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PTSD has cost me my role, help!(18 Posts)
I had Birth Trauma (PTSD after birth) when my eldest was born nearly 8 years ago, it's no longer a day to day issue but it does mean that random things can trigger easier than they should.
I have worked for my housing association (ie the one I rent from) for the last 10 years in various volunteer roles, mostly different panels but at some points I have been full time with them. I limited my career/ training options before I had my children because I was full time with them, I limited my search when my physical disability meant I needed to move house as I wanted to stay within the association. I have always had a good reputation within the company including the directors. I took a break after my eldest was born and attended a special meeting on my estate when she was a toddler, the man running it was someone I hadn't met before and after that meeting he went back to the office and said "I've just met someone we need working with us" to one of the managers, she asked what their name was and when he said she said "I know her, she's good, it would be good to get her back". Since then I have been at their beck and call, they use me to fill numbers when they have a meeting that they can't recruit or telephone interviews. I was in hospital after my second daughter was born taking phone calls and booking meetings. All my kids have been to meetings as I was going when they were tiny, one of them even went on a training weekend.
I have been working for a couple of years on the Scrutiny Panel. Basically the govt disbanded the governing body and told organisations they had to do it themselves, so we're an important, high level group. A few months ago it was announced that we would at some unspecified point in the future be having appraisals for the first time. I have had a rough stressful time in my personal life recently which has meant lots of reports and meetings (very difficult to explain without going into more detail than I'm happy to) and the idea of another group triggered my PTSD. I can hardly sleep and when I do I have been having nightmares, I can't open post or the front door anyone who visits knows to ring my mobile and tell me they're about to press the intercom, I'm crying all the time and constantly on edge. I had an email asking me to go to my appraisal, it came very last minute and as usual they expect us all to be on call for them. I said that I wasn't available and admitted that actually this has made me very ill. There was no suggestion of what can we do differently, how can we help etc I was basically told you do it or step down.
I argued that I would not step down (they can't "fire" me) and they can't force me to over this because it's disability. It ended up going up to the manager who decided to get it investigated by the complaints team. I've just had a letter saying that I can't continue unless I do this appraisal and it's my own fault for not saying something sooner. The fact I was shaking in my bed (I barely leave my bedroom at the moment so that I can't be seen from outside) and could barely speak to anyone in my family even is obviously irrelevant.
I love my job, I love my HA, I don't want to lose this after the sacrifices I've made for them over the years and besides I don't think they should be allowed to get away with this. Do I have support under DDA? What do I do now?
If they did not know about the PTSD then they can't have been using it against.
Why the issue with appraisals?
I'm not a lawyer and have no knowledge of employment law, but I'd have thought that you're in a vulnerable position given that, if I understand your post properly, you've never been employed by this organisation, your work has all been voluntary.
Is there any chance you could negotiate for more time to prepare for your appraisal?
Is there any way you could use the skills and experience your volunteering has provided to find a paid job, maybe in another association, where you would be on a firmer footing with more security?
They didn't know and I hoped that I would cope but when it came to it I had to tell them. As soon as I did they told me that it didn't matter, do the appraisal or step down. We considered board level, apparently, so we have to do what the board has to do. There's no deadline on this, they've known now for over 4 months, they could have come up with an alternative suggestion.
As I said, there's been a lot of meetings and reports in the last 18 months in my private life, it's been a really stressful time and I have struggled to get through it. We were at a point where everything had wound down and I was starting to feel safe then it felt like something else hit. I'm not worried what they will say, just the idea of being under more scrutiny (ironic maybe) has given me nightmares about what we've been through recently and I'm scared of the door/ phone/ post because I don't know what's going to turn up next.
I think more time would be an issue, I would have probably handled it better if they hadn't said three months in advance that it was going to happen and just said "we're going to use this session to do appraisals" dragging it out is probably part of the problem, partly because of how long we've been going through things here and partly because it is giving me time to dwell on it.
It's frustrating that before this I had said that because of the things I'm going through I was considering stepping down and they argued with me to stay.
I've had debates with my mum over the years about getting employment in housing, I'm not sure if it's what I would want to do as it's a different job and I like working for the residents. At one point we were looking at sourcing funding to create a job on my estate but we've not got the support here for resident involvement. I'm not sure I'd be seen as qualified enough either, depends whether 10 years of resident involvement would make up for it.
I'm not clear why you're putting yourself through all this for no income, it sounds like it's making you very unwell. What are you getting out of it?
I don't understand. Do you now have a job with this HA or have you been a fulltime volunteer for years? Why? What's in this for you, stressing and worrying and taking your children into meetings? It sounds like a very one-sided arrangement.
I'm not an expert but I do know you don't have to have disclosed the condition to your employer to be protected by the act (but obviously they are not under any obligation to make the 'reasonable adjustments' if you haven't disclosed) and any mental health problem that has a serious and ongoing effect on you can potentially give you rights under the DDA
I've always really enjoyed what I've done, I've been on different panels over the years and been involved with some big changes, built up a good reputation. It's literally just this appraisal that has triggered. The stuff that it's brought up is separate from it. I enjoy the work and I like knowing I'm making a difference to where I live.
I'm not full time now, I was for awhile before I had children, these are monthly meetings (less often with some of the other panels I've been on) with some work to do between (might be interviewing staff or residents, visiting other organisations, reading the benchmarking website but all of it is a couple of hours a month outside the meetings). The organisation know that if you're asking residents to be involved that things like a mother bringing a baby with her are going to happen, my older children they've paid for a childminder or an extra day in nursery if necessary or picked me up from my parents house so I can leave them there.
