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TW | Being signed off sick

On the 5th August 2021, I was signed off sick from work and I want to document why.


As some of you may know, I was first diagnosed with anxiety and depression when I was 17 and I am 25 now. Since then, I have taken and continue to receive medication and counselling. In reality, anxiety, depression, suicide attempts and self-harm have been a part of my life from a very young age and well before my diagnosis. I have never let it stop me from getting to where I want to be, even though there have been many times where I have felt as if I have lost my mind and almost lost myself for good. I feel I have had three key crisis points in my mental health journey; 2013, 2018 and now 2021. These are all points which I would document as myself having really reached an end-point or so I thought. 


At 22, I joined the emergency services, which has been my dream job since I was a child and still is. In order to join the job, I had to undergo a medical examination where I had to disclose my history of mental health. It has always been something that I have managed throughout my career and something that I could hide pretty well, until recently. I still urge that anyone living with mental health conditions, to never let it make you feel inferior of doing the career that you want to undertake. My illness does not make me any less capable of doing my job, in fact it gives me a better insight to deal with specific situations. Just right now, I need time away.


The job that I do is well known to be stressful and traumatic. There are incidents that will stick with you more than others, but I luckily have not yet found that any have severely affected me. Instead, I believe that my burn out has built up over a long period of time due to a range of different things. 


When the pandemic hit in early 2020, I felt like I had my life somewhat on track. I wasn't where I wanted to be, but I was in a better place than I had been. As we all know, the pandemic affected all of our lives, both professionally and personally. For a lot of us, it was the first time that we had been confined to our rooms for 24 hours a day. For me, I was hours away from all of my family and friends and I was living out of a bedroom. Social interaction, which was a key element to my wellness, was something that was now limited. As the months went on, the more draining the pandemic became and with previous mental health history, it was extremely hard to even access basic services for help and advice.


I worked through the entirety of the pandemic. In the beginning the calls to service were few, but as time went on it increased. However this time it came with all of the trials and tribulations of PPE and understanding risk management. I lived in constant fear of the virus. I worried that I had it or had been in contact with someone who had it and this was leading to an increased pressure in my work-life as well as having no way of being able to burn off steam. I was already living with health anxiety and the pandemic sky rocketed those intense thoughts. I started to notice myself becoming mentally unwell.


I recall a few times during 2020 when I had complete breakdowns. I felt that I had a complete loss of myself and my mind. The only thing I knew to do was to ring someone in order to keep myself safe. Once I was able to have some sort of rationality again, I would brush the episode aside and continue in my normal way of life...whatever normal was at the time. In the beginning these episodes were happening mostly outside of work and were in connection with the isolation that I was faced with. It was just something that I thought was normal.


This year I have been struggling with my mental health even more, but it was something that I just continued to brush off. This time however, my mental health began to creep into my work life and it was something that I couldn't really ignore anymore.  Before, I may have been able to wait until I got home to release my emotions, but it was now creeping in whilst I was at work. I would have sporadic breakdowns at work and after work, which I kept trying to hide. Once I got myself back together, I would just brush it off and go to work the next day. It was a normal routine for me and a coping mechanism. I thought everyone was feeling the same way so it didn't really matter that I was feeling it too.


It got to the point where I felt that I couldn't continue living in the way I had been. There was no way it was sustainable and at times, I felt a risk to myself. I had my medication increased and I was referred back to therapy on the NHS. Unfortunately, the medication increase made me worse rather than better so I reduced my dosage again pretty swiftly. However, I managed to access IPT on the NHS and for that I am grateful. I am in contact with my counsellor once a week now, but even at that point I was still brushing off how I was feeling and ignoring what my mind had been trying to tell me.


My life outside of work has had difficult roads, loss and familial issues. And without going into too much detail, over time, this builds up. There's only so much that a person can deal with internally before it affects other areas of the body.


Taking it back a few months, I started to become physically unwell. I look back now and I believe that the reason for this long-term physical illness was my body's way of telling me that I needed to stop and take a break. I was physically unwell for around six weeks and I ended up going to hospital by ambulance. Just as I recovered from that, I then caught covid. It was at that point that I started to question whether I really was mentally well and whether I should have been paying more attention to myself.


