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Off with anxiety and work related stress

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by MayFlowers13, Apr 20, 2017.

  1. MayFlowers13

    MayFlowers13 New commenter

    Sorry in advance, this turned out to be much longer than I'd expected!

    I was diagnosed several years ago with depression and both general and social anxiety. This can obviously make teaching very difficult at times.

    About two and a half years ago I moved from the US after I got married and got a job teaching in an academy. I had a very difficult first year (2 terms) after jumping in to classes who had a lot of teacher turnover, with behaviour issues and feeling overwhelmed with all the classes etc. Things did get better my second year though there had been many times I thought I wouldn't make it to the end of that first year.

    I'm back for my third year (2nd and a half?) but I've been struggling a lot this year. I have a lot of stress at home as well and a lot of it comes from trying to accommodate all of my workload with family life. I'm the only person in my department who leaves at 5 everyday and I feel my work suffers because of it, but I need to pick up my kids and spend time with my family. To make up for it, I get up at 5am to get ready for the day ahead which is just not a feasible solution.

    Recently I've been feeling really overwhelmed and and anxious. The smallest things have me flying off the handle, crying, getting angry and upset. I have not been a great teacher because I haven't been able to control my emotions.

    I was signed off sick for 2 weeks before Easter break after having a panic attack and it was the first time I felt like I could relax in ages. During those 2 weeks I was responsible for setting cover, which added a lot of stress until I'd gotten it finished.

    Now the end of Easter break is approaching and I've been thinking about returning to work. Yesterday (Wednesday) was the first time I really thought about everything I would need to do (the planning, dealing with behaviour after 2 weeks of cover, etc) and I got extremely panicky again. Chest tight and fluttery, stomach nauseous, head feeling "zoomy". I couldn't read or relax or so anything but read these message boards. I couldn't sleep last night because all I was doing was obsessing over going back to work and once I finally did fall asleep I dreamt about it!

    I've been referred to Occupational Health, my appointment is a week after school resumes. I think school is expecting me to go back on Monday but the way I'm feeling I'm not sure I can/should.

    The first time I've relaxed since I ykubjt about it was after I messaged the doctor about a sick note extension.
  2. katykook

    katykook Occasional commenter

    You are clearly not ready to go back yet and I don't think you should contemplate doing so until you have had recommendations from Occupational health. Get a GP appointment asap and tell her what you've written here and the extended note won't be a problem. Also the school should not be expecting you to create cover work if you are off sick.
  3. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    No, no, no. If you are off sick you are not fit for work and that includes setting cover.
    This makes me think your school is not putting your interests first and you need to go back to your GP, get signed off again until after any meeting. Work should not give you panic attacks.
  4. MayFlowers13

    MayFlowers13 New commenter

    Thanks. At first I didn't realise I shouldn't be dealing with the cover but then I remembered lasy year someone else was off for stress and we took care of all the cover for her. My HOD emailed to ask if I would be able to plan lessons for the next week and I had to say no, even though it was hard. When I got signed off for the second week it just seemed assumed I would do the cover.
  5. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    1 Go to the GP and describe symptoms
    2 Get another note
    3 Submit it to school
    4 Send an email to HT and HoD "My illness prevents me from setting cover work. I am under medical instruction to refrain from working. Please refer the substitute teacher to the existing schemes of work."
  6. Tinycat1234

    Tinycat1234 Established commenter

    MellyBean good luck! Work should indeed not make you feel panicky. It sounds like you need some time off to get well... You are ill and shouldn't be expected to set cover work. Doing so will not help you recover. Contact your union if there is a problem. If you were Primary you would not be expected to set cover.
    thistledoo and MellyBean17 like this.
  7. delmamerchant

    delmamerchant Established commenter

    Please take the advice as it reads as if you are suffering from work induced stress and anxiety.
    You should definitely not be setting cover as that is work and you are off sick. I mean, if they saw you out having fun with friends they would question the validity of your sick leave.

    Please think about the fact that your family need you, Sonic you need time off to regain balance please take it without any guilt.

    Look after yourself, the time of will give you clarify.:)
  8. drvs

    drvs Lead commenter

    Don't worry about this. It often takes me a long time to relax after I ykubj about something too :D

    Just remember to ykubj responsibly and never ykubj and drive. Good luck with your recovery.
  9. MayFlowers13

    MayFlowers13 New commenter

    Ha!! That typo was really bugging me but I couldn't see any way to edit it. :)
  10. MayFlowers13

    MayFlowers13 New commenter

    I've just had a talk with my wife who thinks I need to go back on Monday. She thinks I psych myself up and get all in my head and make it much worse than it is (which I definitely do, that's anxiety) but I can't run away from it because it's just going to get worse the longer I'm off. I totally understand that because I had hoped this time off would help me be ready to go back but of course I'm panicking. I know she doesn't understand my anxiety and doesn't really know how to deal with it but she's trying her best to support me.

    She said since I'm feeling unprepared she wants me to get up and go for a run tomorrow to clear my head then she'll take the kids and I can go to a cafe and spend some time planning and getting ready. It's a really nice thing for her to offer, I know she often resents how much school work I have to do. But of course I broke down in tears. She told me that she's learned in CBT for depression that you can't just hide away, sometimes you just have to make yourself do something you don't want to do, and then it doesn't end up being so bad. I know she's also worried that I'll lose my job or quit my job and we depend on the money but she's also looking out for me in the best way she can.

