Dropping the Facade

Putting Up the Facade

Personally, I think facade is such an awesome word.  Granted, it’s from the French but not everything can be perfect can it?  (I have a degree in French, so I think I’m allowed to say that!)  Still, it’s an amazing word.  By definition, it means: a front or outer appearance, especially a deceptive one.  At least, that’s the definition that I’m using.

A person behind a mask.I’ve talked before in my journey about how I put up a mask, a facade of sorts.  It’s my way of keeping my depression hidden, my feelings all bottled in so that no one will notice.  As my goddaughter is a huge Frozen fan, the phrase “don’t let them in, don’t let them see” springs to mind. Whether you would associate that with Frozen or not, it’s what I do.  It’s a coping mechanism, allowing me to have those moments of privacy, without people asking what’s wrong and risking accentuating the problem.

Really, the facade is a lifeline, allowing me to try and convince you that I’m fine.  I talked about that back in November, when I talked about how I smile even though things might be bad.  The facade saves me, fools you and, consequently, fools me a little too.  Daft, I know, but it works.

“Why Don’t You Drop the Facade?”

I’ve lost count of the number of times people ask me this or I’ve heard other people struggling with this problem, so it’s about time I address it. It’s one of the hardest concepts for people who aren’t going through mental health struggles have to face.  They don’t understand it, which is something we need to address.  So here I am, let’s look.

It must be hard, seeing your sibling/partner/spouse/parent/child going through mental health struggles.  They want to make it better, to bring them some measure of comfort or to fix it.  That said, it’s not something they can necessarily fix, as I’ve said before.  It must be even harder, though, for them to want to help but be greeted with that rock-solid facade of pretence that hides how they’re truly feeling.  It must be difficult.

I once heard of someone who really didn’t understand why their spouse would put up the front.  They were married, why did they need a facade? Surely they could be open and honest about it without the need of that wall of pretence?

Simply put: it’s necessary.

We can’t just drop the facade.

It’s a part of us.

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

My Mask and Me

As I’ve talked about in Masks and Masquerades, putting on a mask is part of the coping mechanisms that some of us employ in order to get through the day.  In my case, if I can convince you that I’m alright then I stand a chance of being able to convince myself that I’m alright.  It doesn’t always work but it’s one of the ways that I can try and get through.

For others, they will have different reasons why they put on the mask. Some will put it on to stave off any unwanted questions – that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and talk to them about it, though.  Others put it on because someone asking them how they are is the easiest way for them to go to pieces.  For every person, it’s a different reason and I couldn’t even begin to list them all here.  One thing remains true for all of us , though, no matter why we do it…

The mask is part of us.

Another person behind a mask.There comes a point in our struggles when we become used to the mask. Putting that facade up is almost habitual, something we can do without thinking and, as such, it becomes hard to take it off again.  Yes, people would appreciate it but sometimes it’s what we need to get us through the day.  Sometimes we just don’t have the strength to take it off because of how much a part of us it is.

My example comes directly from me, where people have asked me to take my mask off.  My mask is there because I use it to cope, to get through the day, and it’s easier maintaining a front than explaining how I’m feeling and why I’m feeling that way.  Sometimes explaining those things can be incredibly difficult.  I know I offer loads of explanations but, realistically, it’s something I can do from behind a computer screen as I can take my time, I don’t have to see the expressions on people’s faces.

A Simple Suggestion

If you’re a friend or family member struggling with this concept of a mask and how they put the mask on, I’d encourage you to simply be accepting of it.  At some point they might feel able to drop the facade and let you see that they’re hurting but it’s not always the case.  Sometimes that facade might be the only thing standing between them keeping it together and them falling apart.  So please be understanding and accepting that sometimes that’s what they need.

The facade, the mask is part of them.

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Wake Up!

Time To Wake Up!

Wake up people!  To all the friends and family members reading this, to the general public who think they know no one with depression, anxiety or other mental health issues, wake up!

We live in a world that is broken.  People struggle every single day in a myriad of different ways.  Financial stresses, housing problems, health problems that are both physical and mental and so much more.  I guarantee you right here, right now that as you’re reading this, someone you know is struggling with something.

But what do we do about it?

The time has come for us to wake up.  We need to get up, get active and start making a difference in this world!  After all, who else is going to do it?

