Into the system…

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Archive for June 2010

Social Work & Work Social…

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My social worker / care co-ordinator came to see me for the very last time on Wednesday. I wasn’t expecting to see her again at all, but she had some paperwork to give me. It was nice to get the call on Tuesday to say she was going to be popping over. I am sad to see her go. She was far better than my previous worker, J and she did restore my faith a little that there was a point in the CMHT. I am not quite sure how it is going to work without a social worker, but my psych is going to act as care co-ordinator, so it should be okay.

On Thursday I braved the work social. I wasn’t sure about going and got quite nervous about this. It was suggested I went along as a way of getting back in touch with work in an informal way. Sort of dipping my toe in. I was worried what I would say to people. I was worried what people would think and I was quite concerned about the fact I’m still on sick leave, yet I’m well enough to go out and get drunk. Would anyone understand that?

When I arrived, virtually no one was there, so I could get talking to a couple of people and break myself in gently. The person who was assigned as a sort-of mentor was there too, so she could kinda look after me. There wasn’t a big turnout at all really, so that helped as I guess I wasn’t going to burn too many bridges if I made a pigs ear of things. I didn’t really know what to say, but I ended up just being honest about being on sick leave. When we were talking about projects, when we joined and who else we knew, it would have been pretty hard to lie. I didn’t have a project and hadn’t done for almost 2 years – in which time my old project has become obsolete. I joined 3 years ago, in which time I should have been promoted. All the people I knew are now consultants or above or have left the company, so people would wonder why I didn’t know anyone else. I didn’t specify why I’d been off though. I thought about it, but it was easier to just say I’d been off for two years and that I’d spent some of the time in hospital.

In the end I coped, but I felt a little weird about it all. I kinda felt like I didn’t fit in any more. In some ways it was fine. I am still a young graduate, with the skills and knowledge to do the job and the aspirations to do well, get promoted etc. I am no different to the rest of them in that respect. I think I can still do the job, but I am not so sure about the company culture now. I used to love it, but the work hard, play hard thing may be a challenge, because I can’t really do either. To do so, would be risking further illness. Socials are built around drinking and late nights, neither of which are a great idea – alcohol is a depressant and I need routine and sleep. Success is built around how many hours you put in, never saying no, high standards and perfectionism – I guess the same is true for many jobs, but there is a huge amount of competition and one-up-man-ship. There is a constant need to prove yourself to be better than the next person. I can’t push myself to breaking point again. I have to hold back, as hard as I am going to find that. With work encouraging me to actively not hold back, that may be difficult to control. I think occupational health and HR will have a close eye on me and will do what they can to protect me from that, but I am not sure I want to be in that position. I don’t want to be left behind. It feels hard enough as it is.

At one point, one of the girls mentioned someone she had met in the company who had been an Analyst for 5 years and she was basically insulting this guy for the amount of time he had been at level. When she said this, everyone except me laughed. She suggested that he had some form of learning difficulties, which meant he didn’t get given enough responsibility to be promoted. Although this may be true, it was meant to be an insult, suggesting he was a massive failure and terribly flawed. Are people going to be saying the same things behind my back? At the end of the summer I will be entering my fourth year as an analyst. Most people are promoted in 2-3 years and many have been promoted again within 5 years total, so I’m a long way behind already. It is highly unlikely I will get promoted in the next year or so as I will not not be working full hours or full responsibilities for a long time. So I am going to become this guy – an analyst for 5 years or more and ridiculed because of it. I am scared of this.

A lot of the time I wonder if it would be easier to start again completely. A new job and a new life. My old life has left me behind and things have changed so much they will never be the same again. I am scared of going back and trying to fit in. I don’t quite know if I will fit any more. I am scared of explaining what has happened in the past two years. I want to erase the past two years, so I can just start again where I left off. I want to catch up with everyone else and I know that is impossible.

There are advantages to staying put though. My company have looked after me and I feel I owe them some loyalty for that. They are going to be flexible with my return to work and will continue to look out for me. I don’t have to learn a new job and at least I already know what to do. The company’s expectations of me have been lowered, so there is no pressure to live up to anything. I don’t need to perform at my best. I can go at 90% and hopefully that will be enough for now.

Starting again obviously has its pitfalls as well. I couldn’t start a new job. I would work too hard trying to keep my head above water, trying to be perfect, trying to impress. I would have to meet new people, with all this history and baggage behind me to try and explain or ignore. I’d have to learn how to do a new job too – new skills, tasks, routines. I am not sure I am up to learning much at the moment. My thinking still isn’t as sharp as it used to be. My memory is crap, my concentration isn’t brilliant. I would end up burning out in no time and I’d be back where I was before. More time on sick leave and another attempt to return to work. No one in their right mind would employ me now anyway, so it is not an option anyway, but I just wish that going back would be easier.

