Getting Signed Off Work Due To My Mental Health

My last major mental breakdown was May last year. For months afterwards I was on self-destruct mode. When it came to alcohol, drugs and nights out I couldn’t say no.

By November I was mid way through my one to one counselling sessions which were mainly focusing on my PTSD and anxiety. At this point we were focusing on a trauma that happened many years ago, which I don’t think I’m quite ready to talk about publicly yet but it was a trauma that I had kept to myself for about 15 years till I decided to fully open up to my new counsellor. It was the first time I had ever spoken about it, and in order for me to process the memory, we had to work through every little detail. It took its toll on me. I was unable to separate my counselling sessions from my work or personal life.

A few sessions into this trauma and I broke down in work one morning to one of my work colleagues. I just poured my heart out to her. She was the first person I had physically shown my emotions and spoke about my counselling to. Work at the time was pretty tough. I was a customer service advisor and did a lot of telephone work, which when you have anxiety can be very difficult. Work was fairly busy as it was leading up to Christmas but I was struggling to stay focused. My mental health was in pieces and I was struggling to put it all back together. My boss and the others in the office were aware that I was in counselling (it was only a small office) and they were pretty supportive. They wished me good luck before my sessions and asked how they went the following day. I guess that’s why it hurt more when I got signed off sick as I never heard from them again.

About mid December I was coming to the end of the CBT therapy on my first trauma but the stress from work wasn’t helping me improve. The office situation got tough and with it being such a small office, my anxiety didn’t like it. It sometimes felt like I was suffocating in silence. I remember it was a Thursday morning and my mum messaged me to say she would be picking me up in half an hour to take me to the doctors. At the time I was having a few ‘lady’ issues due to the stress, so I thought the appointment would be regarding that. So, that’s what I told my boss and she said it was absolutely fine to go. So mum picked me up and I went in to see my doctor. I broke down. Not in tears, I couldn’t cry because my anxiety took over. My whole body was shaking and I was struggling to get my words out. After about 10 minutes my doctor calmed me down and I managed to discuss my issues with him. I poured my heart out about my mental health, work stress and counselling. After about 20 minutes my doctor told me he was going to increase my dosage of antidepressants and he signed me off work for 2 weeks. My mum was waiting for me in the waiting room and we walked back to her car. I couldn’t stop shaking. My anxiety was awful and getting signed off work wasn’t helping. I couldn’t face walking back into the office with a sick note. It was the busiest time of year and I was going off sick. As lovely as the girls were in the office, I knew I would be the topic of conversation, so when me and mum arrived back at my work, I drove in my car home and my mum handed the note in for me. As I arrived home I sat on the couch feeling so lost. What was I going to do with my days? What were work going to do with a staff member down? What were they saying about me? My paranoia was doing over time. After a few days I got a message from my boss. It was a nice message but I wasn’t in the mental state to have a conversation about everything that was going on.

After my first 2 weeks off I went for a check up appointment with my doctor. I told him that me and my counsellor were now going to work through my dads death, and I was scared of being back in work whilst going through that trauma. As explaining this to him, my anxiety kicked in again and my whole body started to shake uncontrollably. After 10-15 minutes he signed me off with another sick note for 3 weeks. So mum went and handed that note into work for me. This is when I started to hear the rumours. I knew I would be the topic of conversation and when you suffer from anxiety, being centre of attention can be terrifying and your number 1 hatred. My paranoia was sending me crazy. Hearing how they were speaking about my situation and how I must have had it all planned out to avoid working during the busy period and over my birthday (9th Jan) was hurtful, but what hurt me the most was the fact that I hadn’t heard one word from the girl I broke down in front of and opened up to. As I never ever used to open up to anyone in my life, I was shocked at how easily I just spoke about my trauma to her, but when I got signed off work because of my mental health, I didn’t hear one thing from her. Not even now and that has been difficult to get used to. There was a reason why I never opened up to people, so part of me used to regret opening up to her, but at the time I needed to speak about it. I just thought that she was the right person to speak to. As far as I’m aware she hasn’t repeated what I told her and I respect that dearly, but after the whole work situation it kick started my journey to Australia. So, thank you to my previous work colleagues.

My notice was handed in mid January and my doctor kept me off work till my notice period was over. My mental health was rocky till about March time and by then I realised how much work was really effecting me and even though its been tough I am so glad I got out of there when I did, otherwise I think my mental health would have taken an even bigger hit. I’ve been un-employed ever since, been living off savings and my mum has helped me out every now and again. I’ve done a few one-off jobs like pet-sitting to provide me a bit of extra income but I’m not gonna lie, it’s been difficult, but mentally I needed the time off to recover. In the past year my mental health has been through so many ups and downs the time off was needed and deserved. As I finished my counselling in April, I started applying for part-time jobs, but with me moving to Australia in August, they were reluctant to hire me which is completely understandable. I’m lucky to have had my horse and dog to keep me busy. My horse helped me get out of bed in the mornings and my dog helped me get some fresh air and space in the evenings.

When I was first signed off work, it felt as though it would cause more problems than it would solve them. I’ll admit, at first it was hard to realise that I could spend my days however I wanted. After all the hassle and trouble that happened I do not regret anything. There are some things that I would have done differently but I believe it’s all led me to this point today and it will all help me with my next step.

My biggest thanks has to go to my mum who has been there throughout this journey. Along with L and Z, my two favourite best friends who I am blessed to have in my life.

I love you all so much,

Emma xo

One thought on “Getting Signed Off Work Due To My Mental Health

  1. Pingback: Admitting Defeat – Antidepressants | The Life Of Emma

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