Mental Health and Me – An Update

img_4183I’ve been thinking about writing this post since my last mental health update which was back in February.  In that post, I had been to see the Occupational Therapist and was returning to work.  I had been advised to do a phased return into work, starting with shorter hours and increasing them over a period of weeks until I was back working full time.  It was also agreed that I would have regular meetings with my line manager just to make sure everything was ok.

I’m now back in work full time and have been working 37.5 hours a week since 8th April.  My phased return went well and it was surprising how quickly I adapted to being back in work which had been one of my main worries.  My work colleagues have been ok, though I am finding that some of them seem to be acting a bit differently to me.  Whether this is just how I am perceiving things or not, I’m not sure.  I also have not had any meetings with my line manager about how I am getting on which is a bit disappointing.  I know that I could always approach my manager but in all honesty, it makes me feel a bit awkward.  Not only am I doing ok but I also feel like, as it was something that was suggested by my manager then really they should be checking up with me.

I’m still on my medication, it was agreed with the Dr to increase my Sertraline from 100mg to 150mg and that dosage seems to be the one that is working best for me.  I am sleeping a lot better in the night’s now, though I am still not getting a proper full night of rest.  I am still feeling anxiety and stress but it is a lot easier to cope with now.  I have been making sure to utilise some of the things I have learned in mindfulness courses on a day to day basis.

I am also eating a lot better and generally taking better care of myself.  I have times when I need to be alone just to recharge my energy but those times seem to be moments when I take time out to do things I love to do, blogging, reading, thinking…

I have started to expand my hobbies and have started to work in my garden.  I have ideas to turn it into a really lovely space over the next few months.  I don’t really know where this love of gardening has come from but I do know that it is never something I even imagined that I would like let alone enjoy.

I have learned to listen to my body more, and have realised that it is ok to have off days where plans remain unchecked, that it is ok to take a nap in the afternoon and that it is ok to say no when I need to.  I know that these are small steps but they are all helping me on my journey to wellness.

Whether I will be able to reduce my medication or to ever not have anxiety, stress or depression is something that only time will be able to reveal, but for the moment I feel like I am doing ok, and doing ok is fine by me.

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Mental Health and Me – An Update

I went to see Occupational Health on Tuesday last week.  At the time I didn’t really see that it was necessary as I knew that the environment I was going back to in work had changed, there had been work done to the offices – new heating systems put in and walls taken down which meant that the seating arrangements and whole office layout had changed which had changed the dynamics of the team I work in.  I thought that, until I returned to work I wouldn’t know if that environment had affected me or whether it would.

I got ready on the morning of my appointment and the anxiety started to creep in but I managed to control it.  I was really anxious about the drive there as I’ve not really driven much since I have been off from work.  I was also really worried about the actual appointment, what I needed to say, whether I would forget to mention anything, whether they would see me fit enough to return to work and whether I would be allowed to return to work full-time.

When I arrived I had to fill in a form with all my details on it, it was a quick form to fill in and taking time to answer it seemed to calm my nerves a bit.  I was 10 minutes early so I thought I would have to sit and wait but the doctor was able to see me straight away.  I think this helped too as I wasn’t able to start overthinking things.

We talked about how I am feeling now, how I was feeling, my medication, anything that may have triggered my anxiety, stress and depression and what sort of things I was doing to overcome my illness.  We talked about my worries about returning to work and how I’m still not sleeping properly.  The doctor was really lovely, she asked lots of questions and listened to my answers without brushing them off, and she gave me some really useful advice.  She also said that I would be ok to return to work on an extended phased return as she felt that it would be better for me.  She suggested that for 2 weeks I work a total of 12 hours over 3 days, the next 2 weeks increase to 15 hours over 3 days, the 3rd week 24 hours over 4 days and the final 2 weeks to work 30 hours over 5 days.  After that period of time I could then resume working 37.5hrs a week.

A report was written up and a copy was sent to my employer.  I spoke with my line manager on monday this week, it was the final day of being covered on my sick note and we discussed my return to work for Tuesday.  I decided, with her, that I would attend work at 9am and we would have a meeting to discuss my phased return.

So, yesterday, I got ready for my first day back.  I was really worried about going back, namely about how my work colleagues would be with me, where I was going to be sitting, if I could remember my log in details for my work computer and about what was going to happen during the day.

I arrived at work, found my desk, my computer took an age to fire up as it had been switched off for some time, then I had problems with my computer screens (I use 2 for work), I then got locked out of the system as the password I did remember didn’t work.  Eventually I was able to get into the system!  I spent time sorting through my emails (all 600 of them!) then I had a meeting with my line manager, we needed to fill in some paperwork about returning to work, then my overall manager joined us to discuss the Occupational Health report.  She said that it was a really positive report and that she could see that I was taking steps to help myself which was good.  We then discussed my phased return.  Both my managers agreed that the proposed return was a good idea and that they had worked out a timetable of hours and days for me to work which was nice, and they asked what sort of hours I preferred – I said mornings, as eventually I would need to be getting up in the mornings to come to work anyway and a routine would be really beneficial to me and probably help with my sleep patterns.