I am starting to realise that although my mood has picked up now and I feel relatively stable, there is still a very long way to go before I can say I am recovered. The future is scary. I have a lot of things ahead that will try and trip me up and I’m a little scared about embarking on this part of the journey. I don’t want to slide back down the hill, but the baggage I’ve got to carry along the way is going to make it pretty tough going.

I feel like I’m kinda rooted to the spot for now, looking up at this big hill with a feeling of trepidation. I’m also being held back by occupational health and my doctors, so I can’t even just take a big breath and have a run at it. All I can do is keep plodding though and hope that one day I’ll be able to get there.

In other news – I’m off to Glastonbury on Tuesday night, so I probably won’t blog again, even though I have two other posts in draft. They can wait though. See you all in a week or so.

p.s. I’ve updated the My Story page again. Can’t believe it didn’t even cover my admission back in January. A lot has happened in 6 months.

On my own…

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My care-coordinator, C came to see me on Thursday. We weren’t meant to be seeing each other until Monday when I had my appointment with my psychiatrist, Dr M, but C called me on Wednesday to tell me she wanted to go through the updates to my CPA and risk assessment beforehand. When she arrived she told me the real reason she had came was to tell me she is leaving. It was nice that she wanted to do this personally and made the effort to make the appointment to see me before she went, but I’m sad that she’s going. She’s been asked to work in a CAMHS role, which is what she trained in. I think this is really positive for her and she seems excited about it, so I’m happy for her. I’d just got used to having her around and she was so much nicer and more helpful than useless SW, J, who I had before, so it is a shame. It was quite nice to know she was there if I needed her as I had faith in her, but I think I’ll be okay anyway.

I was asked what I wanted to happen now. I had the option of being assigned someone new or having no one assigned and letting Dr M and my GP, Dr N manage things for a while. I decided to go for the latter. I’ve never found the CMHT overly helpful and I am not sure I really need a social worker at the moment, although it was nice to have C there, just in case. To be honest, I think not asking for another person is more about trying to avoid another useless SW like J was. She did more harm than good I think. I’m not quite sure about the prospect of being a little on my own, but I think it will be okay. I’ve been told I can ask for one at any point and someone will be assigned, so this seems to make sense. I think whilst I’m just waiting to see if things stabilise there isn’t that much to do or say. It just seems to be a case of waiting to see if the improvements hold out. I do wonder if it will be helpful to have someone involved when I am trying to return to work, but we shall see what happens.

Saturday was a bad day. I guess one had to come along again at some point, but it was worse than I’d expected. I woke up feeling a little dodgy in a physical sense, but after a silly argument with the bloke things went downhill. I was crying almost non-stop for hours and when I wasn’t crying I only felt capable of staring into space. I couldn’t think and felt completely exhausted. It got to the stage where I couldn’t really speak properly and when we went to Morrisons I was struggling to do much more than walk around like a zombie, whilst my bloke did the shopping. Something just wasn’t right. I felt depressed, but I didn’t even have the energy to be suicidal. I was just devoid of anything. In the end I couldn’t wait to get to bed so I could start a new day and hope it would be better.

I felt a little better by Sunday morning and by the evening I felt okay again, so hopefully that has passed and won’t happen again. I don’t know if something just snapped or if crying wore me out, but it wasn’t good. I just felt so awful and it was horrible to be back in that place. I’ve not experienced that sort of catatonic depression much as I have a tendency to irritability and agitation, but it is scary when it happens. I don’t know how anyone gets through days or weeks or months of that. I guess the fact is, you’re so down it is impossible to do anything but wait. You don’t have the energy to end it.

On Monday I saw Dr M again. It was a bit of a nothing appointment really. We discussed how the last 6 weeks have gone, but there wasn’t much to be said. Things are still much the same as when I last saw her. I am a lot, lot better, but not 100%. Still getting the odd bad day that catches me off guard, but most of the times things are in the realms of normal. We talked about possibly increasing the Reboxetine again, but she was inclined to leave things as they are for now. She wants the option to manoeuvre the dose up again in future if things dip over time or if  I struggle whenever my therapy referral ever comes around. If she puts it up now, she wouldn’t really be able to increase it much more without pushing the side effects up into unmanageable territory. She asked if I’d heard anything about therapy, which I still haven’t. It’s getting a bit ridiculous because it gets pushed back further and further, but it doesn’t surprise me at all.

We talked about the fact I was seeing occupational health today and what I felt about it. She asked me when I next wanted to see her, which I felt was positive. I was given the option of two weeks, two months, whenever or never again. This would never happen with the CMHT, although I’m not sure how serious she was about never again! I suspect she may have had something to say about it if I chose that option. We decided I’d call her when I have decided though, based upon what was said at occy health and whatnot. She was good to point out I can call her whenever if I need to see her between appointments. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how things have changed between me and Dr M. I didn’t like her at first and I really got the feeling she didn’t like me, but now she’s seen improvements and got to know me a little better and not the me she met when I was in hospital, things have improved. We shall see how things go. I don’t know what happens when I am passed back to the CMHT or discharged by her, but at the moment I’m appreciating the stability and glad I’m not being passed from SHO to SHO.

