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Work and mental health/therapy issues (long)

(12 Posts)
NamechangeyMcNameFace Mon 15-May-17 09:42:16

I suffer from depression and anxiety which, most of the time, is largely under control. Many of my issues stem from being sexually abused in childhood. Stress affects me badly and tends to manifest in flashbacks to these incidents, which then makes the stress and anxiety worse. Due to the things that happened to me, I was always terrified of having a smear test but, with the help of a very sympathetic and helpful GP, therapist and specialist gynaecologist, I managed to have my first one a few year ago, which is one of my greatest achievements in life. In order to continue to manage my issues, I have been seeing my therapist on a regular basis for a few years. Sometimes, we'll drop down to 6 month check-ins but at other times, when things get on top of me, I can call up and have a series of weekly or fortnightly meetings.

A few things have converged recently. I changed job last summer. It seemed like a great career opportunity but has, in reality, been a huge mistake. The organisation is not great, I am doing the work of about 3 people, working long hours and weekends, am constantly stressed out and on edge. The pressure and demands on me are enormous, in terms of workload, targets, deadlines etc and my line manager is not supportive at all. This has contributed to the vicious cycle of flashbacks and increased anxiety in day-to-day life. Around the same time, I had to have my next smear as three years had elapsed. I was obviously terrified but determined to do it again. I don’t know if it was to do with the general stress I was under or because it was a different doctor from before but it went really badly, even though the doctor was trying to be gentle and put me at ease (she knew the background), it hurt and afterwards I felt violated, dirty and ashamed - back to the feelings I had growing up. I reacted really badly, becoming withdrawn, would not let DH come anywhere near me and in the weeks afterwards would freak out if anyone even barely touched me for any reason, or stood to close to me. I had suicidal thoughts and ended up hurting myself (something I used to do as a teenager). Going back to regular therapy sessions was the only thing that helped me through this, even thought it was the darkest and lowest I have been in a very long time. I'm still dealing with the effects and trying to work through it all and am still in quite a low mood with heightened anxiety.

Work obviously isn’t helping the situation. They don’t know anything about this. I can hold things together in my professional life. I work at a very senior level and the company director is my line manager. She has a very dim view of people claiming stress and often laughs about "so-called mental health issues", which makes me feel worse. She has told me about other colleagues who have had time off for stress, referring to them as weak and pathetic and not the sort of people she wants working for her. She also takes a very hard line on people taking too much time off for medical appointments and I aware of other colleagues having had disciplinary action taken against them for this or ultimately being managed out of their jobs. This hasn’t been a problem as my therapist's clinic ran until 7pm twice a week so after I'd explained the issues with the new job, the therapist ensured I was always slotted in after 5pm and I told my boss I had to leave sharp on those occasions due to family commitments. I was actually able to be honest with my previous employers, who were supportive and allowed me to take the time I needed for appointments. Unfortunately, my therapist retired a few months ago. She told me she was handing me over to a colleague who would be able to continue our work and who, crucially, also ran late clinics so the timings could remain the same. This hasn’t been the case, however.

My new therapist, although helpful in many ways, keeps trying to schedule appointments in the middle of the day. I have asked about the late clinics which she says do happen but there never seems to be any appointments available. The nature of my work is that I am in constant meetings/appointments which are set about three months in advance and are nigh on impossible to be rearranged. Obviously there is occasional sick leave which can't be helped, although my boss takes a dim view of this also, but regularly having to leave for a few hours, just won’t work in this job and I really don’t want to have to disclose the issue to my boss. My therapy appointments can only be made from one week to the next so it's not even as if I can give a longer term forecast of my availability.

This new therapist has accused me of being inflexible and not wanting to take the help on offer, when I have asked if we could look at alternate appointment slots (e.g. "I definitely can't do next Tuesday at 11am but might be able to re-arrange things on Wednesday afternoon, if you have anything available there?", so not demanding the 5pm+ slots but still trying to make things easier) but I get told that the appointments offered are non-negotiable and then she tries to analyse why I'm trying to either "wriggle out of" or "control" the sessions. I'm not; they are all that keep me going at the moment. I don’t know why it is so difficult to understand that I can't just drop or rearrange work at short notice.

