"It's just anxiety..."

Travelling through the other side of depression, there’s a sudden realisation that the end of the tunnel, the road to recovery, is achievable.

An only child, dealing with family illness proved tough – even though, at the time, I thought I was dealing with the stress. Both parents and my wife going through serious illnesses (luckily all is well with all) and both remaining grandparents passing at wonderful ages (93 and 101!), it seems all of this piled up on me.

I am a secondary school teacher and, at the time, worked in a school which was losing control. Students bullying staff was commonplace. No support from senior staff made me physically ill. I changed schools – the obvious problem solver?

Yet, bullying continued in the new school. Not from students, but from senior staff. Stress is shown physically in my eczema. My GP even treated me for scabies; such were the severity of the marks all over my back. My GP wanted to see me two weeks later: for reasons I was unaware of. Depression.

He diagnosed me. I took the prescribed medication and attended ten, wonderful, counselling sessions.

Yet, bulling continued. Senior staff had no idea – and didn’t want to know – about my illness. One even dismissing it as “It’s just anxiety...I even wake up in the middle of the night thinking about work.” This ignorance made me feel even worse.

My union and GP recommended long-term sickness. I spent this sleeping in darkness until mid-afternoon, each day. Leaving the house proved difficult. But I wanted to leave the house, go back to work, go back to reality.

The school had a ‘get-rid’ attitude and offered ‘staged’ support. In my state, I could see though this, luckily. But, I had to go through the motions with union support and ultimately was dismissed from my job due to ‘Ill-health capability’.

I had to question: if I was in a car accident, broke my leg, had complications with the recovery and healing process, would the school go through the ‘Ill-health capability’ procedure? Of course not. They would understand the recovery problems and understand time is required to heal. Depression requires time – but who understands that? And how much time? There is no answer to that question.

I was dismissed December 2015 – took a few months recovery/reality time – and signed up with an agency who got me a wonderful job in a school from April to July. Suddenly, the end of the tunnel appears. A school with a human ethos. A supporting network. Reality exists.

Recovery is happening. It takes time. It takes support. My family, in-laws, my wife, friends, were all amazing. I am fortunate to have had that. I hid a lot. Speaking is the answer. Finding who to speak to is the most difficult. Avoid the stigma, dismiss the ignorance, and find understanding – it is there, somewhere; recovery happens in your own time. Discrimination is worrying still there in the 21st Century and this needs to be constantly challenged.

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Comments

Mark's story

I know the feeling! When my mum first became ill it affected my work badly to the point that I was told to smile at a particular function when I didn't feel like it.

Response

Yes. I agree. How can we be FORCED to act if we do not feel that way? Smile when you are happy; let's hope someone understands when we are not.

Mark's story

Such a familiar story, unfortunately. So glad that you've come out the other side, but yes, it's all too easily dismissed by those who don't understand. Not being visible or measurable makes it very hard to relate to or deal with and because of that, the wrong attitude or stance can have serious consequences. Actions taken out of ignorance can have long term consequences for the sufferer and it is only when proper treatment and respect for the individual is shown, can they have any chance at all of recovery. With the right support, there is hope - but all too often discrimination prevails, whether deliberate or not is irrelevant and the path back then becomes long and difficult, impossible, sadly, in some cases.

Response

You summarise this superbly! Thank you. With more people like you (and such responses) it appears we are getting there in our fight for CHANGE!

Which union

Hi which union are you part of, if you don't mind sharing please? I'm just going into school based teacher training and terrified as I have a mental health condition and have heard horror stories from friends.

Response

Hi. Please don't think of mine as a 'horror' story (or the other teacher stories you have heard). Teacher stories always seem to focus on the negatives. It's part of the job! No staff room in the country is full of positive anecdotes: if we had that then why would we go to the staff room?!!!! My advice: enjoy the training - your condition is in no way a barrier to your progress. This is the crucial point. Do the required 'standards' and apply for a school . . . (this, I can not really advise - research is they key . . . I can help, though, if you need). UNION was your question. There are 3 main ones. When I trained I signed with two. Then paid my subs to the one union who seemed the most popular in my first school. I can share their great work but do you really need this yet? This union was wonderful . . . . I hope you do not need a representative in your career. Focus on the positive! Keep I touch, though. It sounds like my experience could help yours?

Ending the stigma....workplace

I can totally identify with being tarnished in the workplace by colleagues & management because of depression. You are seen as lazy or just workshy! And because I tried to hide it I got accused of lying. They made me feel I had to lie. I didn't want them to know actually I was suffering from depression I'd been in an abuse relationship & I had gone back after maternity. Even when my son was murdered after initially being supportive it was expected pick yourself back up. Depression has always been there but I try & mask it for others sake but it's tiring!!

Response

Thank you for the response and sorry to hear the tragedy. It's true: no one understands. Work does not fit in TIME to hear/understand/listen to something . . . how do I say? NOT part of ordinary life?

Mental Health

HI Mark, very inspiring and heartfelt story. I can relate and knowing that you have come out of the darkest of times a survivor makes me believe I can. Thanks for sharing :-)

Response

Beautiful response, thank you. With sharing, we all can. "Dark" is the correct word. How did we shed light on this? You will have light, WE can survive. WE will. Your words are amazing and thank you for sharing! Words work. Keep in touch.

Feeling hopeful

Thanks for your blogg and offering Hope to im sure many people. I too am currently experiencing this situation and yes its very difficult to put any time scale to recovery from depression. I work as a RMN and currently i have been off work for 5 months but i still do not feel able to return due to symptoms of depression. I have been petrified i may get dismissed from work and its good to hear some employers can be supportive I find the depression , stigma (even in the health service) is misunderstood. Friends/family feel youll feel 'better' getting back to work but unfortunately and embarrassingly i do not feel ready . Im currently pretty much housebound with xmas upon us which adds to the stress of work colleagues just thinking "he wont be back until after now" Thankyou for your blog and again for providing Hope Something i myself have hopefully inspired in some of the lovley people ive nursed over 10 yrs

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