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Returning to work with anxiety/depression... petrified.

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by kellellewelle23, Jan 2, 2016.

  1. kellellewelle23

    kellellewelle23 New commenter

    My Head and a Governor voiced a concern about me after an observation 4 weeks before end of this term.

    Although I had suffered in my observation due to panic attacks a week prior, and did not 'perform' as I usually would due to anxiety symptoms, they assured me they were not concerned about me as a teacher, but for me.

    I have had many personal traumas in the last year and a half and have just existed at work trying to be professional. The news came as a shock but was relieved someone had noticed I was not myself. They recommended me having 'some time'l for myself'. I took 2 days off and spoke my Dr, as the Head suggested, who signed me off for 2 weeks. At the request of my Dr I returned on the last day of my leave and she signed me off until the end of term pending my OH assessment on 18th Dec. This totalled my time off as 4 weeks. (In Sept 2014 I had an absence of half a term due to bereavement and returned with more confidence than I now have - I did not intend to have time off this time, but as people who cared about me were concerned with something I couldn't see, I listened to the professionals for my own health).

    After my appointment, I braved going into school as I was advised it may helped with my progress and out of courtesy to inform them I had been signed off for a further 2 weeks and aimed to return in January 2016. I felt extremely guilty. I was called into the office and grilled by my head for 25 minutes. They asked why I wasn't returning to work, what was wrong with me (being a mental health problem, I couldn't say why at the time), what I was doing whilst off to help myself instead of being at school (moking my reading choice to help me), telling me how terrible my observation lesson was (although this was not the case initially), told me that my Dr only advises and she needs to live in the real world (accused her of signing me off too easily)... among other things that left me feeling overwhelmed. I did not know what to say and my symptoms returned. He couldn't understand why was feeling the way I was. I felt backed into a corner and the deputy remained silent the whole time.

    I did not expect the meeting. I had no one to support me whilst he raised his voice when I asked him why he had told me now he was concerned with me as a teacher. Initially their reason for their concerns was so vague and I asked him to email me with his concerns so I could reflect, to which he replied he was too busy.

    I have since spoken in depth with my union and OH therapist who have told me he was bullying me and advised me not to go to my return to work meeting alone. Yet a colleague advised me not involve the union until a last resort as the Head would only involve HR and governors which would only inhibit my progress.

    Two weeks ago OH deemed me unfit to work and depending on my health, that I would return within 4 weeks. This leaves me with 2 weeks at the start of term for further recovery. If I go back to my Dr, she is sure to sign me off again and I feel obliged to return to work to save my job and fear disappointing my family who tell me if I don't go back now, that I may never. That going back will make me better.

    OH have advised a 4 week phased return to work which will hopefully lead the return to work meeting.

    Has anyone else had similar experiences and can advise me? Your time is much appreciated and I apologise for the lengthy post in advance. Hope you all enjoyed your Christmas break.
  2. kellellewelle23

    kellellewelle23 New commenter

    ...I am also unsure what to say to my Head were they to ask me what is wrong with me incase theu put me on a capability proceedure. They have already threatened to come and spot check my 'behaviour for learning', which initially said was always good as I had surprisingly recieved an outstanding from Ofsted prior, but after their 20 minute observation they feel the need to. This adds to the pressure.

    Thank you.
  3. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    Sorry to hear about this.
    If the Head is in any way support (doesn't seem like it) then s/he will understand the moral support that a rep might bring. I have done this myself as a Rep and the sheer uselessness of my presence was neither here nor there.
    If the HT is a bully then the more witnesses for EVERY meeting the better.
  4. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    If the Head is in any way support, should be SUPPORTIVE.
  5. mseerie

    mseerie New commenter

    I would:
    1. Start looking for another job now.
    2. Go back to work .
    3. Apply for as many jobs as possible, as soon as possible.

    They are not going to change their mind or the way they act towards you. The pressure is going to be tremendous, but looking for a way out will help you to keep sane.
    grumpydogwoman likes this.
  6. Yoda-

    Yoda- Lead commenter

    Who did you talk to in your union? It needs to be someone from the region? Not your school rep.

