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Palpitations, Insomnia, Shortness of Breath, Psychosomatic illness, Stress

Discussion in 'Heads of department' started by moulsfordrunner, Oct 12, 2016.

  1. moulsfordrunner

    moulsfordrunner New commenter

    Hi. I've taught for 20 years in all types of schools and until now never had any of the above before. I love my job, I don't find any aspect of it something that I can't do, I actively enjoy all parts of my (Head of English, Secondary School) job.
    In the past few months I seem to have acquired the above very real conditions. I go for whole nights not sleeping and my brain won't turn off. My heart sometimes feels like I am having a heart attack. There are times when I can't seem to get a proper breath. I can feel fine, and then any of the above can happen when I least expect it. I have never really missed a day of school for ill health in my life. I am now 44, married with 2 kids, with elderly and needy family above me.
    Searching the internet for books or forums about this seems to turn up stuff designed for people with stress caused by other things, like teaching, or in some cases, meeting new people. I'm not stressed by those things. I believe I'm stressed by long-term, unremitting overload. My colleagues who are Head of Science and Head of Maths have much more serious illnesses which they and their doctors now believe have been caused largely or completely by a similar sort of thing. I'm on the point of handing in my notice, or going off "sick with stress", things that are completely against who I am and who I have been for 20 years in teaching. I'm frustrated with the sources of information I have so far found and this is why I've started this thread, among Heads of Department who I hope, like me, will not be stressed by the kids, or the teaching, and who will I hope respond if they have had these precise symptoms as part of their experience. I would be very grateful to be pointed at a good book, or a good thread or forum. Sorry for the long post. Thank you for reading!
  2. frangipani123

    frangipani123 Lead commenter

    I wanted to reply to your post for a number of reasons. Your description sounds like anxiety and perhaps depression. You have a lot on your plate. You work in a school where other staff members have developed serious illnesses because of their jobs. No job is worth your health. If you haven't seen your GP already I'd recommend that you did soon.

    I left my job last year because of serious stress and anxiety that went on for some time, and looking back, I'm amazed I continued for so long. I worked as a teacher and manager of courses and it was the demands of some others around me plus my desire for everything to work well that led to the situation. Is there anything you can say 'no' to now to reduce the stress? You mention the things that others seem to have problems with - teaching, meeting new people - but you don't. It's all relative to the person and the situation so comparisons are odious, as someone once said. We're all different.

    If you look on the Workplace Dilemmas thread you will find many discussions on this topic.

    You asked about books. A good one is The Curse of the Strong by Dr Tim Cantopher. He's a psychiatrist who says after treating numerous people for depression he realised that he almost didn't have to take a history as they were typically the same - people who are strong and keep going, keep going and don't want to let others down. Other authors/books Linda Gask - The Other Side of Silence; Andrew Solomon - The Noonday Demon; Sally Brampton - Shoot the Damn Dog; Matt Haig - Reasons to Stay Alive.

    There's also a thread about people caring for elderly relatives, think it's in Personal - title is related to dementia/Alzheimers.

    Hope you take care of yourself.
    peggylu, sabrinakat and install like this.
  3. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    I'm on the point of handing in my notice, or going off "sick with stress", things that are completely against who I am and who I have been for 20 years in teaching

    What do you mean by this is against who you are?

    it sounds to me like you have simply burnt out, it isn't actually possible to keep giving out more energy than you take in, indefinitely.

    It makes no sense to say it isn't who you are, it is a universal experience, no one can actually keep on and on giving for ever, its like saying "I can't believe my car has run out of petrol and ground to a halt, that not who I am."

    You are looking for a good book? I think you need medical attention, GP certainly, and maybe ask for an occupational health appointment.