The World of Mental Health

In our world, mental health is still highly stigmatised.  Around the world, people live with crippling mental health conditions that they keep hidden, fearing that others will treat them differently because of it.  People die from suicide every single day!  The average age for people starting to struggle with mental health issues like depression and anxiety is steadily going down, rapidly approaching pre-school ages!  Some even suggest it can affect preschoolers.  So at which point do we make the change?

To you, friends and family, we need to get behind people who are struggling.  We need to let them know they’re not alone and that they can rely on us for support.  Moreover, we need to recognise that it’s a long-term issue, one that won’t be fixed overnight.  We need to wake up to this!  Wake up!  Ostracising your family member or persecuting your friend for having depression won’t make them any better.  Refusing to acknowledge the problem won’t help them.  Only by offering your support will they get better.

To you, the people who believe you know no one who struggles with mental health, I call you out on that.  In the UK alone, 1 in 4 people struggle with mental health issues.  That guarantees that you know someone who is struggling.  Whether you want to admit it or not, you know someone.  Wake up!  Do you hear me?  Wake up and realise that you know someone who has depression or anxiety or some other mental illness.

Wake Up and Make the Change

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, the onus is on us!  We need to get up and make the change because no one will do it for us.  We need to wake up and realise that the only people who can make a difference, the only people whose job it actually is, is you and me.

That’s right: you and me.

No one else is going to do it.  And you know what?  It isn’t a job for anyone else.  Friends, family members, employers, support workers, government employees, whatever your walk in life, it is up to YOU to do it.  You need to campaign for better mental health services, you need to realise that it is a serious issue, you need to start making the change now.

Not tomorrow.

Not next year.

Today.

Today!

You never know…someone’s life might depend on it.

So wake up!

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Fumbling Through

Another Week

This week has been chaotic. My second week at work has not been much better than the first. It has still been rudderless, without any sense of structure or planning. I have been fumbling through my working hours in a fog and come home exhausted and disillusioned. Once home, I’ve then had the stresses and strains of family life to contend with too.  I’ve ended up numb, struggling to focus and increasingly over-sensitive. It’s felt like life is crushing me.

It would almost seem like my employer is making the process as hard as possible. I’m sure that’s not the case, but it shouldn’t be this difficult. I’m still waiting for Occupational Health to get involved despite numerous requests.  In addition my pay has been messed up and there has been no concrete plan as to how I’m going to be bought up to speed properly to get me on the phones.

Exhausted and Alone

I know I’m not really alone. I have friends and family supporting me both in and out of work. But when I have been sat staring at the screen trying to get yet another of the systems I was told would be working restored, I feel isolated. Trying to pin my manager down long enough to even get basic things sorted has been nearly impossible.

By Thursday I was so sick of fumbling through I was nearing breaking point.  I was so angry, but the angrier I got the less I could speak. I could feel the beginnings of panic setting in and the physical itching and agitation escalated.  Something had to change. Stammering and stuttering I finally managed to grab my boss and say I needed to talk to him. The meeting was awkward and difficult, but thankfully I’d prepared. Before I’d even entered the office that day I’d made a list of everything I wanted to raise and discuss with him. Slowly working through each item, even with my speech all over the place, I got my message across.

Assume and You Make An A## Out of Me and You

What shocked me was that my boss had no idea that I felt the way I did. He thought by keeping things relaxed with no formal plans was a way of easing me back into the swing of things. I guess it’s where the importance of talking things through comes in. I’d tried to communicate as much as possible what I might need before I returned, but either I wasn’t clear enough or he’d misunderstood. For me, I need structure and organisation. Without them my anxiety goes into overdrive. because he’d tried to give me space (I’d only asked if he could encourage my colleagues not to bombard me) I’d ended up feeling isolated.

All in all it’s been tricky to get it right from both sides. I do feel there has been a huge onus put on to me as the sufferer to take control of my phased return. It shouldn’t be beyond any employer to make sure that their staff can enter the building they work in. Likewise, systems should be back up and running as soon as possible, not nearly two weeks in.

Because of my own issues I have struggled to get my voice to be heard. I needed to be able to get my manager to really listen. The only way I could do that was by taking the bull by the horns and getting him to sit down with me. I’m so glad I’d made my list before I left for work that day. It was a huge challenge, but a necessary one to get my return back on the right path.