I've, so far, had three appointments in the middle of the afternoon, which I've passed off as routine GP/dentist etc but have been told by my boss that these need to be arranged at more convenient times otherwise she'll be forced to give me a disciplinary meeting. My therapist has told me that in her professional opinion, I need to quit my job immediately and find a new one. This is easier said than done; there aren’t exactly jobs growing on trees at the moment. Unfortunately I work in a very niche area and have worked up to senior level over the years. I love my job, I love the industry but I hate my current employers. As soon as something equivalent comes up elsewhere, I will jump at the chance but right now, I have a mortgage to pay so I can't just leave, and I'm not going to throw away 12 years of work and further study in this industry to do something completely different. To make things clearer, I was at the point in my last job where I was working beyond my grade/expected responsibilities. I had passed further professional exams so was even more highly qualified but that organisation had nowhere for me to go so I bided my time for two years until something else came up. I'm not, therefore expecting to be able to move on quickly and I really don’t see that this is a difficult concept to grasp. My new therapist, last week, told me she was disappointed in me that I wasn't putting in any effort to help myself out of my situation. I'm hurt and angry by this attitude. I've put so much effort into overcoming my issues and leading a "normal" life but the work issue is not something I can easily and quickly resolve. I have, however, started working with a career mentor to look at ways in which I can alleviate some of the workload pressures in the short term. I thought this was a positive step but my therapist says it's not good enough and she isn’t sure if she can continue to help me unless I start putting my health above work. Life just doesn’t fit neatly into those separate boxes. I need her to help me so that I can cope with the rest of everyday life, including work.

So now I'm in a really bad place. I'm making myself ill with anxiety about my next appointment because I don’t want to get patronised or told off again but also because it is at another really inconvenient time work-wise and I haven't yet worked up the courage to tell my boss I won’t be at a particular meeting on this date or, even worse, how do I broach a conversation with her about ongoing health issues that I have so far kept separate from work?

VivienneWestwoodsKnickers Mon 15-May-17 09:52:26

Time to find a new therapist.

She's right that you need a new job, but she's not the boss of you and can't make your decisions for you.

Is the therapist registered with any professional body? What does their code of conduct say about how you should be treated? I'm sure that belittling you isn't in there.

Ask for your work, that's a tough one. I've worked for similarly unsupportive management, but shift work meant I could hide appointments. I agree with why you're not telling her what's going on. I don't have any useful answers though. Moving therapist may help with the times etc.

wfrances Mon 15-May-17 10:00:32

i see a therapist - i don't think they're supposed to tell you what to do or tell you off . crikey ,my psychiatrist doesnt even tell me what to do or tell me off.
id get a new therapist .
i thought you are supposed to disclose any mental health conditions to your employers , your last sentence suggests you didnt. if you had then maybe attending your therapy sessions wouldn't be so stressful.
just reread and i can see why you didn't disclose ,maybe this is not the employers for you ,your boss sounds like a witch.

LauderSyme Mon 15-May-17 10:15:04

I am so sorry for what you have had to endure and what you are dealing with. I know how debilitating surviving abuse can be. It sounds like you are doing amazingly well.

I think you need to find a new therapist. Just because your previous therapist handed your case to this one, it does not mean you have to stick with her. A client and their therapist need to be a good fit - on a number of levels - if the client is to reap maximum benefit, and that is not the case here.

She is not helping you. In fact she is actively making you feel worse and making your situation harder. That should absolutely not be happening! She is destroying your trust and confidence in her with her misplaced focus on your availability. That is not a good basis from which to help you deal with your very difficult issues.

Do you think it is possible to find an alternative therapist?

dotandstripe Mon 15-May-17 10:18:32

Are you somewhere other than the UK? It's very unusual in the UK to not have regular weekly sessions at the same time every week (this is better for the client and therapist both!) but I know it happens more in the US.

You should be able to find a therapist who will book a regular session time for you, though.

50ShadesOfEarlGrey Mon 15-May-17 10:21:44

I think you have a combination here of a dreadful company to work for and a very inflexible therapist. You have said that you cannot move jobs easily, could you find another therapist?

Is it possible you could contact your original therapist and ask if there is anyone else she could recommend? Alternatively, is there a list of therapists that specialise is childhood sexual abuse.

A possible alternative would be if current therapist could book out a regular early slot, which you have permanently booked out in your diary. You say you are working at a senior level, perhaps you have to use that level of authority to say 'I will not be in until 11.00 every Tuesday morning, that is not negotiable' if you are working the hours you say then I think that is acceptable, although it sounds as though your line manager may not agree.

I have worked in very stressful roles for decent reward, but have had periods of being off from work with stress and exhaustion. I have come to realise that actually good mental health is worth more than the reward from working at that level and have taken the decision to downsize my career, it works for us, providing I don't spend anything like as much as I used to, actually so long as I don't spend anything!

