think, from a work setting perspective, this is something that builds up over time or is, you know, in that specific instance, was it an individually isolated incident?

Mikhail Nisenboym: No, it was a buildup. It was definitely a buildup. Cause I talked to the person and they are getting mental help. They are getting counseling. Um, but they said it’s definitely a buildup. It’s a buildup with everything in their life led them to that moment that normally they would’ve just like, okay, well we are just gonna move on like normal.

And at [00:44:00] that time, no, it wasn’t. They found the body and it was. That’s it. It was just like a boom snap, nervous breakdown, complete, you know, complete meltdown. And, uh, they have to deal with this, uh, now, which is, yeah,

Sean Burke: It’s such a difficult, you know, experience, obviously. I can’t speak from firsthand experience, but having listened and spoken with many people who have shared the same sentiment that you’re talking about, there’s a definite need to process. To work through, to grieve, even being in healthcare, um, not necessarily a specific family member of those patients who pass away.

So, you know, again, I just want to come back to this idea around what supports are in place for healthcare practitioners. What do you suggest when you’re chatting with a colleague who might be struggling? [00:45:00] What sort of advice or guidance do you offer those colleagues?

Mikhail Nisenboym: We do have support. We have something that’s called Family Employee Assistance. It’s basically like counseling. We have like little posters even in the back of the bathrooms. You know, if you’re here and you’re feeling down, you know, call this number. But not many people, I’m not gonna call that number. I only know one person that actually used that number.

If it was up to me, I think it would be great there would be kind of once a month or something like that, there would be somebody there to come into work and offer people personally maybe, you know, some kind of a guidance or some kind of help.

Because a lot of times people just, they’re just not gonna do that. They’re not gonna initiate those, those things. [00:46:00] They think either from fear of thinking that they’re weak or what the colleagues think of them or like people just usually don’t initiate these type of things.

A lot of times they just, like I said, they just shelf those problems. And, I think maybe, maybe even having somebody that once a while that can come in and offer those. Maybe have like an inservice on mental health and after that saying like, hey, anybody, you know, feels this way you know, after we talked about, we can talk more.

Sean Burke: Absolutely. And when I hear your story again, having all those personal experiences of dealing and going through mental illness and having close family members struggle and ultimately, you know, succumb [00:47:00] to their illness and then you know, yourself going through it and having similar thoughts.

I gotta ask the question, why are you here today telling your story? What do you hope to accomplish by telling this story?

Mikhail Nisenboym: Well, my biggest thing is if I can reach even one person that is struggling and going through a hard time right now, if they can just one person and, you know, pick up the phone, call someone and reach out to someone that they can. You know that you know that they’re not alone.

Sean Burke: So if we talk a little bit about yourself and your experience of immigrating from the US to Canada, then starting to work in the healthcare industry, what do you think it’s like being an immigrant and coming in to the Canadian healthcare system and, and trying to navigate some of those challenges?

Mikhail Nisenboym: Yeah, I see issues every single day. Like a lot [00:48:00] of people don’t realize how stressful our jobs are. Especially if you’re casual, you’re an immigrant, your English is not the greatest. You know, you have an assignment of let’s say eight residents that you don’t know what they’re like.

You’re coming in the room, you’re reading ADLs, and you do not know, the ADL might tell you a little bit about it, but you don’t know what you’re dealing with. And not only that, a lot of people don’t realize that you have to manage your assignment, you have to be able to care for these people in a very short amount of time.

You also have to deal with physical abuse and you have to deal with mental abuse. You have to deal with family members that might not like the way you did certain things for their parent. You know, there’s a lot of things and I find it definitely impacts [00:49:00] mostly the immigrants in the healthcare industry.

Struggling with English and having a different culture is definitely I find a big struggle. And I also find, a lot of times, as much as I’m not gonna say anything bad about schooling and what’s lacking, but I also wanna emphasize that there’s those type of challenges, but people need to realize that it’s not a conveyor belt, you know, we’re dealing with human lives and like I said, there’s people that are coming in and dealing with this, but they also kind of focusing on not getting their job done, you know?

And they’re not focusing on, you’re dealing with people, you know that you have to have approach. You have to [00:50:00] know what you’re doing.

Sean Burke: It’s something too that, you know, I’ve spoken with other healthcare professionals and they’ve talked about the challenges of meeting the demands of operational needs and efficiencies within hospitals.

But also too, on the flip side, being expected to bring a human care or human element to your day-to-day job. So, even not withstanding the fact that somebody might be an immigrant, but the role itself, how do you struggle or how do you go through those challenges and decide, I need to be a little bit more human with this specific situation, versus I just gotta get the job done.

Mikhail Nisenboym: I think that’s another part of mental health. You know, you are having to make a really hard choices. A lot of times, you’re basically looking at the resident unortunately, you know, like [00:51:00] somebody who is more mentally declined, you know, you begin to prioritize as, okay, this is gonna be more, has to be done quickly and efficiently, versus somebody who can communicate better with you.

You know, you have a bit more of a human approach and we wish you could have both ways, right? You wish. And I try as much as I can, but you know, I only have a very short time to do my morning care and making sure that everything is done because I don’t have unlimited, even though I’m there for eight hours a day, I don’t not have that time cuz you know I’m have to deal with not only getting them ready for morning care, but you know, you have lunches and breakfast to deal with.

So, yeah, it’s hard choices that we have to make, unfortunately. And I think that’s also very unfair, you know, to be giving that, to people, you know? I find it, I find it pretty difficult.

Sean Burke: And I think, you know, just [00:52:00] listening to your story, understanding how your personal experiences has translated into the type of man who you are, who is able to recognize and have the vulnerability to share your story.

Again, I keep coming back to this idea of that’s probably one of the biggest strengths that anybody can offer is to be authentically themselves, to share their lived experience so that others can learn from your story. So I want to thank you for coming on the show today, for telling your story and being that shining light for so many that you know, they might be in the darkness and are looking for something to grasp onto.

So thank you very much for coming today.

Mikhail Nisenboym: Thank you so much for having me.

Sean Burke: Thanks for listening to this episode. Be sure to visit the links in the show notes for resources and supports from the Care for Caregivers program. If you’re interested in sharing your story on the Care2Listen podcast, please reach out to us at [00:53:00] careforcaregivers.ca/podcasts, and don’t forget to follow us on your favorite podcast platform to be notified when new episodes are released.


Thanks again for joining us and see you next month.