You’d think that the first day in a new job would be the hardest… somehow today is feeling harder. I am rather anxious, pre-work; I’m not sure why it’s worse today vice yesterday. I mean, I know the people are all really nice, I think it’s a decent job that I know I can do… so why this level of anxiety over day two?
In part, perhaps it’s a level of sensitivity to being around people again. After all, I’ve only really spoken to Luke and family in the last four months. So that old thicker skin has softened and I find myself over analysing every tiny thing I do. That’s pretty common with social anxiety I believe… that acute awareness of when you do something “wrong”; even if it’s not really that wrong by normal standards. You make a little joking comment and it falls short: “ah crap now they hate me and I look like an idiot!”
I want to work, I really do. I just need to learn some patience with myself to allow myself time to get back into the swing of things.
On Monday I officially started my new job with the same company I’ve been temping at for the last nine months. Without a doubt, I am excited – over the moon to have the security of a permanent role and to be moving into a field that I am genuinely interested in (having been an admin bod for a long time now). The transition to the new role is taking time; there are things frustrating me and they will probably continue for a while but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel now.
Today I am sat with my old team with the plan of doing a handover to one of my colleagues of the tasks he is taking over from me. So far he’s been far too busy doing other things; despite my regular question, “Are you ready for training yet?” and I can’t help but feel today has been a waste. In true company style my access to the processing systems has been revoked and I’ve had to send off a request to be re-activated for a grace period for the handover. I’ve been working on the team’s intranet pages to pass the time. I just want to get settled in my new job now!
Despite the frustrations I can still look positively on this whole new adventure. One of the biggest contrasts has been the difference in attitude between old team and new team. For example, I had to go for x-rays this morning and when I booked the appointment last week I emailed the relevant managers to let them know I would be late in today. When I arrived at the office just before 11:00 this morning, my old line manager asked, “Did I know you’d be late today?” Apparently I should’ve put it in his calendar! I kind of felt like reminding him he’s not actually my line manager any longer and that I’d only emailed him about the appointment out of courtesy. But oh well – I needed to get the x-rays sorted because I need to sort out my hip. No x-rays, no progress; considering I am struggling to walk up the hill to the office lately it is absolutely vital that I find out the problem and get it treated. And now I’m rambling!
Colleague X is barely talking to me. I get the feeling I’m being seen as some kind of traitor for leaving the team. If I go a little further I can hypothesise that she is possibly a little jealous; she admits she has little ambition to progress further with the company but – personally – I couldn’t imagine doing this admin job for eight years without hating it at least a little bit. Who knows? Maybe she’s just being who she is? After nine months I still can’t predict her; some days she’s the life and soul, other days she’s queen bitch. I’ll be glad to not have to deal with that any longer – and very glad to never hear the words “I’m not being funny – but…” several times each day!
Compare and contrast my new team; the department head welcomed me to the team on Monday, my new line manager is a genuine and lovely man who has read this blog and didn’t judge me, and my team-mate is hugely popular in the office as she’s just that nice! I can’t wait to get over there full time and really get my teeth into learning everything I need to and start working on the various bits and bobs that need covering.
So, despite the short-term turbulence ahead I am in a really positive frame of mind – the effect on my mood has been something miraculous! I feel totally stable, totally able to think my way out of minor lows and able to embrace minor highs into productivity. For the first time in a long time I don’t feel dull, I am not swinging hypo from sheer boredom. Best of all, Eve seems really content with how things are at the moment. She is really peaceful and we’re not fighting for dominance. I am happy.
I had a rather sad conversation online yesterday in a peer support chat room. The guy I was talking to asked the room whether it’s best to be honest with his GP about the state of his mental health. From what I gathered he has been struggling a long time without any help; I asked him if he had a diagnosis and he replied ‘nothing official, just a fucked up psyche.’
His main concerns seemed to be being locked away and losing his job – two things I can truly identify with; when I first started seeking help I tended to play-down things in fear of the psych ward and lost a job over my mental health when it was at its direst point. But the truth is that most health systems – or at least those that are run by the state – actively seek to provide support to keep people out of hospital, and as for workplaces, in most cases the person is protected by anti-discrimination laws.
A quick Google suggests a figure of around £350 a day to treat someone in hospital on the NHS whilst intervention outside of the psychiatric wards costs far less (although I couldn’t find any concrete figures). There is also the consideration that internment in a mental health unit causes considerable stress to the client; the wards are far from peaceful, recuperative places. In most areas here in the UK there are specialist teams for acute care outside of the clinical setting; Home Treatment Teams (HTT) are able to visit clients in their homes to help with medication and provide someone to talk to; they also have 24 hour phone services so even in the middle of the night a nurse will be on hand to discuss concerns.
