In the 7 years since this anxiety condition had first invaded Grimble’s mind, times had changed: thankfully. The same medical offers had been made in the recent weeks: medication, therapy, counselling and occupational health. However, the style and approach now, compared to seven years ago, were totally different. For Grimble, this was most welcome. However, the return to the language of mental health had thrown her mind’s memory back to the time before and, for the first time in many years, she reflected on that past experience.
She’d ended up seeking help because, five months after the final traumatic life event and eighteen months since the first, she finally accepted that she was not coping particularly well. Perhaps she always knew that she wasn’t well but facing up to it was really difficult. Instead she had played a major masking game. She remained at school in a way that really should have sent alarm bells ringing loudly through her management’s sensibilities. She arrived there at 7am and left at 6pm as the caretaker almost shoved her out. Was this devotion? No: it was desperation. Her house was too empty and rammed with upsetting stuff like other people’s photos, clothes and letters. Things that she really couldn’t face on a nightly basis. Did these long hours increase her productivity and benefit the students? Did it hell! She sat there, staring at her desk or her computer giving off a really good semblance of dedication, dreading the moment when she would go home, make her ubiquitous bacon and egg sandwich and collapse on the bed for another night, where if she got three hours of sleep, she considered herself blessed. The next early morning, fuelled on a breakfast of an energy drink for daytime survival, she’d start the cycle again.
The grim realisation that this was just daft and dangerous was when her Head, with a tone of appreciation, commented on how hard she had been working, and gave her that ridiculous contented expression of a boss who believed that she now presented the perfect example of a hard working teacher. Actually, the reality was that her dedication and devotion to her job was struggling to reveal itself with the mishmash of mind madness going on inside her head. One lucid thought that she did have, was one that she’d always harboured, no bugger knew anything much about what working well or effectively actually was. Stay long hours, be seen by management and evidently you were doing it right.
Faced with this sham, Grimble decided to take some control over what was becoming ever more uncontrollable. The next morning, she arrived at 7am without the stimulation of an energy drink, looking tired and grey. She presented herself at the Head’s office. Lucidly, she explained that she was going home via the doctor’s surgery, she wasn’t well and she needed to sort out her mind as a matter of some urgency. She had been trying to deal with three bereavements on her own and really, from what purported to be a caring profession, there should have been some acknowledgement that her frankly bizarre working pattern since these events was perhaps something that needed addressing. However, time had since taught her, that where workplace management was concerned, providing the employee turned up to the job wearing matching shoes and had reasonable body hygiene, they were deemed to be fully functional and fit. She also accepted her own responsibility in this façade.
This was late November and, as she she walked to the door, the Head commented that he’d see her before Christmas. Grimble turned and responded that she considered that highly unlikely. In fact, twelve months later, having never returned, she resigned and disappeared off to Spain and another, far better chapter of her life. However, before that happened, she followed the accepted manual and undertook the series of processes designed to make her well.
The counselling given had been great. There again, PTSD was a feature of that workforce, so it bloody well should have been. The rest of the treatment offered was less effective. Her doctor, whilst incredibly sympathetic, was dealing with her own issues: an accusation of racial discrimination and, amazing though it might sound, or perhaps because Grimble had a trusting, kind face, she actually felt she knew as much about her doctor’s crisis as she had knew about her own during her monthly appointments.
At the end of these sessions, as they became, she was prescribed something in tablet form to make her more relaxed, happy and content and thereby able to face triple bereavement and desertion. Each time, she’d patiently explained she was not going to take the pills. Grimble felt her road to recovery was to work through this, with support and not to obliterate it with medication.
As a result, only the counselling was of use. The first session wasn’t that great though. A Grumpy Grimble sat huddled with a cup of hot tea, clenched hands, declining to discuss anything much. In fact, she was very afraid. She felt that if she started to speak, she’d start to cry and never stop. Therefore, she hid her terrified self beneath a cynical grouchy body or used humour to distract herself and everyone from the real problem. The second session, they made some limited progress. She cried and sobbed for the whole hour and beyond, murmuring about unfairness of life, anger and anguish, but finally she did stop. Then they got to work and her counsellor offered her ideas that she still tried to use now: writing, taking time each day to sit quietly and empty her mind, doing things that made her feel happy such as walks and living for now. This all began slowly to work and the pills remained firmly sealed.
The other aspect of recovery was the Occupational Health that this former employer used which, to put it mildly, was simply shocking and had given her an avid aversion to all forms of Occupational Health as it left a legacy of being unscrupulous and disinterested. This mindset was only rectified this week. Plus, the organisation that had given her the phobia thankfully no longer existed. In fact, she later learnt that this company had a toxic reputation for handling cases. Not to dwell on all the horrid aspects of this, it was the sole focus of this organisation to get her back to work full time unassisted and irrespective of her mental condition. The initial response to her messy and horrendous life revelation, was a response of a nondescript “shame and you’ll be fine”. No offer of workplace restructuring just a sense of man up and get back in there. After this, she’d really had enough. The resignation came shortly after.
Now, she was back in a doctor’s surgery: a doctor who had not proffered their own emotional crisis to her. Instead they had offered Grimble a range of support and courses: some free and some cheap as chips. She’d engaged with this process. She had requested Occupational Health herself in a brave attempt to vanquish that nostalgic nightmare. The signs were encouraging. The initial conversation to schedule a meeting had been respectful and understanding. And, so far, there was not a pill in sight.