Occupational Health Shenanigans

Well, I survived the much hyped occupational health assessment of this morning.  In fact, it only lasted about half an hour.  I will try in any case to summarise the event, for posterity if nothing else.

I woke up with A this morning after experiencing the highly unusual event of a surprisingly reasonable night’s sleep, thanks to lovely sleeping tablet (which, horrifically, I have to come off this week – but more about that another time).  I engaged A in conversation, in which he enquired as to how I was.  I stated that I was fine.  He said, “you won’t be at this thing later.”  I was momentarily perplexed by his reference.  I had forgotten about this grotesque thing that has been causing me so much stress!  The oddest thing was, even upon recollection thereof, I was still feeling kind of blase.

This was slightly unfortunate, as part of me wanted to be in a maniacal panic, to underline to OHS how mad I am.  Naturally for my own reasons I was happy to be in a state of moderate calm, but I didn’t think it the best state for them to see me.

Anyhow, I arrived with Mummy Dearest nearly an hour early.  Aside from the fact we had no idea where we were going, Mum had heard on the radio that the road on which the OHS is situated was blocked with some crane or something and traffic was heavy.  As per the sod’s law that seems to permeate my life, there was no evidence of this on said road whatsoever when we were travelling to it.  Nevermind.  We went to find somewhere to get a cup of tea or coffee, and duly found a delightful greasy-spoon cafe in which the aforementioned beverages were obtained.  During this before-meeting period, I showed Mum the email dispatched yesterday from the Horse.  She was in concurrence that it was “not very nice”.  Needless to say, my terminology was a little bit stronger than that, but then I have already voiced all that.

So.  After the tea and coffee extravaganza, off we proceeded  to the House of Horrors.  I was surprised when I entered the reception of the place in that it was actually pretty well-appointed.  My previous experience of OHS had been with the local health and so-called social care trust, but the new people my employers are using appear to be a private sector orgsanisation.  The receptionist gave me a consent form to fill in; almost as soon as this had been completed, a small, thin woman in her late fifties or early sixties came into the room; I knew as soon as I saw her that this was the physician I was supposed to be seeing.

And so it proved.  The woman approached me, reached her hand out and introduced herself.  Her manner stuck me as polite and gentle, which was something of a reassurance, though I was determined to appear mental.  Granted, this was slightly manipulative on my part, but it is the general reality of things, and just because I wasn’t in a depressed or delusional maniacal panic this morning doesn’t mean I am not normally.  I wanted her to see the real, nervous, highly strung, deranged and unhinged me.

Onwards to the medic’s office, a clinical but inoffensive room, much superior to the shithole I’d previously been in for OHS.  She outlined to me in her softly-spoken voice the format the discussion would take – she’d ask about my symptoms, how chronic my illness was, how it impacted upon my work in my bollockhole, horse-filled some time place of money-providing toil.

I wasn’t especially articulate.  By wanting to make myself appear nervous, I had actually become so and this had the unwanted (but thoroughly deserved, given my manipulation of the circumstances) effect of rendering me incapable of remembering everything I wanted to say.  I did say that I was no longer just depressed and anxious, I had become semi-delusional and had weird episodes of mania.  When asked, I told her the medication I was on, though I couldn’t remember the name of the sleeping tablet – but she said that was OK.  She probed a bit and I confessed about my thoughts of suicide and self-harm.  I told her the depression had been ongoing for 11 years, the anxiety for three or four, and the mania / delusions only relatively recently.  She asked about appetite (either none or far too much), ability to do normal stuff such as washing myself or housework (virtually non-existent), sleeping (title of the blog gives that away), concentration span and focusing (ha) and whether I engaged in activities in which I formerly took pleasure (mostly not). So I suppose she got the basics of the situation anyway.

In the ensuing discussion about treatments for my ailments, of course C came up.  I told her how difficult I found therapy; as detailed here, it has dredged up so much hitherto unknown self-knowledge, forced me to explore areas of my mind I wish to keep hidden and evokes sad and horrible memories.  I told the woman how intense I found it and told her it was my belief that my condition had deteriorated since commencing therapy with C (though of course in the long-term I still think this is of necessity).

I told her also that I was due to see a psychiatrist, and that my lovely (not sarcasm, he really is) GP felt that I was “losing the plot” (his words – not entirely diplomatic, perhaps, but I appreciated his candour).  I was hopeful that these facts would reinforce the fact that I am a nutjob.

She asked me about my physical health – the only real issues are my obesity, suspected irritable bowel syndrome and frequent headaches.  I suppose the latter two are possibly related to my mental ill health, as they can be brought on by stress.  It is also arguable that the former is related too – partly because of comfort eating, partly because of weight gain caused by bloody anti-depressants.  But maybe I am just a greedy fat bastard.  Who knows?  Who cares?  I am gargantuan whatever the reasons.  But I digress, yet again.

