Into the system…

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

Posts Tagged ‘sick leave

Off to the Office…

with 9 comments

Friday 15th October – 11.05am

(I started this post on Friday, whilst waiting for the bus. I didn’t get the chance to finish it, so I am going to post what I did then and complete the post before publishing it all together).

I’m sat at the bus station writing this on my phone, waiting for the bus that takes me to the office. I missed the connection as the bus from my village was running predictably late, so I’ve got a 25 min wait for the next one. At least my renewed disabled bus pass arrived before I got the bus this morning, saving me about 6 quid in bus fares today.

I am nervous. This is not the first time I’ve been back since I’ve been ill. I got over that hurdle a couple of weeks ago, but it doesn’t feel any easier a second time. On my last visit, I went to a meeting I was invited to. I used to be on the office forum, which focussed on employee engagement and office morale. The committee had stopped meeting after I went on leave, but the Senior Exec who was in charge decided it was time we revived it, so I was invited along. I thought it was probably a good way to get updated on the situation in the office and to do something work-related without too much pressure. It helps that I have a lot of experience in this area from my last role, so I thought I could handle it. Plus there was free breakfast so how could I refuse? I feared that a meeting with two Senior Execs and a handful of others might have been a bit much for my first trip to the office in two years, but I decided it doesn’t really matter what they think of me. Dr Occy Health didn’t expect me to go to the office to do any actual work, but I decided that it would probably be easier if there was a purpose to my visit and chatting about charity work and office parties didn’t seem like too much of a challenge.

At the start of the meeting I explained that I had been off on sick leave for a long time and that I was in the process of getting back in touch with work, with a plan to start returning part-time soon. I wasn’t sure about doing this at all. I don’t know if it is a good idea to have too many people knowing about my situation and I felt quite self-conscious, but I think it helped to set expectations and put my comments into perspective. I think I would have probably come across as strange if I didn’t put things into context. I am very behind with the latest news on clients and projects! Over two year’s absence can’t really be left unexplained.

I think I handled the meeting okay. I had things to say and as the only person there from my level, I could offer a unique position. This made me feel a little more useful than perhaps I had feared beforehand. I think if there were others at my level, I would have been tempted to stay quiet and I would have felt surplus to requirements, maybe even a hindrance. Compared to others, it would have highlighted how out-of-date I am. I also struggled to remember things, partly because it is so long ago and partly because my brain has been fried by depression and ECT. I had to think hard about how things were back then and what I would have said 2 years ago and it made it a struggle to keep up at times. Things have definitely moved on whilst I’ve been away (for example, the client I worked for last, is no longer a client), but reassuringly we were still discussing and facing many of the same issues we always have. The stuff I had remembered, was still valid and I still had relevant answers to give.

After the meeting, I took a hot-desk for an hour or so and started to trawl through my old inbox. I decided the best strategy was to skim-read subjects and mass delete. A request from two years ago is hardly likely to be valid any more, so I assumed it could be ignored. There were a few automated notices I had many, many times over, so I thought I better look at sorting those out. I sent a couple of emails to old colleagues to see if they could point me in the right direction, but most of the people I would have asked, have since left the company. Hopefully, someone will be able to help me stop them from coming though. Pretty much everything else went in the trash. I have probably missed a few things, but the chances are that if it is important, they will ask again.

I was struggling to keep my mind on the job. Part of this was probably a lack of concentration, but I think a lot of it was just down to how I felt about being back. I was reminded of how much I’d missed and what had happened before I went on sick leave. My mind was wandering back to those times and thinking about what happened and what went wrong. I felt a bit strange when I came across some old emails. Stuff from when all of this kicked off. Emails to HR and my old line managers about how I was feeling, what occupational health had said etc. I wish I hadn’t seen them really. I don’t want to go back down that road.

It was also weird to discover how much has moved on. So many of the old systems have been superseded and I have no idea where to start when I sign in. So many of my colleagues have gone, been promoted, moved client, moved office. I will have a lot of catching up to do when I get back. I will need to re-learn a lot of things and it will almost be like starting a new job, even more so because I will be starting a new role with a new team. I am worried though that with a year’s work and 3 years in the company under my belt, people will expect me to be experienced and know what I am doing, but I’m not sure I do any more!