So today was occupational health. I have been worried about this one because the nice consultant I’ve seen in the past has left the firm. I have to confess to googling the new guy (another Dr G, so not sure I’ll be using that moniker for him) and I found out he has worked for the Health & Safety Executive in the past and has a more safety-focussed history than the last doctor – I got the impression ladders and chemicals were more his thing than mental health, but I could see he was an experienced occy health consultant, so he was going to have come across psychiatric patients at some point in his career. He seemed nice enough. Quite softly spoken and very keen to point out that he is not on anyone’s side and that he has my best interests and health in mind, so I guess that’s good to know. I’ve found that to be true for all of the occupational doctors I’ve seen. Every time, they’ve been supportive and they are not just trying to get me back in work. A pleasant contrast to the DWP/Atos Origin lot I guess, who only seem to care about declaring you fit for work (although to be fair in my case they didn’t).

We discussed how things were compared to last time I saw Dr R. In general, things have improved a little and the improvements have been maintained so that is good. He asked me how I felt about work and occupational health. I confessed to being in two minds – half the time itching to get back and on bad days, worrying that I’d never be well enough. He said that was to be expected, which I guess is true. I was pretty surprised that early on in the appointment he made it pretty clear he didn’t think I’d be returning any time soon. He feels it will be a long time before I go back properly and that I need to show stability for a while before we consider it. I was hoping to go back in some capacity soonish, so I’m disappointed really. I guess I have to slow down and wait and see how things go. I am aware that I shouldn’t rush things, but at the same time it’s about balance, because if I wait too long I will begin to feel useless and get frustrated.

He also said that a return will be very slow when it comes and it could be a very long time before I’m back at work properly. At first it will be just dropping into the office a couple of times to say hello and then maybe working an hour or two a week, building that up to a few mornings or afternoons and then we’ll see. I suspect I will get impatient with that approach, but I know it is what we have to do. I know though that I have a tendancy to do more than I’m meant to, so it will be difficult I think.

Now that I’ve been told I definitely can’t work yet, I feel a bit stuck. I’m having to wait and be patient and I am getting itchy. I had thought that I’d be going back sometime this summer. I expected to be setting a date to start a phased return, but I’m apparently not even ready to do that yet. I have to wait a couple of months before I see him again. If things have improved/stabilised then we can “possibly” start to plan a return. He did suggest three or four months before I next saw him, but I felt that seemed too far away. I’m worried I’d miss my window of opportunity to have some “normal” life. He agreed on two months or so unless I go downhill again in that time. He said I deserve to have a bit of happiness first, which I guess is a nice thought, although it also makes me worry he feels I won’t stay well if I do ever go back to work. I also wonder if I can be really happy if I’m not working. I want things to be normal. I want a career. I want to stay well.

In a way it is good. I know that I don’t have the worry of going back to destabilise things whilst I’m still not 100%. Maybe the therapy assessment will come through in time. It might be good to follow Dr R’s recommendation that I wait to see how I get on with therapy before I return to work. I don’t hold out much hope on that one though.

I guess this time of year is the best to be off too. Summertime. I won’t have to worry about taking time off for holidays. I can make the most of the sunshine, when it happens. I felt awful for most of last summer and I didn’t appreciate it. I am appreciating the sunnier days now.

I guess I can also stop feeling guilty and worrying about being on ESA and in the support group. When I have a good day and I feel normal, I wonder why I’m not at work. I am in the support group, which means I am meant to be too ill or disabled to ever consider seeking or returning to work. Until recently I thought that was the right decision, but as things have improved and I have got keen to return, I wasn’t sure I fitted that criteria any more. I always hated the thought that I was too ill to consider working, even though I knew it was true, but I find it even harder now I am not so sure. Before, I did fear I’d never go back. I couldn’t see any sign of improvement, but I hated the fact that others didn’t have much hope of improvement either. Now I can see that improvement I want to work. I loved my job and I miss it more than ever now. To be told I’m still not well enough to consider working is sad and hard to admit. The upside is though I should stop worrying they will accuse me of benefit fraud. I am not allowed to work even if I want to, so I have to accept that. Without the blessing of Occupational Health I can’t go back.

I just can’t shake off the feeling I am being held back, but at the same time I need to stop myself trying to run before I can walk. I’ve been off work for two years and during that time I’ve been very ill. I know that. 6 months ago I was in hospital. A few months ago I was still threatening to kill myself. Things have improved a lot in a short period of time, but unfortunately that doesn’t mean they can’t change back in a short period of time either. I hope they won’t. I don’t think they will, but it seems I have to prove that these improvements are going to hold out and I can reach some form of stability, before I can consider myself well.

