Got to Fight For It

The Journey Continues

So, I’m still fumbling onwards with my efforts to return to my full hours at work. There are plenty of people who are being wonderfully supportive and I want to take a moment to thank all of you who have gotten in touch via Twitter and Facebook.  It has helped me more than you’ll ever know! I’m still struggling through, but if the last 4 weeks have taught me anything, is that no matter how much support you get from friends, family or colleagues; to get any kind of assistance from your employer you’ve got to fight for it!

This may seem insane. It feels it to me. I struggle on a daily basis with crippling low self-esteem, depression and anxiety. I am on anti-depressants and going through counselling. This would say to you that an additional level of support and care would be required. Apparently not.

Take Your Sweet Time

It has taken 4 weeks to get the referral to occupational health put through by my manager. This is something that for most, is organised before they even return to the office. If this was an illness that impaired my motor skills, my sight or hearing, this would have had to be done before I walked through the door on my first day back. My request for a change of hours is still being debated and argued over. Issues with pay from January have still not been resolved. The constant procrastination by my boss means every day when I get home, I’m exhausted. To the point that on Wednesday I was so drained, Alex had to collect my kids from school. I couldn’t function.

The Effect of Indifference

The items I’ve listed here have just been a few of the obstacles I’ve hit. And for every tiny bit of progress (like occupational health) I’ve found I’d got to fight for it. If I hadn’t finally bitten the bullet and spoken to the service manager (my boss’s boss) I would have still be waiting for my referral. Every single thing has been a case of I’ve got to fight for it, tooth and nail. Which isn’t easy. Like I said, I have anxiety. I have depression that convinces me of how worthless and useless I am. To find that so many things have been neglected or forgotten to be done, does not help. It’s a constant cycle of ‘we’ll sort it tomorrow’, but it never gets sorted.

Imagine if you will, that you already feel like you are useless, you have no value to anyone or anything. In this state you are attempting something huge, stepping out of your comfort zone to try to help towards your recovery. You are doing everything that has been asked or expected of you. But the people who are supposed to be helping you in this process, keep forgetting to put in place the things they have assured you they would. They then keep postponing meetings with you. On top of this, because of their inaction you are hurting financially.  Their care free attitude of ‘they’ll get it sorted as and when’ is sending your anxiety into free fall. They treat your reasonable requests with indifference. Would that help you?

Would that convince you of your worth?

No.

If we want change, we’ve got to fight for it!

I truly believe that some of these issues are because it is difficult for employers and managers to see mental illness. The needs and requirements of a sufferer are different from those of someone who has returned to work with a physical disability. But it does not make them any less real. On Wednesday I spoke with the service manager who has had a notorious attitude of ‘if you’re at work then you’re well enough to work’. The levels of anxiety I experienced in this short meeting were through the roof. Speech went out the window, I was scratching at my hands feverishly, I could barely control myself from crying. I honestly thought I was going to vomit.

But I fought through it. I needed something to change, so I fought for it.

I know it shouldn’t be like this.

But it’s the way it is until we make a stand. If we want employers to change their attitude and give meaningful support to their employees with mental health problems, then we’ve got to fight for it. We’ve got to fight for every little thing that we know will help us get through, be that medical breaks, change of hours, a set desk, or even just to get occupational health involved to arrange these things. We’ve got to fight for it!

Fight!

I know hard it is to fight when you’re already fighting a battle inside your head. But for you to win the battle in your mind, you have to fight the battles with your employer to get the support you need. There’s no shame in getting some help to do this. Your union can be great in this capacity. Sometimes all it takes is a colleague who supports you.  But most importantly, you’re not alone in this battle, and neither am I. It’s going to be tiring, sometimes exhausting. But we can make the change.

After all no-one else is going to do it for us.

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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 24 – Fraud and the Impostor Syndrome

Despite others telling us that we’re good at what we’re doing, we can feel as though we’re a fraud.  With anxiety particularly, we can feel as though we’re not really as good as people think and any day we will get found out.  It’s a horrible sensation to live with, so what can we do about it?

Useful Links:

Episode 17 – The Power of Perspective

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Become a Patron - FraudDisclaimer: 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.

A Potato Message

A Potato Instead of a Quote

I’ve told you before how, when my inspiration strikes, I tend to look for images that will go with what I’m talking about.  For the most part, I look for ones that have quotes associated with them, as the quotes continue to jog the creative part of my mind.  Occasionally, however, I come across a few pictures that either make me smile or surprise me.

So the other day I was looking for pictures with depression quotes in them for another post and I came across this:

I'm a tiny potato and I believe in you. You can do the thing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah, I know…not exactly the depression quote that you were expecting. After all, it’s a potato!  When I pointed this picture out to Cheryl, we both had a good chuckle over it, finding it to be a rather amusing image.  Then, almost like a lightbulb moment, she said that it actually made a bit of sense.

Why?  Because it’s a potato.

The Life of a Potato

A running joke amongst my friends is that I’m a farmer because I have a Gloucester/Somerset accent – not a strong one, admittedly, but enough of one that people pick up on it.  I guess that makes it rather ironic that I’m going to talk to you about potatoes but I’m sure I’ll get over that.  Even so, let’s talk about potatoes!

