Into the system…

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

Posts Tagged ‘employment

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.

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.

Limited Capability for Work?…

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A little less agitated than yesterday evening at the moment, but I’ve had a terrible night’s sleep. I was very wound up all night and couldn’t keep still. My head was flying all over the place. Every time I drifted into sleep I had busy, fast, vivid, strange dreams. I was waking up from them every 30 minutes or so and wondering why I wasn’t doing all the things I was dreaming about and then I couldn’t get back to sleep because my mind was flying off on all these tangents inspired by the dreams. Things eventually seemed to calm down a little around 6-7am, so I did get a couple hours of sleep, but even then my sleep was littered with more dreams.

Part of this agitation may have been exacerbated by the argument I had with my partner last night. The night before I am due to go for an ESA medical, testing whether or not I am fit for work, he tells me I should just go back to work and implies that I am lazy, a skiver and not ill at all. This isn’t helpful.

He was telling me that I should just go back because unless I do, I’ll never be ready. He thinks I am just putting it off forever. He thinks I need to go back and try to work because until I do I can’t be sure if I am ready or not. This is of course true, but I think I need to be showing more signs of being ready before I try it.

There are of course a lot of things to lose by going back too soon and then having to stop working. The loss of my permanent health insurance income being one. I’d have to apply again for it, which is a lengthy process. The loss of ESA will be another factor, if of course they ever give me it. As I am claiming under youth rules I’d have to be off sick for another 6 months before I can claim again.

I suspect that he may in part be pushing me back for selfish reasons. He has of course given up a lot to look after me, but I think it is wearing thin and he doesn’t want to stay at home and care for me any more. I pointed out to him that if I am ready enough to go back to work then he shouldn’t need to care for me anyway and should just go out and get himself another job, but he didn’t seem to agree. The fact he still thinks I can’t be left on my own must tell him I can’t be expected to work. I would likely be on my own a lot in the office and there’s also the matter of getting to and from work. It would be easy to abscond.

My social worker seems to have a strange attitude to my employment. She was asking me if my goal for recovery is to get back to work. For me, the ultimate goal is being well enough to work again and more importantly for me, to go back to the job I loved doing. She seemed disappointed with this and almost surprised. It really felt as if she thought I shouldn’t expect to work again because of my mental health. Maybe she just feels I shouldn’t be working in a high-pressure, highly competitive environment, but for me, working in a simpler job wouldn’t be recovery. It would seem like a poor compromise.

To me her attitude to work seems bizarre. Surely her goal should be for me to return to a normal life, or at least as normal life as possible? I don’t think it should be expected that I will remain disabled and a full-time mental for life? I really fear that will happen and need as much help as possible to stop it happening. I know I have to face the fact that this illness isn’t going to go away and I will have to learn to live with it, but I hope that I will be living a fuller life than this sometime soon.

At the moment I don’t think I’m ready to go back to work. This sudden swing into agitation is a suggestion of that. Last time I tried to return to work I became very hypomanic, very quickly, probably aided by the fluoxetine I was on at the time. Work is likely to fuel this mood and send me up and up. Maybe that would be nice, but I’m not sure I’d be a productive employee.

Even if I hadn’t have entered this mood yesterday, I don’t think I’m ready yet. I am still battling suicidal thoughts almost constantly. Stress would only make these thoughts more urgent and amplify the need to escape this world.

There is also the matter of anger management. I’m not there yet. I have calmed down on a month or two ago, but I am still struggling with bubbling agitation. The smallest thing can send me into rage, wanting to hurt both myself and the cause of the anger. I have to admit I can’t take criticism. It was something I found hard before, but I usually turned it on myself mentally. Lately I’ve been literally hitting back and that is not suitable behaviour for work. I don’t want to be violent and I certainly don’t want to display that in the workplace. It would do nothing for reducing the stigma that mentally ill people are dangerous.

It is these things that I’ll be talking about today at the medical. I need to convince them I shouldn’t be working, yet I’m doubting this myself. I hate being hypocritical. I guess if I do get through the medical it is proof that I shouldn’t be working. If I can convince the DWP, who are notoriously bad at trying to get people back to work before they are ready, then I really must be ill. We will see. I don’t hold my breath.

There is a voice that tells me I am a fraud and I should just go back to work. I feel lazy, sitting around having nothing to do all day. I am trying to occupy myself, but I am not a productive member of society.

I am getting stuff done, but this only makes me think I should be working. Over the past couple of days I’ve embarked on a project to sort out all of my photos and to get them online. I used to have a photo gallery on my website, but I took it down when the domain was up to expire and since uni I’ve been very lazy about my photography. I have literally thousands of images, over 40gb worth. A lot of these are utter rubbish, but I want to find the ones that aren’t and get them out in the open. Anyway, the point of this is I’ve been sitting on my computer sorting this photos out and generally I’ve been able to concentrate on the task in hand. Considering a vast amount of my job is sitting at a computer then maybe I should be doing that and not just sorting out my photos.

I’ve been baking more recently and on Tuesday, I also made a load of home-made chocolates. I managed to do it successfully this time after a recent attempt involved me using semolina instead of sugar. Unsurprisingly the mixture had to go in the bin. They were popular at creative remedies yesterday, with many suggestions of having to sell them or give them as christmas presents.

I had even ventured back into the world of books and reading over the past month or so. I haven’t picked up a book for a couple of weeks, but I was getting there. I was reading stuff and even starting to enjoy it a little. I sometimes had to read paragraphs multiple times or forgot what I had been reading the previous day, but I was getting through the pages.

I also worry about this blog. The fact I can sit here and read and write. Does that mean I should be working instead of just writing about the fact I’m not? If people found this, would they use it against me to tell me I should be working?

This desire to work has of course has been amplified by my mood since yesterday. I have all these ideas of things I could be doing at work. I will not be on a project at first so need to find some internal work I could be doing. I can think of so many ways to improve our company. So many things that could be done and I want to be the person to do them.

There are barriers to returning. My doctors tell me I’m not ready. My social worker tells me I’m not ready. I need to go to occupational health before they will let me go back to work and they may well tell me I’m not ready. When will I know if I’m ready? How can they know?