October 26, 2016

"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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