Into the system…

blogging, work, mental health, therapy, disability, benefits and more…

Busy, Busy, Busy…

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For someone that doesn’t work I seem to be awfully busy at the moment.

And it seems I won’t be going back to work for a while.

My consultant had been pretty keen for me to contact my employer to try and look for a strategy that would see me getting back to work, or at least to get me back in contact with them a little more. It was suggested that perhaps I could help out with some corporate citizenship work or at least have a contact in the area I could meet up with to discuss work. All of my contact has been with the HR team who are based in London. As I am not allocated to a project I don’t have a manager at the moment, let alone one in the North West. I don’t even have a “Career Counsellor” right now as mine is on maternity leave. So I’ve had very little contact with work and I’ve only been into the office once in the last 18 months (to get my laptop upgraded). The place has become completely alien and the thought of trying to go back is pretty scary. I don’t think Dr M realistically thought I’d be ready to go back in the immediate future, but she wanted me to consider doing something to give me hope of going back.

So I contacted my HR rep to see what she thought. She needed to look into this and wanted me to go see Occupational Health before she made any decisions. She didn’t want to allocate a new Career Counsellor unless I was actually going back, so that wasn’t an option, but she did say she’d look at finding a Manchester contact for me. She wouldn’t agree to the idea of me going into the office or helping out unless there was an OH report which supported this. I suspect their liability insurance wouldn’t be too happy if I was on sick leave, went into the office and then I hurt myself or something.

So I was referred back to Occy Health. An appointment was arranged and I saw Dr R on the 18th. I’d seen him before, 18 months ago. He had been nice last time and had a lot of experience in psychiatry, so I was glad it was him again. He remembered me and I tried to update him on what had happened. I have a document saved on my computer which covers all the main events of my “Mental Health History”, so I took this with me to refer to. I think he was pretty shocked at what had happened since I’d last seen him. At the end of the appointment he said that when he saw me last he’d expected me to have a pretty rough time over the coming year or so, but he’d never expected it to be as bad as it was.

He mentioned a lot of the usual occupational health stuff. Things about how work is generally good for people and that I should be encouraged to go back as soon as possible. He quoted the statistic that 50% of people who are off work for more than 6 months never return (Scarily, 75% of people off for over a year and virtually none of those off for two years or more ever return) and he commented on how long I’d been off. He said he was concerned about my chances, but he was hopeful that at least I have youth on my side.

He seemed genuinely worried that I may be dismissed due to incapacity if I was off much longer. I am worried about this because my Permanent Health Insurance payments would cease if that happens. He said he’d hate to think I’d have a life of benefits ahead of me. Not exactly what someone needs when they are struggling to handle the thought of being alive. He warned that with such a long absence and dismissal for ill health, I would be nigh on unemployable, which is a pretty depressing thought. I should have a great career ahead of me and instead I am dealing with the possibility that is over. I hope not.

We discussed whether or not I could go back to work. I don’t really think I am ready. I’ve only been out of hospital for about a month. My medication is still being adjusted and I am struggling with side effects and anxiety. Things are so unpredictable that I just don’t know how I can plan to go back so soon. I was pretty surprised when Dr M brought up a return to work in the first place, but I understand that I do need to go back as soon as possible and was willing to at least see what could be done.

He agreed with me though. He wants me to be fairly stable for a couple of months before he considers approving a return. He seemed a little surprised that I had even been referred to him so soon after coming out of hospital. He was uncomfortable with pushing me back too soon because there is too much at stake.

If I went back to work for a little while and struggled, ending back on sick leave, then I would not only lose my ESA for 6 months, but I’d probably end up losing my job. They’d be more likely to dismiss me if I failed to complete a phased return. Of course there’s also the very real risk that it would tip me back over the edge and I’d try and kill myself. Not exactly something anyone would want to risk encouraging.

We also discussed the fact I am waiting for therapy and I’m likely to find that pretty hard going. It would not be good for me to go back and then to start therapy. There is good chance that it will make me worse, before it makes me better and we wouldn’t want that to risk my return to work. He’d rather that I knew at least what was happening with my therapy referral before I go back.