This doesn't seem a good enough response to your long post McNameFace but I think you know that things cannot continue as they are, as you are likely to become too ill to continue to work anyway.
You are clearly a very strong person, but don't push yourself to breaking

Mellifera Mon 15-May-17 10:42:57

I'd find a therapist who can guarantee you evening slots, on a weekly basis.
It's quite common for people not to be able to do daytime appointments and the way she tells you it's you being controlling is not acceptable.

Of course you know you need a different employer but if she can't see that a job won't magically appear in a niche environment she's not quite getting it, and not getting you.
You need someone supportive.

Well done for looking after yourself and keep fighting those demons, I know how tough it is.

Xmmuldoon01X Mon 15-May-17 22:27:28

I'm needing some sort of advise or if anyone know anything that can help me stop doing this or help them grow back, I sit and pick my eye leashes out this isn't sore it's more of a relief I have been doing it for many years but I have had baldy eyes for about 3 years now and I'm fed up wearing false eyelashes and stuff I have looked into this as it's affecting my well and truly now and I have got Trichotillomania does anyone know what can make the bald patches grow back ?

NamechangeyMcNameFace Thu 18-May-17 10:35:09

Thanks to everyone who has replied. I meant to respond sooner but work has really gotten in the way this week! I have my next appointment at 3pm this afternoon. I've been rehearsing some statements, in a very non-confrontational way, about work being an area largely beyond my control and while it definitely contributes to my stress and anxiety, it is not the main factor and is not the issue to be treated in these sessions. I'm also going to try to clarify whether there are evening appointments and how far in advance these need to be booked as the current arrangements are actually making my situation worse.

In terms of work. I know things have to change but I'm not yet at the point of throwing away a 16 year career, just to get away from the current employers. I am prepared to take a step down and adjust my lifestyle accordingly, I am not necessarily looking for another job at the same level. I am also learning to drive so that I can travel to a job outside this city if something comes up. Interestingly, I met my predecessor at a conference a few months back and, after dancing around the issue for a while, she confided how miserable she had been in this position; how her health and relationships were affected and how her new job (she was lucky enough to move sideways into another company) is a lot less pressured despite being at the same level. So I have hope that the job is right for me, but the current employers are not. I know I could tackle things with my boss to right now, with everything else going on, I am just not strong enough to do that.

Mellifera Sat 20-May-17 19:34:10

I hope you got the appointment issues sorted with your therapist. What you say about work sounds good, and if you don't feel strong enough to tackle your work issues, there is no point in doing so. Who knows, while you gain strength there might be a possibility of a sideways move coming up for you too. Good luck. 💐

Ormally Wed 24-May-17 10:38:30

You are between 2 controlling people here. Your boss, certainly, is pushing a boundary though won't see she is doing anything detrimental because she is working completely in the interest of the company, coloured by her own opinions, by the sound of it. Your therapist will be doing this because of a theory that regularity (even what seems like inflexibility) is beneficial and more secure than making plans reactively - however, if your life doesn't work that way, then it doesn't work that way. She may even be trying to see how you react to/stand up to inflexibility and control by doing this.

Your words seem to say you want to have therapy to be able to 'cover this up' sufficiently so as to have little impact on your working circumstances - however, in your life, it does not take too much to push anxiety's buttons. Your therapist may not invest quite so much importance in the 'covering up' aspect. Do you care about your work? It sounds like it; perhaps having a bit more detachment by and by would be healthy and better for stress. Do you actively prioritise things several times a week for yourself that bust stress - not just lip service once a week? An hour and a half of 'not-that; not-work; purposeful time'? The discipline to do this is a massive help after a little while.

If it were me, I would write to your therapist explaining your tensions with her and your wishes for your own therapy - i.e. at least initially, coping with things as they are for you and not opening too much of Pandora's box. Use some of what you have said above in your posts. Look at it again in a week's time, reflect and edit. Give this letter to your therapist at the beginning of your session - it feels grim and you will be worried about that, but do it anyway. It sounds like reflecting and editing will be overkill, but actually, it will mean you invest enough effort in it for it to influence you to actually give her this letter. This will be productive, I promise, and will get inside some of what you really need to say.

Ormally Wed 24-May-17 19:43:34

...Plus, I'm realizing that this is someone you have not chosen, although your previous therapist was, and a significant part connected with that was because of the evening appointments. From what I have found out, it takes a heck of a long time to trust a therapist when you are talking in hourly increments, and the trust can fluctuate as well.

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