I felt somewhat weird about the whole visit. On the one hand it was fine. I coped, I took part in the meeting, said something worthwhile and I don’t think I made an idiot of myself, but on the other hand I felt really out of place and uncomfortable. Despite the fact the meeting went okay, I have no confidence and I worry that I can’t do that job any more. I don’t have the confidence or the concentration. I am scared of going to meetings, talking and working with others, having to make decisions and everything else that comes with the job. I just don’t feel up to it.

The culture feels really alien too. Just wearing smart work clothes felt wrong. I used to love wearing my sharpest suit and heading into the office. I was happy when I drove through the office gates and walked in, laptop and security pass in hand. Work used to feel like the right place for me. I was good at my job, I knew that I was and I really loved it. Now I feel lost and out-of-place and uncertain if it is the right thing for me any more. When I walk in to the office now, I feel like someone who has got lost and ended up in the wrong place. It feels like there are all these people staring at you, wondering why you are there and thinking that you’re an idiot. I worry about looking confused, forgetting where things are or what the etiquette is. For months, the only people I really dealt with on a semi-professional level were doctors, psychiatrists and the like. That is a very different relationship to a working one. You don’t sit down with your manager and pour out your inner woes. You have to maintain a professional front, appearing calm and capable, even when you feel like crap and really want to hide under the duvet or break down and cry. I am not sure how long it is going to take me to adjust.

There was a small part of me that got a real buzz from being there though. There was a little spark of excitement at the thought of going back to work. Being there and taking part in that meeting, really reminded me of what I’d been missing. I like a challenge and to use my brain. I’ve not used it enough lately. I enjoy working with people to come up with ideas and I like to get involved with solving problems. It is good to feel like you are useful and to have something to focus on and think about. When you enjoy your work, it can be the thing you live for. I didn’t really want to leave the office and go home afterwards and it was hard to pull myself away at the end of my permitted two hours. I wanted to stay and work and be normal for a while. I wanted to forget everything that had happened over the past two years and just get on with my career and my life. I didn’t want to be ill any more. I don’t want to be ill any more.

I’m nearly at work now and staring at my phone to type this on the bus is making me feel queasy. I’m only going into the office for a couple of hours today. There’s no real reason for my visit and I could do what I intend to do there at home, but I thought it would be a good idea to try to visit again. I’m going to sit at a desk, read through emails and try to update my company CV. I don’t know how much I will get done, or what I will be able to do, but it is worth a try. After all, Dr Occy Health didn’t want me to try to actually work, so just being there is a good start.

Afterwards…

(I have written the rest of this post over a couple of days, so I will do my best to complete it and publish it now).

After my first visit to work – that meeting I wrote about above, I was completely drained by it. As I left the office, my mood started to crumble away from me. It was almost as if by leaving the office and getting back on the bus, I was leaving behind the normal world and going back to the mental one. My mood seemed to change accordingly. Whilst I was at the office, my mood was okay. I pretty much switched off my emotions and got on with the task in hand, doing my best to act normal and remember how I used to be at work. It didn’t go too badly, so I was hoping it was fine and that I had nothing to worry about. Unfortunately though, afterwards I felt really rubbish. I guess I had been maintaining the front and this can be exhausting.

It was really hard going back to the mental world. I didn’t want to. I wanted to stay at work forever and not go home. Being back at work gave me a few hours to pretend that everything was normal. It was almost possible to pretend that none of the past two years had happened. I was back at work, doing a job that I loved. I could forget the world of therapy, medication and psychiatrists and distract myself with a world of email, meetings and spreadsheets. Two and a half years ago, I was using work to distract myself from anxiety, suicide and a mood disorder, within half an hour of arriving at the office, I was doing the same again. If only that distraction and front could be maintained.

I was really anxious afterwards. I dissected everything a million times over. I went over everything I could remember from the meeting, to check I didn’t seem too mad or make a complete fool of myself. I have always worried about how I came across at work, but usually I could be fairly rational and pragmatic about it. Evaluating your own performance is a big part of the job, but it is not good to spend hours catastrophising, pulling apart everything you have done and then using it as a stick to beat yourself with. Unfortunately this time, my evaluation was definitely closer to the latter. I knew I was doing it, but couldn’t seem to stop myself. CBT – where art thou?

