Some of you that follow me on social media platforms may have seen a few posts regarding my job over the last few months.
In November 2017 I was signed of work due to anxiety and stress. I was a primary school teacher and under the most pressure I've ever felt in a job, it wasn't my first job - I've worked since I was 16. My anxiety got worse over time but I tried to carry on for the children, I'd convinced myself that if I carried on and worked harder the job would get easier and my anxiety would reduce. I now know that that decision made my mental health decline even more rapidly.
I would get the train to work and have a panic attack on the train, I'd be in tears until I heard the name of my stop. In my mind at the time, I had to suck it up and stop crying in case any of the children or parents were around. I would often arrive at school at 7:15am (in the hope of getting some work done), I'd be rushing around trying to eat something while trying to photocopy 30 of everything in preparation for next week’s lessons then come back to class to get into the mind-set of that day. I'd stay after school to mark books and prep for the next day. I'd jump on my train home at about 5.30 and sit marking the homework or a few books on my journey. After I'd eaten my dinner, on many occasions, I'd start on the books I’d brought home to finish marking and have an anxiety attack before bed. It was about to begin all over again and I'd not finished writing comments in the maths books.
My boyfriend was so helpful and supportive, he often told me it wasn't normal to bring a suitcase home of work for the weekend or be that worried about not having enough time. After calming me down after an anxiety attack, he told me not to go to work tomorrow but to the doctor. My mum would listen to me crying over the phone and tell me I had to talk to someone. Finally, I had several members of staff over a period of about 2 weeks approach me to ask if I was okay and to tell me I can talk to them. Thank you to all of these people because after a night of tears and strained breathing, I woke up and called in sick. It was the most difficult thing I'd done in a long time, I mean, I had lessons to teach and I knew other classes would be disrupted so that a member of staff could cover my class. I knew that I wasn't there to help Jessica* with her english work and help her to achieve the best she could. I wasn't there to have extra time with Luke* to go over his maths work from the day before. I'd left resources in a draw, what if they didn't find them? What was the doctor going to say? What if I have to go back? What if I'm off for a while?
I was signed off immediately, prescribed anti-anxiety medication and the doctor even suggested I look for a new position - he signed me off work for 4 weeks. Fast forward, more sick notes and doctors’ appointments later and I'm at a meeting about coming back to work.
I go back to work, I arrive after more tears on the train, actual trembling and thinking I should have just handed in my notice. I've had to face the staff that had to cover my class while I was away, I've looked at which lessons I'm to teach. Just 10 minutes before the children come into the classroom, I stood in my classroom cupboard trying to steady my breathing, I then realise I'm close to having a panic attack but the children are here. I put on my fake smile, tell the children how amazing it is to see them again (it really was, I loved the kids) and said hello to parents as the kids trickled into class.
During the holidays, seeing my family at Christmas really helped me to realise that I wasn't myself. I called in at work in January after another night of panic attacks (I'd had none over Christmas). I went back to the doctors, I got advice from my union and had meetings. I left that school. It's been a very long process and it's taken me time to recover.
Overall I learnt that it is so important to speak to people about how you are feeling and not to push yourself. The latter was a major issue for me, I kept putting pressure on myself to be okay. If you’d broken your leg, you wouldn’t be struggling to get into to work to do your job, you’d be recovering. And if you are struggling with anxiety or any other mental health issue, you need recovery time!
I posted these photos with this post because I'm happy again and I haven't had a panic attack in quite a few months now. I am happy and almost anxiety free. Plus I have a new job in a totally different field! So I'm feeling very lucky that my experience of anxiety seems to be nearing an end.
On a side note would anyone like to hear my experience with the NHS for my treatment because it was very hit and miss?
Help for Mental Health:
Find psychological therapies in your area. (You can refer yourself!)