I Won’t Keep Fumbling Through

Realistically I don’t want to be my own barrier. Yes, I have anxiety and depression and they can restrict me. But I’m not going to let it hold me back. I won’t be defined by my mental health. By doing little things like preparing lists to take to meetings of what I want to say if my speech fails, or getting colleagues on board who are prepared to help. I can do this. More support from my manager is required, but I have to ask for it. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have to, but to get where I need to be it’s what I’ve had to do.

Fumbling through is no longer an option.

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Episode 22 – Taking Back Control

Episode 22 – Taking Back Control

With depression, anxiety, bipolar and other mental health struggles, we can often lose control of events in our lives.  Too often, we find our lives are dictated by our anxiety or by our depression and there isn’t much room for what we want.  In this episode, Alex takes you through his guide to taking back that control and starting to make the change you want to make in your life.

Useful Links:

Episode 17 – The Power of Perspective
Episode 19 – Inaction’s Iniquity
First Day Fears

Join Us:

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest

Support us at Patreon!

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Whispers of Hope

Whispers of Insights

This morning, I’d like to give you a little insight into a part of my creative process.  Normally, my ideas and inspiration comes to me late at night. For this purpose, I keep a notepad and pen on my bedside table so that I can capture any ideas I have during the night.  Then, the following morning, I’ll draft them up a little and see how they develop.  Usually, I try and find an image or two or a video that will go with it as well, to add that nice visual flair.

So when I had the inspiration for Whispers of Hope, it had started with an image that had appeared on Twitter the other day.  Now, I come across a lot of pictures on Twitter and normally I’m quite good at flicking through them.  This one, however, resonated with me.  Check it out below:

Hope is the little voice you hear whisper "maybe" when it seems the entire world is shouting "no!"

What do you think?  Personally, I think it’s a very apt and very powerful quote.  As I mentioned, it also set the old cogs in my head whirring and thus the inspiration for Whispers of Hope came.

Noise

The world is a noisy place.  Technology makes it easy for us to be bombarded by information 24/7.  Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, text messages, emails, you name it, we get it!  So many things demanding our undivided attention that it’s so hard to know what to focus on.  Do we reply to the text message first or check the Twitter stream for updates? Too many choices, too many decisions and, overall, too much information.

Similarly, I find it’s noisy inside my head as well.  Thoughts upon thoughts upon thoughts all colliding with each other, clamouring for space to be heard.  Sometimes there are so many, I can scarcely hear myself think, which sounds odd, I know.  It’s true though.  Sometimes they are simply just too loud.

Amidst all that noise, the clamouring of my thoughts and the beeps and whistles of my phone, it can be hard to hear the things that really matter.  Especially on days when my tumultuous thoughts are all trying to grab my attention.  When my thoughts are at their darkest, it can be hard to find that little ray of hope, can’t it?

Sometimes it can be deafening.

Whispers of Hope

Seeing that picture reminded me that hope is still there.  Often it gets drowned out by the noise of my phone, my computer, my thoughts and much more.  Occasionally, though, my mind goes quiet enough that I can hear its gentle whispers.  They’re not loud, not by a long shot.  Sometimes I have to concentrate really hard to hear them.

See, the world will constantly shout at us, trying to get our attention. Hope, on the other hand, whispers quietly, gently so that it’s there when we really look for it, when we need it most.  If we listen carefully, we can find hope.

Whispering.

Whispering gently.

Isn’t that something to hold onto?  Those whispers of hope?

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Educating Employers

The First Day

So last week I told you all about my first day fears about returning to work and the techniques I was looking to employ.  I’ll be honest, it could have gone better, but it could have been worse. What I want to focus on this week is the things that helped me through. I also want to look at what we can do to help the process of educating employers. There is a huge onus placed on the sufferer to ask for support when they return to work.  Maybe this needs to change, or do we as sufferers need to take some responsibility too?

Panic Stations!

One of the things I have found this week is how often my anxiety tried to spiral. I knew I would be stressed. Who wouldn’t be? But I didn’t anticipate the number of triggers I would encounter. Unfortunately neither did my manager.