Anyway, finally the discussion centred on work.  She asked me to outline my duties.  The last time I was there was in ages ago so to be frank, I find it hard to remember exactly what I did do, and the role was nebulous enough as it was.  I tried my best, but then just explained my difficulty in remembering, and she seemed to accept that.  She asked about the specific difficulties that had stressed me in work; again this was difficult to answer, and I really should have consulted my original email to the Equine Bitch before going to today’s meeting.  So again, I responded as best I could, and stated that I was unhappy with Personnel’s responses to my queries.  The long and the short of my commentary on this matter was that, if work really believe they cannot eliminate or modify some of the issues discussed with Horsey, and are determined to dogmatically stick to their confrontational position, I really ought to have full-time administrative assistance – and full-time administrative assistance that I could control.  The woman agreed that I was clearly intellectually capable of completing the tasks within my job (mundane and straightforward as they are).  So she agreed with my contention that it was not any of the content of my job that was a stressor and although she did not specifically enunciate it at any point, reading between the lines, I think she seemed to agree that it must be the sheer amount of work that was the problem.

However, perhaps unsurprisingly, she did not feel that in my present mental state I am capable of doing the aforesaid tasks or, indeed, any tasks in any job.  Essentially, what she is going to tell the evil office is the following:

  • My condition is chronic and recurrent.
  • With proper therapy, provided by C, and the right medication, hopefully obtained from the fabled psychiatrist, she feels the frequency of my ‘episodes’ can be reduced, and perhaps their severity can decrease – but they probably will not be entirely eliminated.
  • She believes that I am not permanently unfit for work.
  • She feels a phased return of up to six weeks would be required.
  • She believes that I am, when in good health, perfectly capable of undertaking the tasks of my job, but that assistance with the workload is imperative.
  • When I do return to work (or if?), good and ongoing management support will be required.
  • She feels that although I will hopefully be fit in future, that I should remain off for at least three to four further months, to enable me to have time to explore medications with a psychiatrist, and to continue my therapy with C.

Of course, regarding the last point, I have been off for months now, so I am not sure work will bother to hold the position for me for that long, especially after the none-too-subtle hints from the horse yesterday.  It is annoying; if I were up the stick, the position would be held almost indefinitely, cos you can’t fire people on the grounds of pregnancy or childcare.  But it is OK to victimise the victimised.

Before I left, the doctor went on to say that I will have to press my GP as regards the psychiatrist (as if I haven’t already, and as if I am not going to do so again!).  Intriguingly, though, she asked could I take a break from therapy.  Even I was surprised by my reaction to this – I immediately felt dread, fear, horror and panic at the very suggestion.  How utterly pathetic that I have become this reliant on one individual who will ultimately abandon me.  I said to the woman that I found it hard enough to cope when C is away for a week, so would probably have a complete nervous breakdown if my sessions with him were to cease in the near future.  She then suggested that, rather than having a break from the sessions, it might be worth discussing with C as to whether we could tone down the intensity of our meetings, for a couple of weeks anyway.  She did stress that she is not a psychological expert so this may not be appropriate, but again said that perhaps it is worth bringing up with C.

Ultimately, I don’t agree with the suggestion as, as horrendously painful as it is, I think I need to confront all my demons.  However, at least the woman was trying to offer me some constructive advice rather than just palming me off and pushing me out the door, and I am grateful to her for taking the time to do that.

Before shaking my hand again and telling me it was nice to meet me (apparently said with sincerity too), she gave me a HAD Scale form to fill in and leave at reception for inclusion with my notes, so that my progression (or indeed regression) can be monitored should work send me back to her again.  The last time I did one of these was back in October or so when I briefly saw a CBT therapist named Margaret on a private basis.  Even I was shocked by how much worse I seem to have become, and things were pretty bloody bad even then.  My ma, to my considerable annoyance, asked to read the HAD sheet.  I told her it would upset her, but she insisted.  I was right.  I thought the daft woman would cry in the bloody reception of the place.  Thank merciful Christ she did not, however.

So that was that.  I have spent the afternoon sitting recuperating from my ordeal in my ma’s back garden, trying to type this, though it has been difficult on and off to see the screen in this sunlight (so forgive me for any major, or indeed minor, errors).  In reality, the meeting was really not too bad; the woman was very pleasant, and if anything it was beneficial in that at least work will know I am completely off my head at present.  As usual, I had catastrophised the situation to death, unnecessarily.  But it is the fear of the unknown, the fact that that these folks are paid by my evil employers  – and thus, one would think, are biased in their favour – that led me to my conspiratorial and frantic beliefs about this whole thing.  I am pleased to report that my fears, for once, seem to have been ungrounded.

Ha ha ha.  Ungrounded for now, at least.  Now we’ll just have to see what work say!

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