This is not the blog post I intended to write today but, as the title suggests, I have just been derailed by a seemingly harmless incident. This afternoon, I looked in the rear view mirror of my car and spotted someone frantically waving at me and it wasn’t until she started sounding her horn that I recognised her as one of my former work colleagues. To be clear, I have no reason to be afraid of this person nor do I particularly dislike her – she just happened to be a daily presence during what was, for me, a pretty horrible time of my life.
It took no more than a split second for me to swing from being relatively relaxed and focused on my journey to having to deal with the host of bad memories invading my mind. Here are a few examples:
Being (literally) rooted to my seat with inexplicable fear, hands shaking and unable to form a coherent thought.
Sitting in meetings, knowing I should be making some kind of contribution but unable to speak so that I appeared to be, putting it nicely, surplus to requirements (I vividly remember one such meeting where I did not utter one word).
Having work for which I was overqualified taken from me because I couldn’t cope.
Being upset by noise in the office.
Being upset by people standing behind me, where I could not see them, so that I felt almost encroached upon.
Having a full-blown panic attack in front of an office full of people.
One incident where I staggered all the way from my seat to the bathroom (how I didn’t pass out I’ll never know) because I refused to eat in front of people and was basically starving.
…I could probably go on, but I think you get the picture! I should probably reiterate that my problems did not descend from my job. I wasn’t mistreated or bullied in any way, nor was I over-worked or under any stress – I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder.
It hardly comes as a surprise, therefore, that I was eventually referred to Occupational Health and subsequently signed off. That was three years ago and I haven’t managed back into employment since. Its true that I’ve been pretty ill during a lot of that time and wouldn’t have been able to work, but I worry that I have been away from work so long that I’ll never be able to return. I know for sure that I will never work in a typical office environment again: dealing with phone calls, meetings, noise…it’s not going to happen.
All of that being said, I do need to come to terms with my anxiety, accept that it will (probably) be a life-long condition and find something I can do!
My therapist would be annoyed at my use of the word ‘need’. I should have said ‘gently encourage myself’. Also, in case you’re wondering, I waved back at the lady in the car behind.