When it was finally time for me to go back to work, I was only back for a few days when I noticed how unwell I really was. I started to have breakdowns every day at work and I began to question myself and what other people were telling me. I wouldn't believe what was being said and I would have to double check everything. I couldn't work in this state and I knew that if I was even questioning my sanity, I needed to stop and if I look back, I can see these intrusive thoughts being around since the beginning of 2020. I felt like I was losing my mind and that there was no other way out. I had to do something before it was too late to pull myself back. I know my limitations and I was at my breaking point.


I spoke to my occupational health department and I spoke to my manager as they had no idea that I had been struggling with my mental health. I got signed off sick from work following a call with my GP on the 5th August 2021 where they stated I had moderate to severe depression. Although I am aware that I have lived with depression for the majority of my life, I feel that this diagnosis doesn't exactly incapsulate everything that I have been going through. The intensity of the intrusive thoughts, paranoia, panic attacks and sleepless nights are main themes running throughout my day. 


No job is worth you becoming so mentally unwell. I think I worked to my limit and didn't realise the damage it was doing at the time. It is sad for me to think that I have gotten to the point over these past few years where I have felt like ending it all and given serious consideration and attempts to it. On occasions I can remember making attempts and coming into work the next day, the same with self-harm and I still didn't see it as something that needed urgent attention. I still battle with these thoughts regularly but I am getting better at managing them. 


Hopefully with the time away from work I can make the difference to get me to a place where life is full of joy again. I just want the simple things; to see birds fly, feel sand on my feet and for it to make me smile. 


I'm going to take the time our to recover. I have done it many times before and I have faith in myself that I will do it again.


You can too.





TW: Suicide and suicidal thoughts

Suicide.

A word that we always hear and think we understand, but in reality someone's relationship with suicide can be a lot more complex than what we would usually understand it to be.

First off, for further information on suicide itself and where to get help, please refer back to my post on the topic.

As some of us may know, suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45. That's a higher statistic than heart attacks and cancer. If that statistic doesn't sink in then you best read it again...that man is your Dad, your husband, brother, son...you. Of course, suicide isn't solely something that only men are committed to doing, it can be anyone.

When we think of suicide, we think of someone committing the act that results in their death and when we say that someone has taken their own life or committed suicide, then that would be correct to say. There is another side to suicide that often goes unseen and consists of the thoughts and feelings in the lead up to someone deciding to end their life. Suicidal thoughts are exactly that; thinking about suicide. It may include the thoughts, preparation, and ideologies of it but more importantly it might not actually be something that the person will undertake. 

As some of you may know, I have struggled with suicidal thoughts and tendencies from around the age of fourteen, when I had my first suicide attempt. It was around that age that not only did I have the suicidal thoughts leading up to the attempt, but it is such that it is now a regular thought process in my brain for most days of my life, but it doesn't necessarily mean that I will undertake any of these thoughts. 

As much as I can explain the above, it's hugely important to realise there is a very thin line between simply having these thoughts and actually doing something about it. I often feel that people underplay this when they hear the notion of it spoken about. What you must remember is that the person whom you think will never do it and you could bet that as such, will be the ones that will. In fact, anyone with these thoughts needs to be taken seriously, listened to and given the opportunity to access professional medical support. 

Although there may be this difference between doing something and not, you never want to be in the position where you didn't take someone seriously and that was the last time you saw them. It's important that you talk to the person and understand what is going on inside their head and the risk that they are posing to themselves regardless of it being thoughts or actual acts or preparation. 

Don't be ashamed.

You could be saving another life by talking, but you could be saving yours.




Twenty-two prose

When things are clear, it's easy,

But it rarely has been.

Energy is drained and I'd rather be numb,

Then feel a range of emotions where happiness might exist.

I'm meant to miss in all ways,

Some ways,

No ways,

And I do,

But I am never fixated.

I can't make sense of myself when I live in it,

It might be the end when I know. 

Do I do it now?

Pain and fragility exists here,

And the mind has all of the possibilities that may not be true

And if the inside was known,

I might be held even if I was the sun.