The day before I returned to work he texted saying he wouldn’t be in at the start of my shift as planned and he hadn’t been able to get my pass to enter the building reactivated. No big deal you say? To me it was. This meant that instead of being able to return to the office quietly and have the support of my manager in the process, I would be reliant on whichever manager was available to come sign me in. This process would involve me having to report to security and call a manager who knew nothing of why I’ve been absent, let alone involved in my return to work. It also left me blind as to where I would be going once inside, what I was supposed to be doing…. Anything!

On receipt of the text I began to go into meltdown. I hadn’t even started back and I was already hitting into problems. Suddenly brick walls loomed in-front of me, stopping my return. It just added validation to the traitorous voice in my head that was already whispering that no-one wanted me back, that I would be incapable of working.

Mind Reading

Now I privately refer to my dark passenger as ‘the b#!ch’.  Everyone has that inner voice that sees the worst in us.  But with depression, that voice is crueller than the worst bully you have ever met. That voice will torment you beyond imagining, torture you and devalue any worth you have into nothingness. The b#!ch saw this text, bared her teeth and took the opportunity to have a field day.

Here’s the problem though. My manager is not a mind reader! He can have no possible clue as what my mind is doing upon the receipt of one simple text. So how do we fix this? My manager is not going to magically obtain psychic gifts overnight.

The answer is ridiculously simple. I needed to tell him that this was not going to work for me. In my initial panic I couldn’t see this solution. Thankfully, Alex was able to calmly remind me that I could text back and see what other options I had.  This basic act, just asking for another option and explaining the problems I was having, helped my manager see it from my perspective and change some things. I went in later to match his start time, when I did get in he took me to my desk via a different wing that was quieter and away from the madness of the main office and my desk was by a window in a corner so I could tuck myself away.

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Coping

These little adjustments helped. The rest of the day didn’t go perfectly as there is still a large gap between ideal and reality in the return to work process (one thing I appreciate is that my manager is learning as  we go along on this) Some areas he downright failed. To come back and find that my systems had not been restored as promised, the contents of my desk missing and often finding I was being left with no structure or support, was fuel to my anxiety.

But I got through. Using fidget spinners, 7-11 breathing and the grounding technique I was able to stay for my phased return hours.

So What Next?

Well, there is a long way to go to be honest. I truly feel there is a lot more that can be done to support sufferers both when they return from illness and on a day-to-day basis at work. I’ll give my boss some credit that at the start of the day he did try. But the business of the office, the pressing needs of other staff meant that all to often I was left rudderless and abandoned.

Too many times I was forced to enter the frantic, loud chaos of the call centre to try and get some help from someone, anyone. I had no e-mail, no phone, no computer systems to do anything. There seemed to be no kind of plan beyond getting me in the building.  The lack of organization tripped me out, but I felt I had no avenue to rectify this. On Thursday the total absence of support led to a full-blown anxiety attack before 9am. It was so bad I was unable to speak and rendered so for nearly 2 hours. This is NOT how a first week back should be for anyone.

So what do we do?

Educating Employers, Encouraging Employees

The solution is two-fold. Firstly, more needs to be done around educating employers around the subject of mental health. I truly believe that all line managers should be given some training around handling staff that are struggling with mental health issues. If 1 in 4 people in the U.K are suffering from depression , anxiety or  any other mental illness the reality is as a manager you are going to HAVE to manage someone afflicted in this way during your career. It is not just the responsibility of Human Resources or Occupational Health. It’s part of your duty of care to your employee to treat them with dignity and respect and to support them in the work place.

The Status Quo? No.

There are unfortunately some managers who do not see the world this way. Some create an atmosphere where there is little tolerance of mental illness, the attitude is if you’re not well enough to do ALL the aspects of your role, then you should just go home. Realistically this is counter-productive. By sending someone home because of mental illness when they are just asking for reasonable adjustments is likely to make them worse. You may as well have just stamped ‘REJECT’ on them because that’s exactly how it will feel.

Management like this is outdated, discriminatory and adding to the growing epidemic of working days lost to mental health problems. I am not saying that you won’t ever not need time off if you are a sufferer (after all I’ve just needed 6 months away from the office to get some semblance of recovery together) but if we could get more companies to seriously look at educating managers on this topic, we could reduce these numbers dramatically. Adjustments can be made, help can be given proactively. It shouldn’t take someone being signed off for months at a time before their mental health condition is taken seriously by their boss.

If not us then, who?