After the meeting I went back to my desk and managed to do the work that had been allocated to me before it was time for me to go home.  My work colleagues were lovely and all said hi and had a chat with me.  One of my work friends had left a note on my desk welcoming me back and put a little Hello Kitty figure with it.  That really made me smile and was such a lovely gesture to come in to.

I’m back in work tomorrow and really looking forward to it.  I just have no idea what to wear!  This time last year it was freezing in the office but now the heating has been upgraded it seems warmer so I am unsure how to dress.

Mental Health and Me – An Update

I spoke last month, in my mental health update here, about wanting to return to work in February and issues that I still had that were hindering returning to work, namely my problems with sleep.  At the time of that update I was waiting for a referral to some kind of therapy programme which may help me with my sleep issues.

I have now spoken with a member of the mental health team who went through an assessment with me and had a lengthy conversation about my sleep.  We spoke about how I wanted to return to work as I was feeling much better emotionally and how frustrated I am that sleep is now the biggest problem for me.  We identified some possible reasons why I’m having trouble sleeping including worry about returning to work (how it will affect me, what will happen when I’m back at work, others attitudes to me, as well as the general anxiety around my return), that my brain may not be getting enough mental stimulation now I’m getting better – a sign that returning to work would be good for me, how I am going to cope at work and having coping mechanisms in place, as well as anxiety about getting back into a work routine and balancing my work/home life.

We spoke about medication and the option of increasing the dosage during my return to work phase and seeing if that will help with sleep, and we spoke about having a key worker who would work with me 1 on 1 with issues I may have.   I said yes to both, so now I need to return to my doctor once the assessment has been recorded in my notes and request a dosage increase and wait for a letter regarding my key worker.

I have also been referred to Occupational Health by my manager so I can have a chat with a medical practitioner with regards to returning to work and what things work could put in place to support me in returning including a phased return which my manager suggested.  I have the appointment on Tuesday.

In all, I’m feeling pretty optimistic about everything.  I would have liked to return to work this past week but realise that there are certain things that need to be done before I can return.  I also think that implementing a phased return would be really helpful as it means I would be returning gradually and I won’t be feeling so overwhelmed by it all.

I will post an update once I have seen the Occupational Health practitioner and know what is going on more!

Mental Health and Me – An Update

I wrote about my anxiety/panic attack around a week ago and since then I have re-visited the Dr.  I spoke in my last update, (back in November), about how I wasn’t sleeping very well.  This is still an ongoing issue.  A lot of the time I feel too awake to sleep and yet to asleep to be fully awake, it’s affecting my thoughts and reaction times, my emotions, mood, energy levels and levels of motivation.  And if I’m honest, it’s really starting to piss me off.

I have spoken to the dr’s that I have seen about not sleeping, the first thought that upping my dosage of sertraline from 50mg to 100mg per day would help, the second one spoke about sleep hygiene and other lifestyle things (like no caffeine of an evening…), the 3rd dr I saw said it was likely due to the increase in my medication and to just “hang in there” and as my body gets used to the dosage then my sleep should return.  And it felt like no one was really listening to me, like they were all offering ideas and things but nothing to really get to the root of the problem.

You see, I don’t drink coffee of an evening, in fact, I now really only have 1 or 2 cups a day and that is in the morning, I go to bed when I’m tired, my room isn’t too hot or cold, there is a supply of fresh air into the bedroom, its dark enough in my room, its quiet enough, I don’t watch tv or play games before I go to bed, I don’t have harsh lights on in the bedroom… I’ve tried having a warm bath before bed, a hot shower, a warm drink (like herbal tea or hot choc), I’ve tried leaving all the house lights off as its getting dark and going to bed when the natural light has faded, I’ve tried essential oils, Ive tried meditation, reading, not reading, just lying there doing absolutely nothing, and still I can’t sleep.  And when I do sleep, it’s either a few snatched hours here and there or I lose a whole day because it’s almost like I have passed out from lack of sleep to the extent where I will sleep through alarms and my phone ringing.

And so, the last doctor I saw, a few days ago, sort of bore the brunt of my frustrations, maybe because I had been awake for 2 days straight, but I think it was more to do with being so frustrated with not being able to sleep, and I told her exactly how I was feeling.  I want to go back to work, emotionally I’m feeling a lot better than I was, but how can I return when I’m not sleeping which means I can’t think straight, have this awful brain fog a lot of the time, end up sleeping through whole days and just can’t seem to do anything without it taking a lot of concentration and planning to do so.

And she was lovely.  She really seemed to understand where I was coming from and all the intricacies involved with not sleeping and we went through several ideas to try, as well as referring me to therapy to see if we can overcome this problem.

I’ve got until the end of the month off, the doctor said that it would give the therapy team a chance to sort an appointment (or appointments) out for me and hopefully I can return to work in february.

I left the drs feeling a bit of relief that my lack of sleep was being taken seriously by someone.  The other drs, though they had been good, I don’t think that they had really understood how not sleeping was making me feel or even quite how bad it has become.  And in all honesty, I feel that it was down to me and not explaining it to them well enough for them to understand that it’s not just a case of not sleeping every now and again, that it’s a constant thing that is getting worse as time goes on.

So, I’m feeling a bit better with the outcome and just have to wait for an appointment to be made with the therapist and see what happens then.