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Posts Tagged ‘work’

One of the things I’ve struggled with over the last few years is how my mental health has affected my career and vice versa. A large part of my identity has always been entwined with what I do and how well I do it, and it all started to unravel when I found myself deeply unhappy at work.

Obviously, the first thing I thought about was changing my job, but I wanted to stay in academic librarianship and there were very few positions available at the pay rate I was receiving. I did get interviews for all suitable vacancies in the vicinity, but didn’t get any of the jobs. This happened over the course of several months and I was gradually having more time off due to stress related illnesses such as IBS and asthma. Things spiralled downwards until I was routinely bursting into tears at home (though I did my best to hid tears and distress at work…), and feeling out of control. Ending in being off sick for several months.

Since I was a teenager I’ve always wanted to live by some “feminist ideals”- I wanted to go to Uni, get a well paid job, support myself financially, get my own place etc. I didn’t want to get married or be dependant on a man (though I always envisioned having a male partner). I managed all that, so it came as a shock when I realised I had depression. I shouldn’t be depressed! I was living by my ideals and hadn’t had any major upsets in my life.

However, through counselling and therapy I’ve realised I wasn’t just living my ideals, I was trying to be ideal… I put a lot of energy and care into trying to be very good at everything, and didn’t like to ask for help.

It all came back to that common cause of distorted thinking: Perfectionism.

Perfectionist Thinking

Having to re-evaluate my life due to my ill health (mental & physical) has made me come to the somewhat painful realisation that I am not what I do. Therefore, my job can be just a job and I can be good at it without it being the major focus of my life. It doesn’t matter if the house is a mess, or what wage I’m earning (as long as we have enough to live on) or whether I’m the perfect friend. I can be me, with all my imperfections and the people who matter will still love me.

Now I just have to figure out how to be just me!

 

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Shatterbox’s post about welfare services & meetings inspired me to write a bit about the numerous types of meetings I’ve had about my health in the last few years.

I’ve had to have meetings with GPs, Counsellors, CBT Therapists, Occupational Health Services, Line Managers, Section Managers, and Personnel Services. The anticipation of such meetings can make you feel a bit like this:

 Mad Dog

 Here are some of the ways I prepare myself for these meetings:

  • Take in Written Notes

This may sound like overkill, but during the worst patches of my depression I would be in tears within seconds of trying to talk about my health, and the written notes allowed me to get my points across even when I was too distressed to speak. They also mean I don’t forget any important points or issues, and can steer discussions back to the areas I want to talk about. My current therapist actually found it pretty useful as it meant she had my case history in my words to refer to.

  • Take Someone With You

I found it very helpful to have my boyfriend with me when I went to see my GP about anti-depressants, as I was still coming to terms with being diagnosed with depression, and it meant my boyfriend understood the situation as well. I have found it even more important to have support in my meetings at work with managers, personnel and occupational health. At one point I was having meetings with three senior managers and a rep from personnel at the same time! Four to one in a meeting does NOT help when you’re already feeling very vulnerable. I got my trade union involved and have a union case worker who attends meetings with me, which has been tremendously useful. Just knowing someone else is there with my interests in mind makes it easier to cope. If you’re not in a union then you could ask about taking a colleague with you to meetings instead.

  • Talk It Over Beforehand

I also found it good to talk over the issues that were likely to come up beforehand with someone sympathetic. One of my counsellors helped me prepare for meetings about returning to work after a three month absence by discussing what might be a sensible return to work schedule and if there were any duties that would need to be monitored etc. At other times I’ve talked to family, friends and colleagues, depending on who would know the most about the particular situation. It helps me work out what I want to say and what I might want to put in writing.

  • Avoid Worst Case Scenario Thinking

This one is very hard to do, especially if you’ve already had a bad experience with the people you’re meeting, and it’s only now that I’m in CBT that I’m beginning to get the hang of it myself. I have a tendency to dwell on whether I’ll get upset, whether they’ll listen to me, whether I’m failing to meet certain standards or expectations… all classic anxious/depressive thought patterns. When I catch myself thinking like this I have to challenge those thoughts – have all my meetings gone badly? No. Have I always got upset? No. Have I usually managed to get my points across due to my preparations? Yes.

Some appointments go well and some don’t, but they’re hoops I need to jump through so I might as well prepare for them.

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2nd jog

I went on the second jog earlier. It went fine. My motivation is obviously still fairly high as I’m quite enjoying the exercise. And because I have to write about it. I couldn’t face going into the office today, though. My anxieties get really bad at work – when I get home in the afternoon and shut the front door I feel a real sense of relief. The stress surrounding the job really gets to me, and the people are quite inpenetrable.

On my first day I was in two of my male colleagues discussed getting a stripper to come into the office as it was another male colleague’s birthday. I felt very uncomfortable with this, and, after twenty minutes of trying to work out what I should do in an office where I had no authority, I emailed a fairly friendly seeming female colleague, and told her I would leave the building when the stripper arrived, and asked if she wouldn’t mind texting or calling me on my mobile phone once she had left. She wrote back saying that it was unlikely they’d get anything organised, and in the end they didn’t, and just went to the pub.

I felt totally helpless to voice the problems I had with their behaviour, however, and spent most of my time in the first weeks of my job trying to work out just what sort of an organisation I was working for. Part of their remit is working with women’s rights groups in Africa. Yet they thought it was acceptable to bring a British stripper into the workplace, a woman who was statistically likely to have suffered sexual abuse in childhood, not to mention the concept of professionalism. Even now, several months into the job, sexist comments are regularly made in the office, and no women sit on the senior board, despite the fact that almost all administrators and lower level positions are held by women. I find the office an incredibly uncomfortable place to be in due to this, and due to the fact that despite my having asked on numerous occasions, they still haven’t got a contract for me to sign, to say I legally work there. This makes me even more reluctant to say anything, as if I am sacked I will not be able to prove I even worked there. It won’t be forever, though, only till the end of August, when my course at uni finishes and my partner and I will move back to London.

It’s opened my eyes a lot to the endemic sexism experienced by so many people in so many organisations. I hope you lot have better luck with work!

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Benefits and Work Poster

“Can you help challenge David Freud, the government special adviser who wants to create millionaires from your benefits? Benefits and Work believes that David Freud has breached the Civil Service Code in relation to honesty and integrity. However, we are not an affected party and so cannot make a formal complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. But you may be able to.

War of terror
The government today announced it is to follow city banker turned special adviser David Freud’s recommendations on paying more money to the private sector to get sick and disabled claimants back into work.

Freud is responsible for some of the recent claimant bashing statements which are part of what appears to be a war of terror being waged by the main political parties against the sick and disabled. In particular, Freud claimed that only one third of incapacity benefits claimants should actually be getting the benefit and that the level of fraud is much higher than the DWP claims. (See: Freud’s views: ignorance, arrogance and astonishing avarice 05.02.08)

 

The ombudsman’s office say they will consider a complaint against Freud if the the action complained of took place when he was acting in his official capacity and if the complainant can show that they have suffered as a result of that action.

We believe that in his interview with the Telegraph Freud was acting in an official capacity and, by his inaccurate statements, has caused genuine fear and emotional distress to individual claimants. The ombudsman’s office normally looks for financial loss, but they have accepted that emotional distress may be sufficient cause for an investigation. As we are not claimants, however, the ombudsman’s office have made it clear they would not accept a complaint from us.

Below is the basis of our case against Freud. If you agree with it and you are an incapacity benefit claimant who has been distressed by the continued anti-claimant propaganda then please consider making a formal complaint.”

Please visit the Benefits and Work website to read full details.

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