I felt quite panicky about the future. I worry about whether I could ever do that job again and where I fit in. The drop in my mood, level of anxiety and complete feeling of exhaustion afterwards only made this worse, because it confirmed my worst fears – that I wasn’t good enough and that I couldn’t cope any more. I was annoyed with myself, because I didn’t see how a couple of hours could make me feel so bad. I was angry at myself for being depressed and angry at depression for taking my career away from me and stopping me from working. I was really disappointed that although the trip to work went okay, the fallout from it was less good.

My second visit to the office was not too different to the first, except I didn’t have a meeting to go to. I was actually a lot more nervous beforehand this time. I hadn’t been feeling very good mood-wise anyway and had very little sleep, so I was even more worried about what effect it would have on my mood. I haven’t been sleeping well at all since the increase in Reboxetine – I’d forgotten how bad it could be for insomnia.

I had emailed the night before to reserve a desk, but the woman was still grumpy when I asked her which one. I didn’t arrive until about 11.45, due to missing the bus, so I was later than I’d originally said. She said she had only reserved it up to that time, so if it’s gone it’s not her fault and I will have to do without. I did not like the idea that I will have travelled all that way and that I may not have had a desk to work at, but thankfully it was still free and I could set my laptop up and get to work. I had problems with the LAN though. I could get on the intranet, but no external websites were working, which seemed a bit strange. I managed to get on to the support website and worked out how to fix it, but it still ended up taking a lot of my time.

I spent most of the time going through the latest emails, including a couple of responses to my enquiries from my previous visit. Still didn’t have any answers, but I was a step closer to getting them. I did feel a little overwhelmed when I looked in my inbox and saw that in a few days I had over 3 pages worth. Considering I am on sick leave, so I am not getting anywhere near as many as I would normally, it was a little daunting. One of the biggest problems before I went on leave, was the fact I often felt like I was drowning in emails and there were times when I just couldn’t bring myself to answer any of them. I would check what I was writing a million times and would get a feeling of doom every time I clicked send, even when the message was a simple one-line answer. I would look at the list and not be able to summon the motivation to do anything about it. Certain names would fill me with dread, because I knew it would be more work.

After my inbox, I wanted to log in to my company CV, as it will need to be updated before I start looking for roles or internal work. It took me ages to remember where I needed to log in! Once I was in, I didn’t know where to start. It is obviously very out of date. I noticed the skills section doesn’t increment the number of years experience you have had, so decided that was a good place to start. There was a lot of skills missing and I didn’t even finish completing that section before my time was up. I wanted to stay and finish the job, but quite sensibly I had somewhere to be afterwards, which stopped me staying all afternoon. I felt really lazy arriving at the office just before lunchtime and leaving only a couple of hours later. I’m sure people were looking at me as I packed up and left. They must have wondered where on earth I was off to at 3pm. Leaving before 6pm is just unheard of, so that isn’t surprising.

I did feel a lot worse again afterwards, although probably less anxious this time. I didn’t spend any time talking to anyone on that visit, so I had no conversations to analyse afterwards, which helped I think. I literally spoke to the woman at the reception, took my desk, worked in silence and then got up and left. This is the way everyone works in that office, so I wouldn’t have seemed anti-social or anything.

I am still not sure how I feel about work now after dipping my toe in. I am scared that I won’t go back. I am worried that when I see Dr Occy Health in a couple of weeks, he will be concerned at my drop in mood lately and he will delay my return even longer. I feel very conflicted about it. Half of me is desperate to get back, to put the past two years behind me and to get on with my life. When I was at the office I felt okay and seemed to be coping, so there’s no reason why I wouldn’t cope for longer. I think it will be good for me to get back to work and feel useful again. I have been getting bored at home and feel very worthless. So much of my self-worth was tied up in my work and I think it still is. I will never feel like I have recovered or improved until I finally get back to work. I was a lot better over the summer and felt pretty well, but I still wasn’t at full capacity. I still wasn’t able to work.

Now, I am very scared. I am worried that I will not be able to cope. I am very worried that I will go full-steam ahead into a return and that in a few months I will be back to where I was. I will manage for a while. I can put up a front and get on with my job and everyone will think that I am fine, but it wouldn’t last. When I get to the office, even if only for a couple of hours, I feel myself going back to my old ways. I want to bury myself in work and feel the urge to push myself too hard. I don’t want to go home after two hours. I want to go back to full-time and to have responsibility again. I survived almost a year of overdrive last time, but I suspect it would only take a couple of weeks to break me again. Maybe even a couple of days. I worry that just a few hours of work makes me feel so terrible afterwards. That can’t be a good sign. Maybe my stamina would improve, but what happens if it makes me worse first? I have been wobbly enough of late, without needing any extra stress and pressure, so I don’t know if it is a good idea. Yet the thought that I may never get back to work makes me feel so worthless, I may as well just go kill myself anyway. I need to go back.