He did agree though that we should be doing something to normalise work and the office a bit more. I need to be in contact with HR and I need to go into the office occasionally before I try to go back. At the moment I feel like I don’t belong there and I hardly know anyone. It would be good if I could get used to going in before I try and do any work there. He agreed that helping out with the occasional task might also be helpful and a good way of keeping me in touch with work. The more we can do to convince my company that I do still want to work for them and that there is a good chance that I will again, the better.

So that’s the plan. Try and get more in touch with work, keep myself busy and doing enough work related tasks as possible and lots of hoping that I will get better and stay well long enough for us to consider a return. I will probably see him again in a few months, all being well.

I left fairly pleased with the outcome. Dr R seemed to understand my predicament and agreed that I wasn’t ready to return. I am a lot more worried about my future though. He was genuinely concerned that I will end up jobless and moneyless. At the moment financially we can cope with being on sick leave, but if I lost my PHI payment or ESA then we’d really struggle. I am comfortable with the fact I have a job to go back to with a company that has treated me well. I’m pretty scared that this might change. I don’t know how I’d find a new job and try and get back to work all at the same time.

The report arrived last week and was pretty much as I’d expected. My HR rep seemed fairly happy with the report, although perhaps a little disappointed that I am not ready to return. She called me today to find out if there was anything else she could do to support me. I have been given a contact in the Manchester office now and I’m meant to be talking to her tomorrow. It was suggested that I talk to her about things I can do in the Manchester office to give me something to do and to give me a taste of work. I need to build up my confidence and remind myself that I can actually do that job. I worry that I’ve lost my ability to work. I am not as sharp any more. I’m so slow and unproductive. I struggle to concentrate and think. I worry I will just not be up to the job.

We will see. If I am to get through all of this I need to go back. I loved that job and I want to go back. I just hope that I can. I am very scared that I won’t.

9 Responses

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  1. I have no experience with OH as I don’t work, but I have read so many OH horror stories on blogs that it is good to hear about someone actually having a good OH Dr and things actually going reasonably well. It sounds like the outcome of it was right for you at this time. x


    Monday, 29th March 2010 at 8:24 pm

  2. I hope you can get back into it, too.

    Maybe one day a month just doing basic stuff or something? I dunno… but maybe starting small and working up? x


    Monday, 29th March 2010 at 8:30 pm

  3. It seems you have some good support with OH, so much better than what I encountered! I have to admit I find it strange that Dr M is trying to encourage you back to work so soon after a discharge from hospital, especially with therapy looming… You are right with what you say going back when you’re not fully ready would be crazy in itself because you risk losing your job and insurance but I do think your employers are being helpful and supportive by trying to find perhaps something for you to do in the meantime, it’s going to be scary for anyone to return back to work after a long time off, in your case it will be even more scary but at least you are willing and determined to give it a go and that is something to be very proud of! Hang on in there! x


    Monday, 29th March 2010 at 8:31 pm

  4. Wow, occy health at least trying to be helpful and supportive, that has to be a first. Just take it slowly and I’m sure you’ll be back at work when you’re ready for it.


    Monday, 29th March 2010 at 9:14 pm

  5. Wow, occy health attempting to be helpful and supportive, has to be a first. Just take it slow and I’m sure you’ll be back when you’re ready for it.


    Monday, 29th March 2010 at 9:15 pm

  6. Special, it didn’t post the first time. I’m not just repeating myself. Computers hate me!


    Monday, 29th March 2010 at 9:16 pm

  7. Your desire and willingness to return to work resounds in this post. I hope you can work together with OH and HR to get an appropriate plan into place.


    Tuesday, 30th March 2010 at 7:56 am

  8. I can relate to this. I recently returned to work after 18 months off with Mental Health issues. I was in hospital for most of this time. I won’t lie, it has been hard. I too read the statistics -frightening! My job is hands on and can be v stressful. My employers have been supportive of a phased return to work. I am working full time now. I cope with the work but there is a constant dialogue in my head saying “it’s too hard, i can’t cope” I don’t know how long i can last – i’m at a bit of a crossroads: work and cope with the stress but have enough money to live, or, live on benefits and adjust to a life without money and status of work. I hope that you can find a solution that you are happy with – keep us posted!


    Tuesday, 30th March 2010 at 12:13 pm

  9. I echo what LittleFeet said. Good luck.x


    Wednesday, 31st March 2010 at 8:48 pm

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