I haven't told them about the PTSD before because it's never been an issue before. The last 5 years I have been a lot better, but it's one of those things that's never gone and this is the first time that something from the work I do has triggered it, normally it's my escape. When it was an issue I told them, they're still offering to do the appraisal and they've known that it's a trigger for 4 months so not like they haven't had the opportunity to do something, they're saying appraisal or step down.
The single most important thing you can do is get proper support for the PTSD (especially as your symptoms are not of the 'classic' kind). Who is leading your care?
I haven't seen anyone for years over it because it was better. I was a lot more classic of Birth Trauma when it was bad, my second daughter was the miracle cure! Both births had been under GA which had been a big factor the first time but the second time was more planned and slower and when I woke up I felt calmer than I had in 2.5 years, I never had problems again in that way. I do get a little jumpier than before but not been like this.
What's happened this time has been from having unexpected letters and people knocking on the door bringing lots of different bad news, so the thought of more meetings, more forms to fill in, me being in the spotlight has made me relive the anxiety of what went on in my private life. I handled all of that (which I can't explain properly but it's been horrific) a lot better than I am handling this. I guess as everything was winding down and I was starting to feel it was all over then this came from another direction. I know that the appraisal will go well (or would have before all this!) and not worried about it, it's not like I'm expecting them to tell me I'm a terrible member of the panel. My nightmares haven't even been around the HA, it's all been about what happened before that.
OP it seems you are a volunteer not an employee. As far as I know, volunteers have very few rights. If you feel you've been treated less favourably due to a protected characteristic then that might give recourse in some way, but I honestly don't know where you'd take the complaint.
It seems like the ptsd is the issue, you're not employed so it's not really an employment issue. You need urgent psychiatric support from the sound of it.
With regard to your volunteer role, what would you consider an acceptable alternative? Would you be happy to do a different volunteer role that doesn't require an appraisal? Is there an alternative approach to the appraisal that could work for you?
I said I'm not under anyone but I have seen my GP, I'm actually not so stressed out since it blew up because I'm no longer thinking about the appraisal.
I do want to continue with what I'm doing, it's more active than other roles I've done and I enjoy what we do. I have a feeling if I walk away from this that they will drop me from the lists for awhile until someone "discovers" me again and I'm not convinced I would forgive and forget.
I do think there are things they could do differently to help me and if they had asked we could have had a discussion about it. There are members of staff I am more comfortable with (in the right dept although we have a policy that anyone you speak to should be able to answer anything) who know me better, they could help me fill in the paperwork rather than sending it to my house to stress me out, they could be a little more understanding about it rather than pretty much telling me tough. I'm not asking them not to do it, I'm asking them to work with me to do things in a way that is not going to trigger.
Maybe I would have been better finding a different topic to put this in, I picked it up from Last 15 so could have missed something else. Even if it's not discrimination as employment,
Not sure where my mind went there as I have left half a sentence.
...it is discrimination if they are point blank refusing to work around the issue and saying I have to step down if I don't do it.
What is your GP doing to support you? If you are barely leaving your bedroom, not answering the door or opening post, not sleeping and crying all the time, then you really need significant psychiatric support. For your own sake and your children. Concentrate on that first, rather than the volunteer role.
Contact someone you work well with at the HA and ask if they can help you to fill in the forms. They should be able to at least find out what's possible. I think if it was an employment situation you wouldn't be able to avoid having an appraisal in some form either.
What adjustments have you asked them to make?
Do they know you consider it to be a disability? If it's not a day to day issue and has only reared its head again quite recently they may not necessarily have thought it is?
Have you asked your GP what adjustments your employer could make?
The trouble it caused me was before it all came to a head, I can't even remember when the last nightmare I had was.
I'm not trying to get out of doing the appraisal.
I haven't asked them to make adjustments because until this it wasn't an issue and now it is they've said tough do it in the same way as everyone else or leave. I found out since that they've invited people to come to my appraisal that weren't at everyone else's, that's since they knew it was stressing me out! I'm not talking about someone I trust or someone from our C&S arm, just a "Hey, we've still got Confuddled's appraisal to do, fancy joining us for it?" to another resident who's on the panel. The idea of three of them would have made me sick if the person himself hadn't approached me, told me and said he didn't think it was appropriate.
It probably won't ever be a problem again if things are sorted because it will be far enough from the stuff I've been through recently not to add to it and having done it before it won't be a great unknown.
TBH the new woman who is running it incredibly overzealous, she's forced someone else to step down because he wasn't attending meetings, which no one expected him to before her because he works and we had to move meetings to 5pm as we had an outside facilitator until we were established who had a long train journey home (Midlands to Wales) so we had to get her out of there for the last train. We have a councillor on the panel who has never been to a meeting but she's let off because she's a councillor. We lost our chair because he's a teacher and she kept ringing him in the day, his wife is seriously ill so he has to keep his phone on so not only was he being disturbed he was stressing about his wife each time. From what I hear the group is nearly too small to continue with the amount of losses, I'm half hoping it does so we get a decent member of staff to take over. It's supposed to be resident run because of the nature of our work and a member of staff to facilitate/ coordinate but she's taken over.
Ok well if you don't want to get out of doing the appraisal, what could they do to make it acceptable to you?
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