We will see. I am going to try to go in at least one more time before I go back to Dr Occy Health. I may try to spend a couple of hours working from home too. I am now checking my work email most days, which should stop that getting too overwhelming. Just ten minutes each day is a place to start, right? I need to have another think about what else I can do before I see him and what I need to ask when I go back. Sometime after seeing Dr Occy Health, I am meant to be meeting the HR manager who is looking after me whilst my HR rep is on maternity leave, so I need to think about what I will tell her too. I don’t know yet.

Written by intothesystem

Monday, 18th October 2010 at 12:32 pm

Social Work & Work Social…

with 3 comments

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…

with 9 comments

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.

London Bound…

with 3 comments

I’m traveling down to London this weekend for a friend’s birthday. I’m sat in the first class lounge waiting for my train at the moment. I am glad I booked a first class ticket. It’s far more civilised than cattle class.

I’m a little apprehensive. I had to promise I would keep myself safe this weekend and although I said I would, I don’t know if I can 100% guarantee that. I hate that I can’t promise and know for sure, hand on heart, that I will be safe. There is no guarantee that I won’t flip out and do something impulsive, but I’m hoping I won’t. I know I am putting myself in a situation where the temptation could be there, but I know I need to face it. My nurse on the ward would talk about empowerment and how I have to face it. I know that I’ve been okay up to now since I left the ward and I just have to keep it up, but this is my first weekend away on my own, so I hope it goes okay.

I looked at my thoughts around this in my CBT group this morning and it was helpful. The therapists worked with me to come up with some ideas and plans to put in place to make myself safer. I just wish I didn’t have to do that. I resent it. I did find the session helpful this morning. I just wish there wasn’t this negative commentary in my head counteracting every rational and sensible thought I have and making me want to rebel against the safety measures. I’m going to try and help myself. I really am, but I have to fight to stop my mind from undermining me.

The weekend should be enjoyable. I hope my depression doesn’t make that impossible. I will be staying with good friends and we have fun things planned. I just hope I can feel the enjoyment and not be too negative.

There are a few pitfalls I have to avoid. Tomorrow, I will see a lot of my work colleagues that do not know that I am ill and have been on sick leave for six months. They will be asking questions of me. What client have I been working on? Why wasn’t I at the last conference? etc. and I will need to respond. I think most of them are fine and I will probably be honest with them, but it still might be a bit weird. I certainly don’t want to bring the atmosphere down and talk about my illness when we should all be partying, but then I will have to give my justification for being very careful on the drink front. Just one or two makes me drunk on these meds and I know it does nothing for my mood, so I need to be careful.

I hate this illness. I hate how it means every situation needs thinking about. The risks need to be considered. I have to think about how I am going to keep myself safe. I wonder if I will enjoy things, when usually there would be no question. I worry about the consequences of things. I have to think about what would be best. I resent having to keep myself safe. I hate the fact that I don’t 100% trust myself. I hate that my partner doesn’t trust me and worries about me. I hate that my friends feel they need to keep an eye on me. I don’t want to be a burden and someone that needs to be looked after. I don’t want to think about these things.

I should be back on Monday.

From next week my therapy days change. I will be going Tuesdays and Fridays as opposed to Monday, Wednesday, Friday. There is an extra day to face, but I know I just have to do it.

October 4th: Tell the parents…

with one comment

I really didn’t want to tell my parents. I was too scared of their reaction and had been hiding everything from them for so long I had no idea where to start. My partner tried to convince me and told me that if I didn’t tell them, he would. I realised I had no choice, so agreed that I would try and tell them. In the end, I wrote them a short letter explaining that I had been off work due to depression and was going to be admitted. I avoided the gory details, but explained some of what had happened in the lead up to my admission.

It was a coincidence that my parents were going to be in the Midlands on the Saturday, so I arranged to meet them at my sister’s new uni house. When we arrived it was strange. We just did all the normal stuff. Got shown around the new house, handed over presents and sat in her room. I was nervous and wanted to get it over and done with, but knew I had to wait until there was a suitable time.