There are also many care homes in the UK that usually support long-term residents in transitioning back into the ‘real world’ which have ICBs (intensive care beds) for shorter term stays. I’ve been in two of these homes and they proved to be incredibly therapeutic environments; space to recover, freedom to come and go and 24 hour support from trained staff. Whilst staying in the homes, clients are supported by their own psychiatrist and care co-ordinator so there is no variation in treatment plans or any stress of seeing staff that are unfamiliar to someone who is in a fragile state.
Hospital is a last resort here; there have been only two occasions when I’ve been threatened with a section and both were when my ability to keep myself safe went beyond the scope of what the earlier interventions could cope with. This is despite suicide attempts and self-harm; despite drinking to cope. There was a real push from the NHS staff I dealt with to keep me out of the psych wards until it was an 11th-hour situation; even then I remained out of the hospital thanks to redoubled efforts from the HTT and care homes.
The guy I was speaking to online was concerned about the security of his job if he wound up needing to take time off sick for his illness. This was in part due to the nature of his work; he had passed psych clearance tests in order to secure the role in the first place. With a little discussion I discovered that he was nervous that his employer would indirectly find ways to push him out of his job; despite my reassurance of discrimination law he remained convinced that he would not be able to stay employed if he sought help and treatment.
The fact is that most countries have solid disability discrimination laws; if the illness is significant and long term. Essentially – in relation to the workplace – they lay out a requirement to allow reasonable adjustments that ensure the employer facilitates the needs of their employee and also a requirement to treat their employees equally despite their disability. These laws are the backbone for activists to be able to speak out openly about their illnesses and go a long way towards true equality and the end of stigma.
I sincerely hope the online chatter is honest with his GP and gets the help he needs; he seemed desperate for someone to hear him and assist him in his recovery – unfortunately there is still such stigma surrounding mental illnesses that it remains difficult to speak up in confidence of not being judged for something we cannot change.
My brain – although rebellious at times – works pretty damn well. I’m intelligent, I am articulate (generally; I admit to getting somewhat flustered on occasion!), and I am creative. My mind is sharp and all the sharper since the meds have been changed and moods have stabilised.
Two things need to happen for my life to feel ‘normal’. One is the thing I’ve been semi-ranting about over the last few days here; workload! But that’s in hand and I have a meeting with my supervisor tomorrow to discuss what value-add tasks I can take on. When that’s sorted I hope to be able to get through a work-day without stressing out about being idle. Without endless hours staring at a computer screen waiting for emails to filter in or the clock to tick round.
The other thing I hope will help me greatly is this referral to the Personality Disorders team. Much as I really don’t want another label/diagnosis, I can almost bring myself to acknowledge that this referral can only be a good thing. If I am being honest with myself, there are still things that aren’t-quite-right in the ol’ noggin. Things like my reaction to criticisms (sheer panic), my catastrophizing (frequent) and the need to be loved (constantly). They’re not unusual in their scope, but in their reach. They are extreme. They cause problems.
I need to learn to love my life; I want to know how to be content with what I’ve got. I know, intellectually, that I am lucky. I have a wonderful husband, a nice flat, great family and a good income. Maybe it’s because I didn’t do university; maybe because I’ve not gone off on wild backpacking adventures. Whatever the reason, I still feel this unease in my gut when I am on the treadmill of life. And I want to stop wanting more, more, more. I don’t know how that would come about but it needs to. I need it to.
Most of all, I need stimulation for my brain. I need more mind-food – my appetite appears to be insatiable.
The stay-cation is over; I am back at my desk and it already feels like a distant memory. The week off was a wonderful and much-needed rest. It was appreciated. But I forgot just how tedious this job really is.
The problem lies with my supervisor – a really good guy – and his ‘concern’ for me. About 6 weeks ago we had a conversation in which I requested more responsibility and a heavier workload; his reply was that he is nervous of over-loading me and losing me to sickness. Read: he thinks I’ll have a mental breakdown if I get stressed.
What I can’t get him to understand is that the long, quiet days cause me more stress than my time spend working at break-neck pace ever did. I crave excitement, pressure; I am unashamedly a fantastic corporate firefighter! The hours I spend here are, by contrast, routine and unchallenging. I rarely talk to anyone (colleagues included because of my desk position). I miss the variety. I miss making connections with customers. Most of all, I miss being mentally stimulated.
The issue is that having a secondary psyche is that idleness is a trigger. Filling my life with activity gives me the best chances of Eve keeping her head down. At home it isn’t such a problem, but when 10:30am rolls around and I’ve completed my tasks; well then there’s an issue! We are good at co-habiting in this body but the longer I let my mind wander, the more she takes over. Lately things have been so wonderfully stable; I don’t want what is basically boredom to be the deal-breaker.
I am unsure what to do about this situation; I don’t know how to broach the subject with my supervisor. Our head of department has scheduled in 1-to-1 meetings with each team member – mine isn’t until July 15th. I need to get this sorted long before then; that, or find an alternative.