Work isn't working anymore
By Sara-Jane Morphew

So I did it, I tried to go back to work. I felt I needed to at least try; I couldn’t make any decisions about what might be next until I had tried to return. Everything was under control, I felt well, I was good. My hours had changed, my responsibilities had changed, I just needed to turn up and do my best.

There was little reason for me to think it would not work. I’d been going in once a week to help out; therapeutic duties it was called. That went really well. I was fine with the children, seeing my colleagues and doing bits and bobs. So why wouldn’t going back to work, three mornings a week for two weeks, as a phased return, be just the same? I’m ready, I am well, I can do this!

Work isn't working anymore - back to work

I can’t do it

Apparently no I cannot! I managed three mornings, but as the week went on, the dread got stronger and the exhaustion more intense. I was slipping down a dangerous path. In a week I slipped so far down the ‘hole’ it was scary. The suicidal thoughts came back, the panic, the feeling unsettled, itchy, fidgety, but worst of all was my inability to function. I spent my afternoons sleeping. I wasn’t talking with my boys, playing or even providing dinner. It was McDonalds, chips and rubbish all the way. They watched telly, I slept, I snapped, I shouted. Not good!

As I approached the next Monday I was dreading the return again. My insomnia was being tough; I was panicking in the car on the way and the feeling of dread and wanting to cry and run was back. Although I got there, I failed to do anything. My line manager called me in as she could see I wasn’t right and I just looked at my hands and cried. If I sit here a minute, I thought, then I’ll calm down and be able to get on. But it just got worse. I saw colleagues and they came and hugged me, I cried more! Nope I couldn’t do it.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll be fine

Go home, have a blanket day and try again tomorrow. Maybe it’s just a one-off, maybe I just need sleep and tomorrow I’ll be fine.

Well of course I didn’t sleep I was so on edge. The next day I was barely able to leave the house. Mum was here to do the school runs and she could see I was struggling. But I went. I got in the car and I drove about halfway before I had to pull over mid panic attack because I was worried I wasn’t paying enough attention to the road! It took 20 minutes or so of breathing and trying other things in my arsenal to come out the other side and continue the drive. I got to school, walked in the office door and basically walked straight out again. Just no!

I can’t go back to work.What now?

So what now? My first instinct was to email the lady in occupational health – she’d know what to do. And my union rep to keep her in the loop. I email because I cannot make those phone calls having to give details. OH knows this and so she told me she was going to call and at what time, so I was prepared.

At this point I just wanted to throw in the towel, resign, sign on and put an end to it. She convinced me however that this wasn’t the best way of doing it and that I should go back to the GP and say I tried but that I needed to be signed off again. That then my employer will proceed with dismissal proceedings and I may possibly be entitled to some pay. Even though I know this is sensible I just want to cut and run to be honest. I don’t like the feeling that it is all up in the air.

Obviously I cannot work in my environment any more. Would another environment suit? I’ve been put forward for redeployment so we’ll see what happens there. I wonder if they will find me another school? Or maybe they will find something in an office? Who knows! And I don’t like that, waiting, not knowing, not being able to move on and sort out money, budgets, anything, because I don’t know what it will be.

1in4 mental health anthology

More help for struggling employees

This is the point where I wish that HR departments had a lot more training in mental health and dealing with employees who are struggling with going back to work. I think if it was me I would certainly be more forthcoming with information. I know they are probably over stretched and underpaid as everyone else is but it just would be nice.

So here I am sitting in my garden waiting, waiting for a doctor’s appointment to get a new sick note, waiting to hear from HR, waiting for a new job, possibly, or waiting to be dismissed and get on with life.

From Lala, with love xx

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