    You need to take this seriously, it is not trivial, and will not go away. If you try to ignore it and wish it away, it will only get worse.

    i think this happens to many heads of department in the end. As well as to classroom teachers, the work load is simply unsustainable, and in the end it damages you
  4. moulsfordrunner

    moulsfordrunner New commenter

    Very grateful for both of your replies. I am seeing a doctor - undergoing various tests (bloods, chest x-ray, spiroscopy - and I may well see if I can get an Occupational Health appointment. Thank you very much for the list of books. I will start with The Curse of the Strong. The title sounds like an esteem-builder in itself! Going onto Amazon now. Thanks a ton, dunnocks and frangipani123.
    PS - anyone else out there with good books/ideas?
  5. install

    install Star commenter

    1 You are unwell and you are human
    2 See Doctor and if agrees go off ill
    3 Put your health above your job
    4 If necessary - and if doctor agrees - then go back on phased return
    5 Your life is a gift - value that gift
    pepper5 and dunnocks like this.
  6. lizgaskell

    lizgaskell Occasional commenter

    Think you are ME, same role, almost same age; the only difference is I am a female... having exactly the same rounds of tests though.

    Had some really very 'rigorous ' monitoring of my dept and own capability last year and without revealing to much in here was completely exonerated.

    Seems being flavour if the month hasn't helped me health wise, oh well.
    Like you I am also not ready to give in but have rejoined the gym and am trying to get done fresh air every day.

    Hoping to go on until I am fifty ( 4 years) but anymore changes might finish me off!

    Look after yourself.

    Please post updates.
  7. neddyfonk

    neddyfonk Lead commenter

    Anxiety creeps up on you when you don't expect it. I was accompanying my lady friend for an xray when I started feeling faint. After that patterns started to form. When I was sat alone I started hyperventilating with a B.P over 180 and convinced I was seriously ill. At that point you start losing control ... having palpitations, hot flushes and aches in my side that felt like kidney related ... but it does not make sense because I was fine when I got to sleep or distracted / driving or having sex. I developed coping strategies - if I start feeling tense I go for a walk. Just in case I altered my diet, irrigated my kidneys with loads of water and dumped carbs. My b.p went down to 120 and I am back in control. all without any meds !!.
  8. binaryhex

    binaryhex Lead commenter

    Yep, those are all the symptoms I was having for the last year. I realised the last time I suffered the embarrassment of being carted off to hospital from school for tests after suffering a suspected heart attack (which turned out to be stress-related chest pains and hyper-ventilation due to the shock) that things couldn't continue. Teaching was killing me and I was in denial. The constant demands, the stress of working 10-12 hours a day including weekends, the lack of opportunities to unwind from the job, the never-good-enough culture, the lack of sleep, poor eating habits, drinking to help relax, doctor's prescriptions to 'cure' what shouldn't be happening, snapping at kids - it had to stop. I had had conversations with the Head about workload but none of it made any difference whatsoever as everyone was in the same boat. I therefore resigned after the Summer holidays and intend taking a break until at least September 2017. Afterwards, if the mojo has returned, I might look at a complete change, perhaps an International job or maybe a private school, or maybe a ski instructor - certainly no more scummy academies for me anymore. As someone told me recently, you get one shot at living so don't kill yourself doing a job that has become a death sentence for anyone brave enough to keep ploughing on regardless.
    install and peggylu like this.
  9. peggylu

    peggylu Star commenter

    Good advice. This is just so true, taking this advice could save the OP the cost of the self help books. Unless the authors of the motivation style books have taught a full, core subject, timetable in the past 5-6 years, and fulfilled a middle management TLR, as you have @moulsfordrunner then they can have no possible clue how stressful this job has become. In fact I would go so far as to say it has become impossible to do without burning out in some schools.
    pepper5 likes this.
  10. lizgaskell

    lizgaskell Occasional commenter

    Just wondered how you're doing?

    My tests came back ok, except blood pressure - no surprises there then.

    I've had a better couple of weeks ( been to the gym, had a meal with friends and even a walk on the beach - 0n a school night too!) which has help but I am completely snowed under again

    A new book came unexpectedly into my possession the other day. Not read it yet!

    Just tried to photograph it and send but its failed but it's by James Hilton and it's called Leading from the Edge. The subtitle is ' a school leader's guide to recognising and overcoming stress.'

    Might give it a go.
  11. Godmeister

    Godmeister Occasional commenter

    I only stuck HoD for a fairly brief time compared to you OP. I used to feel knots in my stomach on a frequent basis and had some very sleepless nights too. I always felt tired and always thought about work. I quit in 2014 and have never looked back. I now have much more energy and my work is paying for me to live not killing me slowly. Put your health and wellbeing first.

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