Returning to work following a BPD crisis
Posted Monday 25 July 2011
This is a guest blog by Sharon Howard.
I have just completed my second week back at work after my latest BPD crisis. Making the step to return to work was a difficult one. I was terrified of not being able to cope; what people would think of me (many of the people I work with know why I was off, my BPD is 'out-of'-the-bag' so to speak) and just the whole process of working in general. But, I had to do it; I knew this since I first handed in my sick note in April.
I also knew that I had to do it sooner rather than waiting (as I had intended) until I started to get some help for my condition. After all I still have no idea if or when any therapy/help for my BPD will actually materialise... The longer I left it the harder it would be to go back, and not only that but the less likely I would be to actually return.
I had only been in the job 3 weeks when I had my crisis and ended up in A&E after an overdose. Now, after 2 months of trying to sort myself out, I'm just about coping but still not receiving any help despite having had a private psychiatric assessment because the NHS waiting list is so long.
At my last visit to occupational health the doctor suggested I shouldn't return to work, but I knew this would be a huge mistake. Firstly, leaving now would make it harder to get another job later; secondly, I knew I needed an anchor — something positive to occupy me and keep me from slipping back.
There was of course the problem that while I have good days where working will be fine, I'm still also having bad days where I will struggle. Occupational health tried to use this to further encourage me to leave, under the suggestion that should I struggle and end up having more time off sick I may end up falling foul of disciplinary procedures and end up being forced to leave. Well, I'd rather that and know I tried than give up without a fight!
Another thing was the knowledge that my not wanting to go back to work was actually another symptom of my BPD — I was looking for another career change, to do anything rather than face my fears. So, challenging myself not to let the BPD win and prove I can do this was another motivator to just get on with it and return to work, ready or not...
So, I'm back at work, currently just 3.5 hours a day 3 days a week, with a review each week to see if I am ready to add more to this. I felt very awkward returning but no-one was condescending or treated me with kid gloves. No-one said anything about my time off, they just seemed genuinely pleased for me that I had returned. Of course, as I was new to the job anyway, it's like starting again — I hadn't really learned my role before I went off.
The first few days were hard, I looked for reasons not to go in, then getting angry with myself for not wanting to go. The compulsion for self-harm became immense, but luckily rather than acting on it I told someone about it: a big step for me!
The last couple of days I haven’t struggled with anxiety and fear as much, hopefully this is a sign that I am starting to adjust back into it…I have a long way to go and I'm still scared about whether I can really handle this, but I will keep on trying - what else can I do? I'm not really a quitter.
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