I’m sure we all know that potatoes are grown underground.  Only small tubers go above the soil surface, so that it can still get a little bit of light to give it what it needs to grow.  Reportedly, depending on where you are in the season, potatoes can take between 60-90 days to fully mature.  They spend all that time buried, growing, before being harvested, ready to be sent on for other things.

The Potato Message

As Cheryl and I sat looking at this photo, she explained why she believed it made sense.  This little potato that was telling us it believed we could do “the thing” had a very powerful, very important message to tell us.  Despite it being quite small and somewhat cute, it was still important in its own right.  Why?

Because of its life.

When battling with depression or anxiety or any other mental illness, it can feel as though we’re constantly surrounded by darkness.  It may feel a little like we’re buried alive.  The pressures of life surround us, compress us and leave us feeling hopeless, crushed and isolated.  Like the potato, we spend our lives in that perpetual darkness that we cannot escape.

It’s a horrible thought.  Some people’s worst nightmares are of being buried alive, and that can be the way that depression personifies itself. But let me challenge that thought.  What if that darkness is shaping us? Helping is grow?  Just like the potato, buried until it reaches maturity, what if we are buried so that we might grow?  What if our darkness is merely the place where we can mature and become something else?

When the pressures of life come crashing in around us, we have two choices: we can fight them, allowing ourselves to be crushed in the process, or we can be like the butterfly or the potato and allow ourselves to be shaped, moulded and eventually transformed.

I don’t know about you but that actually brings me a great deal of encouragement.

“I’m a tiny potato and I believe in you!  You can do the thing!”

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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.

Time To Talk

One Step Forwards….

I’ve been documenting and sharing my experiences with returning to work over the last few weeks. It’s been a rollercoaster of an experience. Some days have been great. Others have been awful.  Realistically, as lovely as my manager is, he hasn’t handled my return massively well.  Last week I told you I how I’d had to take control and finally get some structure agreed, a difficult experience for me as I had to battle with anxiety the whole way through. Well, one of the things we agreed was at some point I would take the time to talk to the team about what had been going on with me and how we can handle my mental health situation in the office.

Of All the Days….

Ironically the day my manager chose was Thursday, which was also Time to Talk day. If you aren’t already aware, Time to Talk day is a big thing. The opportunity to talk openly about mental health in the hope to raise understanding and reduce stigma. It’s been all over social media and is having a great impact. So in short, in a private team meeting I explained as much as I was comfortable with to my colleagues about how depression and anxiety have wrought havoc on me for the last six months.

So how did it go? I’ll tell you in one word: Incredible!

It didn’t matter that by pure coincidence we’d chosen Time to Talk day. What mattered was how brilliantly supportive my colleagues were. They listened, without judgement, and took on board the things I had to say. I’m not saying I didn’t nearly go to pieces a few times, I really did! But it was worth it! Really, really worth it!

Make the Time to Talk

Sometimes as sufferers we can end up being the greatest barrier to ourselves.  Yes, depression can be hugely limiting. It can force you to be reclusive and anti-social. But part of recovery is overcoming these symptoms. I’ll admit, it isn’t easy. There are days when depression and anxiety win.

But not every day. Like Syrio Forel in Game of Thrones, we choose what to fight, to not succumb to what some see as inevitable.

Making the effort, making that time to talk to my colleagues was a huge step for me. I didn’t think I could do it. But I did. Yes, a great deal of preparation on my part was involved. Yes, my speech went as it so often does when I’m anxious. But I did it. It’s possible for anyone. It just may take time and preparation. If you’d asked me a year ago if Alex would be able to stand up in front of a room full of students and talk openly about his mental health, I’d have said no. But on Friday that’s exactly what he did! It’s what we both did.  It may have exhausted us, depleted our energy to the point that we both took a hit mentally. But we did it!

We took the time to talk and in doing so raised awareness of mental health. We achieved what some would have thought impossible. Two people who at times can be crippled by anxiety and depression, were able to talk about how their mental health has affected them. They were able to inform, educate and encourage people to be more open about mental illness, to look at new ways of supporting someone going through this.

One criticism that is often leveled at sufferers of depression is they wallow in it. That sufferers allow the illness to become their identity, which in turn never allows recovery. One particularly vocal individual on Imgur often spouts this at anyone and everyone who they think will listen.  But the truth of the matter is that when you are living in the darkness it can be hard to see the way through. The trick is remembering that there is a way through. It may take a while, you may never be fully free of it. But you can learn to live your life with mental illness. Like for me and Alex it may even provide you with a purpose, who knows?

All I know is that by taking the time to talk openly about our issues with mental health, we’ve helped others gain an understanding of it. That alone is worth it.

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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 23 – Owning the Struggle

During sessions with doctors and therapists and in our interactions with friends and family, it can often feel as though everyone is trying to tell us what we’re feeling, what we should be doing and how things should be.  I don’t believe this should be the case, as we are the experts on ourselves.  Perhaps we need to start owning our struggle and help others remember that our opinions and our experiences are just as important.

Useful Links:

Episode 17 – The Power of Perspective
Identifying Identity

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Become a Patron - Owning the StruggleDisclaimer: 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.