Secondly, we as sufferers, and supporters of sufferers need to speak up. If your return to work isn’t going well, say so. Be clear on what you need. If no-one is listening or you are struggling to find your voice, speak to H.R or your union. Get someone you trust to help you get what you need to say across. I am saying this as someone who’s first week has not gone great. But when I couldn’t find my voice, a friend helped me get to the right people to give me some guidance. I’m now in the process of arranging a meeting with my boss so we can get some structure and support in place.

We also need to make sure that we have the things we need to cope ready for when we’ll need them. Those healthy coping mechanisms such as the grounding technique, having focus items, breathing techniques all need to be in place too. You have to be at a place where and when things go wrong, we won’t just walk out the door. I came close this week a few times, I may still in the coming weeks too. I guess we have to accept that it will all take time. Educating employers won’t happen overnight and sufferers need to be at the right stage of their recovery. We need to be responsible enough to admit what our limitations may be, what we need as support but feel that we are safe to say so.

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Episode 21 – A Barrier to Change

Episode 21 – A Barrier to Change

After an almost heated debate on Twitter about an image posted alongside an informative page link, Alex talks about how sometimes we, as mental health sufferers, can be one of the biggest barriers to getting the change that we want.  Do we want the change?  Or are we comfortable just listening to what people say and sitting back, doing nothing?  Why not join me and hear my point and see what you think?

Useful Links:

Understanding Self-Harm

Join Us:

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest

Support us at Patreon!

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Take the Pain Away

Pain Pain Pain

Over the course of my journey and some of the series that I’ve run, I’ve talked about how I use self-harm and pain to break out of the numbness and emptiness of depression.  As a sure-fire way of feeling, it’s almost 100% guaranteed to break through that abyssal void and bring me back into a place of feeling.  Sadly it works, even though it’s something you should never have to go through.

You hurt yourself on the outside trying to kill the monster on the inside.The pain I inflict upon myself is intentional.  What about the unintentional pain, though?  The innermost pains caused by depression or anxiety, the ones that just don’t seem to go away no matter what you do?  See, people always tend to think of it as a physical sensation, something caused by physical stimuli such as a broken leg.  You do get headaches caused by that sort of mental fatigue but you wouldn’t normally associate it with depression or anxiety.  However, according to the American Psychological Association, pain is something that can be caused by emotional, biological and psychological factors.  It is possible to be feeling hurt from your mental illness.

But what do we, as friends and family, do with that?

The Drive to Wellness

As a friend or a family member, we want nothing more than to alleviate the suffering of our loved ones.  We hate seeing them hurting, we want to make it better.  For some, they would move mountains if they could make it better, doing whatever is possible.  From taking on the burdens themselves to simply being there to reduce the pain, it’s something they would do.

My parents are one of the best examples of this that I can think of.  They would tell me that they are “fixers” and they want nothing more than to fix my problems and make me well again.  If they could take the problems upon themselves, they would.  They would do anything to make me well, even if it was detrimental to themselves.  I know not all parents are like this but I am lucky to have parents who would do that for me.

There are friends who would love to help me in similar ways.  One or two people I can think of want to take the pain away so that I can be well again.  Sometimes they have expressed that desire directly but, more often than not, they ask what they can do to help.

Sadly it’s not always possible, though, is it?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

No Solutions

Recently, I had my godchildren to stay and, at some unearthly hour, the toddler woke up crying.  In short, she was in pain.  Her leg was hurting as though she had cramp in it, though it wasn’t cramp.  I did my best to soothe her and to settle her back down but she was in too much pain to go back to sleep so easily.  As I cuddled her, trying to calm her, I had a realisation…

There was nothing I could do.

Depression is like a bruise that never goes away. A bruise in your mind. You just got to be careful not to touch it where it hurts. It's always there, though. - Jeffrey EugenidesNothing that I could do would alleviate that pain.  I had no magical balm, no soothing touch, nothing that would take the pain out of her leg.  That translates over to mental health and the pain felt as a result of that.  Sometimes there is absolutely nothing that we can do to fix it.  It’s just something that we have to cope with.

So, as I sat there cuddling my goddaughter, I was thinking that sometimes the only thing we can do is simply be there for that person.  If they’re hurting, sometimes our presence is the only thing that we can do.  How much worse would her problem have been if there had been no one there to give her that cuddle, comforting her.