    But now I'm so torn I really don't know what to do. She obviously wants me to go back and doesn't think taking more time off is the solution. In some ways I agree, and in other ways I don't feel ready to go back (but don't know how much of that is just the typical post-break feeling starting a bit early.

    I had a school dream again last night, except it was me not being at school and running in to students who said they missed me and when am I coming back or am I leaving. its like my subconscious was trying to guilt me in to going back!
  11. katykook

    katykook Occasional commenter

    Only you know if you are ready to go back. I think your wife is being supportive but she has been through CBT and you haven't. Have you had any counselling for anxiety? It may help to do some preparation to see how it makes you feel. If it increases your anxiety then you have your answer. You might not yet be mentally strong enough to face your fears in the way your wife suggests. It sounds like the time off you have had has only allowed you to remove yourself from the stress but not to start thinking about dealing with it.
  12. MayFlowers13

    MayFlowers13 New commenter

    Thank you, that's a really insightful response. My time off has definitely been spent removing myself from the stress but I haven't dealt with the anxiety like I should. I spent 2 weeks trying to psych myself to call for counselling but didn't manage to do it in that time, and then we had guests over there Easter holidays. I have had counselling for my anxiety in the past but it's been at least 5 years now and I know I would benefit from it. My school has an amp Moyer assistance program and I've reached it to them via chat and email but they've told me to call to arrange counselling. If I stay off next week I know I NEED to face the dreaded phone call because I really do need some support in dealing with all the thoughts swirling around in my mind. It will be extra hard to do counselling once I'm back at work due to the time constraints and the stress of being back at work so it would be good to get started before I go back if I can. I think I will still try and do some lesson planning and see what kind of mindset that puts me in though.
  13. mothorchid

    mothorchid Senior commenter

    I' so sorry to hear that this is happening to you, Mellybean. You are not alone.

    I suspect that if the school wants you to see OH after school resumes, then they don't expect you to be back.

    It may take a lot longer than you - or your wife - realise to recover. If you are ill, you are not up to working. Just because it's not a visible illness, doesn't mean you are better after a few weeks.

    Nothing very original to add; there are loads of similar threads on here, but I didn't want to ignore the pain you are in.

    Take care. See a Doctor. You don't sound ready to return. Your wife may be mislead by an outward normality, which is not reflected inside.
  14. MayFlowers13

    MayFlowers13 New commenter

    Thank you, I really appreciate that. I thought the same about OH, by I did check in with HR and they said I don't have to wait for the appointment to come back, if I come back before the appointment can focus more on strategies moving forward rather than my return to work.

    Thank you for your support, it's so helpful to be reminded that it takes time to recover, and that mental health is just as valid as physical.
    katykook likes this.
  15. FollyFairy

    FollyFairy Occasional commenter

    This is exactly where I am at too... I received email from HT to my personal email yesterday wanting to know if she would see me on Monday morning as normal.... I feel sick at the thought of going back. Can't sleep as I have nightmares. My heart pounds. I am going to doc this afternoon - terrified she won't sign me off again....
    MellyBean17 likes this.
  16. MayFlowers13

    MayFlowers13 New commenter

    I'm sorry you're dealing with it too. That's exactly how I feel but I haven't made an appointment for today and I really think I should have. I'm hoping I can go Monday but then if I don't get signed off I'll really be thrown in the deep end on Tuesday!
  17. thistledoo

    thistledoo Senior commenter

    I haven't much to add to all the positive responses other than to say, remember you are not as stressed and anxious whilst at home and your health must come first. If I were in the same position I would go to the GP and wait to see OH before I made any decisions.
    Remember, school has a duty of care and the GP and OH can help to relieve you of some of the problems at work that are helping you to be anxious... you can, hopefully, negotiate some of your workload through these professionals.
    MellyBean17 likes this.
  18. MayFlowers13

    MayFlowers13 New commenter

    Thank you, that's really helpful and makes a lot of sense.
  19. MayFlowers13

    MayFlowers13 New commenter

    I submitted a sick note extension request online and described my symptoms and just got a message back. The doctor has signed a sick note for me to collect. I feel very relieved knowing that I have that option, which I will most likely end up using. I want to get to counselling and actually tackle the issue rather than just move myself away from it, and then OH can hopefully help me transition back. I'll just have to figure out how to have a conversation with my wife, as I don't want her to think I'm just trying to run away and bury my head in the sand. Anxiety is so hard to understand when you haven't experienced it yourself.
  20. MissMinton

    MissMinton New commenter

    Mellybean, I really sympathise with your sotuation. I spent nearly all of last term signed off with depression--from early January to late March. After the first month of it I was just barely coming out of the initial black vortex and certainly wasn't ready to go back to work. I saw my therapist every week and got some really good work done with her. I am now in the middle of a very gradual phased return and my department have taken both my KS4 classes off me for the rest of the year. You need and deserve more than two weeks off while still setting cover!

    It sounds like your wife wants to be supportive but is also worried about finances and maybe doesn't quite get how bad it is. My fiancé has had depression too, and he was still skeptical about my taking time off and wasn't sure it would help. Guess what? It did. It helped me to clear my mind and make some decisions about what I need and how to stay well. And it took nearly three months.

    Your wife ought to accept and support you even if she is troubled or doesn't quite understand. My fiancé did, in the end, because he saw me starting to do better. Talk to her. Don't let her doubts guide you--you know your illness and your needs best.

    Good luck to you. Please, please give yourself time. Lots of it.
    pineapplehead and MellyBean17 like this.

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