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Returning to work after mental ill health - any experiences and advice please?(8 Posts)
I have OCD (diagnosed and hospitalised as a teenager over 25 years ago). I’ve had several relapses since then of varying severity. I’m in one currently, probably triggered by Covid. I’m waiting for a course of CBT, on the max dose of sertraline plus propananol and diazepam and have been off sick from work for a few weeks. Apart from a couple of weeks off sick in pregnancy this is my first major sick leave in 18 years.
Firstly I was off for 2 weeks in the summer, worked on self led CBT and meditation, journaling etc and planned my own phased return to work over 2 weeks which went well. Then I had 2 weeks planned annual leave before starting back full time. Returning to work after leave was a disaster - I couldn’t cope at all, and by the middle of that week I was signed off again. That was almost 3 weeks ago. I’m gutted as all my coping strategies failed which has left me feeling so low and anxious.
I’m now scared to return at all as I’m thinking I need to leave work as it’s too big a role for me to cope with alongside managing OCD. I also feel terribly guilty about being off sick when my company is making COVID related compulsory redundancies.
I think I need to find something more manageable, although I’m so low in confidence at the moment I’m struggling to focus on what that could be.
I’m scared that if I return to work I’m going to be overwhelmed and set back like before.
Does anyone have any experience of returning to work that went well that they could share? Or of not returning because of mental ill health or moving on?
Hi there, sorry to hear things have been so rough for you lately.
Does your company have an Occupational Health department? May be worthwhile asking your manager to refer you, and they will support you while you're off work and also liaise with your manager about a phased return to work, reduced duties at first etc. If you require any adjustments int he workplace they can assist and support you?
Thank you. We don’t have an in house dept but a contracted OH service, I will ask my manager to refer me.
I had 4 months off my PhD a few years ago. I did 2 weeks part time increasing my hours over the course of the week. I had to take it slowly over the following weeks and ease back into the work. The key was to not go back to early. In hindsight I probably should have taken an extra few weeks off.
To manage being back at work I had to limit other things I had to do - cooking, cleaning, washing clothes and do more of the self care stuff. The initial period back at work is a vulnerable time, I have had to take a few days off here and there. Knowing that it's a vulnerable time before and after the days off an putting contingencies in place for other life aspects makes it easier to manage work and returns to work.
Don't quit just yet. If you leave, make it a planned move onto something better
I had a few weeks off due to mental health. Try and see them as separate instances rather than feeling its you can't manage the job. You have the ability. You clearly have good strategies and can keep control. What was it that overwhelmed you and what helps you?
I would say - are you speaking to work prior to return? This can go a long way to allaying anxiety about returning. Are there temporary reasonable adjustments that would help you, with workload or work/life balance? Do you have sufficient professional and family or friend support?
I spent a fair amount of time planning some hobbies, making sure I have down time scheduled, automating things as much as possible e.g. grocery order, for the coming few months. I agree the first week back is tough and if you can still have some days off here and there.
Thank you, this is really helpful.
I’m feeling so low and unmotivated at the moment I just can’t see a way back.
My understanding is that the return to work can cause anxiety. Its natural to start to worry about it. My GP said sometimes 2 weeks isn't long enough as people start to worry about going back. It sounds like previously you could control the anxiety by making a plan which worked for you but you have had your confidence knocked due to the work and got overwhelmed. Its understandable to be stressed.
I had 2 sickness periods, different triggers. Confidence does return. I found self compassion to be a helpful technique. Do you do any of those kinds of meditations?
Try not to feel guilty about your colleagues, your feelings matter.
You need to build your hours up, ask your manager if this is ok. Maybe couple hours a day, then up an hour following week
If you go back full time straight away, you will fall at the first hurdle, not wanting to go the next day. Where as a couple of hours you can get through and build up when you feel ready and more confident
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