Hmm. We shall see. We shall see.

p.s. I did a quick edit on this post on 9th June. I ran out of time yesterday so the last couple of paragraphs had been somewhat rushed and I didn’t say everything I wanted to. I also didn’t tag things properly. There is still more I can say on this, especially as I spoke to HR today, but I will leave that for another post.

Limbo…

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It has been a very long time since I last posted. I can’t believe the whole of May has just disappeared. There was another post here about a week ago, but I trashed it soon after publishing it. It said nothing of note and was a waste of time. I didn’t even complete it, but I published it anyway for the sake of publishing something. I quickly realised there was little point in doing that and I may as well wait until I could sit down and write something properly.

Life continues to be busy and I am still “recovering”.

My mood is now on the whole okay. I am managing on a day-to-day basis and I feel relatively “normal”. My head feels quieter. I no longer think constantly about depression, death and suicide. I don’t spend the day wishing I’d never woken up. Life feels a lot lighter. It doesn’t feel like I’m wading through 3 foot of deep, muddy water any more.

I think perhaps it is more like I’m splashing about a bit in the puddles. There is still a bit of rain around and at times, plenty of cloud but there is sunshine breaking through too. I am starting to enjoy things a lot more and I’m even getting excited about things. Before, the only thing in the future I would think about was what day I intended on killing myself. Now, I am looking forward to my summer and thinking about what I will be doing.

I am excited about Glastonbury this year. I was really dreading it last year and I didn’t have any idea how I would get through it. I spent most of the time leading up to it intending to kill myself straight afterwards. That didn’t happen because the opportunity was never there, but it was on my mind a lot. When I was there, I spent most of the festival falling asleep, because of the Haloperidol I was taking at the time. I can barely remember any of it. I was anxious and couldn’t handle the crowds and I just wanted to sit down and sleep the whole time, because I was so weary. I am hoping that this year I can make the most of it. I want to be back to my normal self. I am looking forward to seeing new bands and have been listening to stuff on Spotify to try and catch up on all the music I’ve missed out on. I just hope the weather holds out.

I guess I hope my mood will hold out too. I am still acutely aware of the fact I have been ill and I’m not going to be fixed overnight. A lot of the time I think I’m fine and wonder why I’m not just back at work, but then something knocks me and I remember what things were like only a couple of months ago. It feels a little like I am walking along a tightrope of sanity. I haven’t fallen off, but I wobble quite a lot. Although my mood generally feels fine, I don’t feel secure. Some of the time I wonder if it is all a dream and I will soon wake up, back in that terrible state I was in before. There are times when I realise some of the negative thoughts are still there and I have to remind myself that things are getting better.

I’ve been thinking about suicide a little again, but I don’t think about it in the same way now. I have no intention of doing it at the moment, but I still wonder if it might be nice not to wake up again, despite all the improvements. I still wonder if I can get through life and if it is worth all the hassle. I am not sure I’d mind if I was ran over by a bus. I guess I am just no longer scared of death. I thought about it a lot before I tried to kill myself and even now I am not sure I really value life very much. Things have changed though and I realise that although I don’t really care if I don’t survive, I think I can survive. Before I didn’t know how I could continue to live any longer. Life was just too awful and unbearable. Now I think I can cope with things how they are and I can carry on. I have no intention of going out of my way to stop it. I’m just pretty apathetic I guess.

I think the illness still bubbles away under the surface. I don’t think it has really gone away, but the medication has turned down the heat and calmed things down. I still feel a little unstable and not quite right at times. Maybe it will never go away completely. Maybe I have just been through too much or things have just gone too far for me ever to go back to “normal”. I guess maybe it has been there most of my life anyway, but I am just more aware of its presence at the moment. I am terrified that things will start boiling over again. I spent a lot of my life denying there was anything wrong. I kept telling myself I was fine and should just snap out of it and get on with life. Now that things most certainly have not been fine, maybe I am no longer able to convince myself that I am fine, even if actually I am?

I guess this is all “Recovery”. Trying to work out what is “normal”. Trying to get on with life. Trying to not push myself to soon. Trying to find a balance.

I still think there’s a way to go. I feel a little like I’m in limbo at the moment. Not actually ill, but not actually well. There’s this middling ground where you kind of get lost in between states. I don’t really know what I’m meant to do whilst I’m here. I am not entirely sure I know the right way out either, but I just hope I get there eventually.

I have to stop writing now. I have news and things I want to write about, but they will have to wait. You’ve waited this long for a post. You can wait longer for the rest of it!

Written by intothesystem

Thursday, 3rd June 2010 at 10:44 pm