I told my sister first. I gave her a copy of the letter and told her to read it. I told her I had something I needed to tell her and that I wasn’t pregnant. I knew that would be the first conclusion everyone would jump to. She cried lots and I didn’t know what to do. She was sympathetic, but I hated that.

Afterwards my parents came in, so we got them in the lounge and repeated the ritual. Handed over the letter and asked them to read. They were shocked. They asked some questions but mostly just exclaimed over how shocked they were. My mum went pretty quiet. They told me they’d support me, but it was just very weird. I don’t know if it was a relief. I think it must have been, but I was just so nervous I don’t think it felt like it at the time.

We went for a meal later and things proceeded as normal really. There were a few awkward questions about what I expected would happen during my admission and what the long term aims were, but generally it was okay. I was glad to escape afterwards though.

Written by intothesystem

Monday, 17th November 2008 at 7:41 pm

Shock to the System…

with 3 comments

I knew it would be like this. I knew my return to work would be a shock. It has been and I’m not sure I am up to handling it, but I don’t know what else to do. I know I should take all of your advice and go back to my GP, but I don’t see how sitting at home is any better. I don’t see how anything can be any better. I don’t see the point in work. I don’t see the point in life.

Being back in the office has both benefits and issues.

People keep asking me where I’ve been or how I am and I genuinely don’t know how to answer. I am not better and I know that, but I don’t want to disappoint people. They expect to hear that you’re fine and glad to be back. I’m not fine and I’m not sure if I’m glad to be back.

I hate how visible my role is. I know everyone and it’s a big office. There are literally hundreds of people, all wanting to know where I’ve been. People are nosy. Some people knew where I’d been. Others had no idea – some thought I was on holiday or I’d left the project. My reappearance in the office has made people suspicious. It does make me wonder if I should have had a new start on a new project, but then I am glad for my friends. The news seemed to travel fast. Before I’d even told people I was back, they were popping over to my desk to see me. It was nice to be welcomed, but I couldn’t deal with their questions. I didn’t want to tell them how I really felt. Seeing people is nice, but it’s all too much, too fast. After seeing virtually no one for weeks, it’s weird to see everyone again.

In terms of the work. The distraction is good. Yesterday, I focussed on clearing out my inbox and that was easy. I just had to keep answering the queries, clicking the buttons and making things happen. I could do all those things on autopilot and I was distracted from my thoughts and feelings for a few hours. If work was like that all the time I could handle it. I just had to keep going.

The problem is when the distraction stops. Last night I lay awake, thinking about the day, about work, about life. I kept thinking about how pointless everything is. My thoughts are all negative. I see no light at the end of the tunnel.

Today has been harder. I’ve almost run out of monotonous tasks. I’m now being required to think. I am incapable of thought. The thoughts that I do have are negative and so far removed from the productive, work-like thoughts I need to be creating I just don’t know how. Intelligent thought is impossible.

Conference Calls are painful. I hate calls at the best of times, but today was impossible. I was aware that I sounded like a gibbering idiot; someone that doesn’t know what they’re talking about. I was frustrated with myself. I hate the fact I’m only a shadow of my old self. I hate that I’m not as quick and knowledgable. I hate that I can’t order my thoughts, because my mind is dominated by the black cloud hanging over my head. I got away with it today. The call wasn’t important and I still knew more than my colleagues, but I can’t keep this up. I will be found out. I will slip up. I will break down.

I don’t know what to do. I am back to where I was before my sick-leave. I am no better than I was then. I hate the fact that I am no better. This lack of progress makes me want to give up. I don’t want to admit there has been no progress. I don’t want to go back to my GP. I don’t want to go home and wait to feel better. I don’t want to do any of this.

I can feel myself losing hope. I see no future and no point.

p.s. On a happier note. Thanks to those who nominated me for the awards doing the rounds. I appreciate it. I will do mine soon, but I’m not quite in the frame of mind, sorry.

Written by intothesystem

Thursday, 31st July 2008 at 4:45 pm

work, work, work: but not at work…

with one comment

So I’m at it again.. writing more about work (previous posts here and here), but this time from the perspective of not being there.

Being signed-off is a weird experience. It’s difficult to know that everything you had been focussing on, everything you’ve been involved with, is still carrying on without you. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by intothesystem

Wednesday, 16th July 2008 at 1:10 pm