Bolt From The Blue

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.

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5 thoughts on “Bolt From The Blue

  1. Hey imillnotcrazy completely identify with that panic not only at seeing the person but the memories they bring back. I had to stop college more than a year back as I was too unwell and was admitted to hospital a few times but I’m giving returning part time a go next week and all I can think when I see someone randomly on the street or I suspect when I go part time in September is of the times when I was visibly falling apart there and how they saw me at times. It’s different but I do identify with that anxiety and the almost flashbacks(not in the serious sense) I get. Someone pointed out to me now though that although I am still ill I’m not in the same place I was back then, it’s just different this time. It’s sounds an obvious thing and maybe it is to you but when I see someone in the street and I get that panic sick feeling and all I’m thinking was about ‘back then’ now I’m in a different place- I’m seeing things through different eyes, given that time has passed. Anyway, don’t know if you know what I mean but I definitely relate. X

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  2. Hey,

    Thanks again for your comment! I know exactly what you mean. When I was at work, although I was on a low dose of meds, I hadn’t seen anyone from the CMHT and was also ‘falling apart’. Since then, I’ve been diagnosed and treated appropriately. Also like you, I’m still ill but am learning to manage it.

    Well done for giving college another go. What are you going to study? I’m considering having a go at an Open University module from this October – just to see how it feels to have a bit more structure to my day but without any real pressure or having to leave the house! Anyway, again like you, its a bit of a leap of faith but I feel more…aware, I think.

    x

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    1. Aware is definitely the right word for me! I’m going to try doing some AS levels.ah that’s great, I’ve heard open university is brilliant. Continually encouraged by your twitter and blog. X

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  3. Hi, I went back to work after a 9 month leave due to everything you just described. I am working somewhere different now, I wouldn’t know how to face the people that witnessed my breakdown. My therapist would have me drive to the old parking garage for exposure and just being in that garage brought back too much. Good for you for waving back! I think I would of pretended not to see them and sped off.

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  4. Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry you’ve been ill but congratulations on making it back to work; I know how much courage that must have taken. Hopefully, through therapy, you have the tools to help you better manage things you’ve struggled with in the past.

    Driving off would be my natural response too, but we were in a queue at traffic lights!

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