When no solutions present themselves, our presence is the only thing that we can offer that will bring them some measure of support or comfort.

Over to You

Is there someone suffering from some kind of pain due to mental health?  If you know someone going through that perpetual darkness, offer them your presence.  You might not be able to fix it but that’s alright, you don’t have to fix it.  Sometimes your presence is enough.  Sometimes that’s all they need.

See what you can do.

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Katie – the Interview

Katie – the Interview

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

 

First Day Fears

I’m Going Back, But I’m Not Better

My anxiety is ramping up each day this week. From Thursday onwards, I’ve noticed a distinct uptick in those anxious feelings. I’m more forgetful (I left my keys in the supermarket!) It doesn’t seem to take a lot to knock me backwards and the scratching of my hands has resumed at a frenzied rate. Why? Because I’m going back to work next week even though I’m not fully better. My head is going crazy with first day fears even though I’m returning to a job I’ve done for 16 years.

The Coming Weeks

Oddly I’ve decided to put this experience to good use. For the next few weeks I’m going to be sharing with you what this going back to work experience is like. From the first day fears, to me being back at full speed and everything in between. I want to share all of this with you, whether I’m successful or not. It’s a journey many of you are going to have to take at some point. Depression and anxiety can severely impact on our work attendance, some people have months off or even never return to work because of mental health issues.

I’ve decided to go back after a lengthy absence. I feel I’m improved enough that with some help from my employer that I can do this. I need to from a financial stand point, but also from the point of view of my recovery. It’s time to face this challenge, because if I don’t do it now I never will.

Facing Down First Day Fears

So what is kicking the anxiety off? I know the people I work with, I know the job inside out. It’s the same building I’ve been going to for years. I’m not scared of any of these things, parts of me are even looking forward to seeing friends I haven’t seen for months. What exactly am I so anxious about?

My current biggest fear is me. Or more precisely my mental health. I don’t cope well with crowds or loud environments and the office I work in has an abundance of both. The fear is that I’ll walk in, not be able to cope and end up back at square one. This fear is nagging at me, I don’t want to go backwards. But there is that risk.

So what do we do?

Well I’m taking the risk. I’m going back and facing down those first day fears head on. My boss is prepared as he can be, he knows that I’m not good with noise so he’s arranged for a desk in a quieter wing of the office. Colleagues are being made aware to try to not bombard me (a common problem when people return from absence in my office). For me, I’ve made as many arrangements as i can to make it easy as possible.

Preparations

So here goes. Here’s my list of what I’m doing to get myself ready as possible. My thinking is if I share it with you it will help me follow through with everything. Plus you never know, it might help someone else too!

  • Make the first journey as easy as possible. To do this I’m making sure the car is clean and tidy inside. I’ve arranged that someone else is going to take the kids to school so that stress is removed for now. I’ve made a playlist of relaxing music as well. Car will be fuelled and checked over.
  • Get my stuff together. I’ve already chosen and hung up my clothes ready for the day. Lunch will be prepped the night before and everything I will need will be in my bag. ( sicknotes, letters from counselor, return to work note, pass and fidget spinner)
  • Treat myself.  Have a relaxing bath the night before. Take a small bar of chocolate with me on the day. Make dinner as easy as I can for the day (slow cooker, ready meal or if all else fails, takeaway).
  • Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. This one may sound odd, but it’s what I’m doing. I’m going for counselling the day before to try to get some of the worst things out and get some strategies for coping set in place.  My partner is going to have his phone to hand in case it gets really bad on the day. I also have talked things through with my boss about the most scary concerns I have and he’s doing what he can to help me cope.
Ready, Set….

So, for me I’m looking at phased return , amended duties, a quieter environment to sit and getting occupational health involved to make this process as smooth as possible. My boss is fully aware that I may need to step away from the office, I may lose my speech when stressed or begin scratching. One of my closest friends at work has already said they’ll be on hand if I need some help, even if it’s just to make me laugh or wind me up.

All in all, I think I’m as ready as I can be. I’ll let you know how it goes next week, what’s worked, what hasn’t etc. Here’s hoping I haven’t crashed and burned! If you are facing this challenge too I wish for you that it goes well.  It’s scary as anything facing down those first day fears, but I think with a little bit of preparation it won’t be as bad as you or I think.

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.