    You need to have preferably the union with you at your return to work meeting. Involving HR would not inhibit your progress but may be helpful if you relay the history of your problem as you have here. Your colleagues advice seems rather questionable to me.

    Fears of disappointing your family and their opinion of whether staying off work will stop you returning, needs to put to one side. They should be supporting you. Unfortunately people very often don't understand unless they have had a similar experience or medical problem.

    Do not go back to work if you're not ready. See your GP and get signed off until you are. If appropriate seek treatment for your problem. Whether this is drugs or counselling.

    Your health should be your first priority. You are ill. Be kind to yourself. Let your union advise you. Take care and Best Wishes.
  7. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter


    An excellent post by @Yoda- .

    Ask for help and support.

    Ask for help and support from your GP, and do what they say. Ask for regional Union support. Ask HR for support. Listen to OH. Ask your family to be on your side here in yourattempt to get to as near as normal as possible.

    I am saying - don't try to do all this on your own.

    Best wishes for a better year in 2016

    Lara mfl 05 and phlogiston like this.
  8. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Classic mistake which you will never repeat.

    Don not go into work when you are signed off. Not ever. Never. Not for a meeting. Not for a chat with a friend. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. And MOST ESPECIALLY if the HT asks you to. NO WAY, JOSE.

    Too late now. But should be noted by anyone else who is tempted to do this. Do not engage with school whilst signed off other than to submit a sick note or to announce your return (having been cleared to do so).

    Moving on. Get maximum help in your current post. You need it and the HT deserves to be slapped down for that. Plus get out of there. Follow all the advice in the posts above. They are all correct. Fight this if you are strong enough because that HT needs to be challenged.
    Schoolbird and Dragonlady30 like this.
  9. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    So sorry you have been going through this...have a read through the forums, look under the word 'capability' and you will see how common this bullying is. You are in an extra complex opposition because you have, it sounds to me from your posts, either an ongoing mental health condition which the general stresss of this school has flared up, or the school has caused it. I think the first thing you want to ask yourself, after a nice hot bath and a relaxing herby tea, when you are calm, is....do I really want to keep teaching? Keep this separate from want family, colleagues and the 'can I afford to quit' voices tell you. Suspect your answer will neither 'no I don't' or maybe after a three to six month break". I too had a health disorder which flared up very suddenly and frighteningly under SLT stress. Your health just isnt going to heal in that place. Problem is, it has drained you, so I think you need time off to recharge. Have you got a doctor s diagnosis? If so, and if the school threatens you with capability KNOWING this, I suspect they are guilty of discrimination against you on Health grounds. I think they want you to leave, but it is how this is managed which is so important..I've posted a lot on all this sorry state of affairs, so do read. Basically, a phased return is good, BUT, once it ends, they will probably try to put you in formal capability OR dismiss you in grounds of ill health, which is far worse from a career and pension point if view, so get in first, get the union rep involved again, and ask for a negotiated exit and settlement agreement. Don't worry too much about the reference.these days it is a bunch of tick boxes and getting a fair one rather than an agreed one can be negotiated for you by a good union rep. Imagine how much better you will feel that first Mornington wake up knowing that you will never need to go into that awful place again. Look for cover work or a part time post until you feel well. But to my mind, your school is a two faced employer, only 'caring' when it suits them, and woefully guilty of neglecting its own duty of care towards you. It started off well with them asking you to take time off, but, like many school management systems, they cannot properly people manage and cannot cope with anyone long term I'll, so you are being firmly nudged out, I'm afraid. Best of luck with the next few months...and DO NOT go into any room or meeting from the inset day or start of term without a union rep...they will possibly be trying to serve formal capability or I'll health dismissal on you, so please email your rep today and get advice. You could also hand in notice today, before term starts, and leave at the next exit point in term? Drastic, but ultimately worth it. Once you're on formal capability, the career copy book issued...utterly unfair, but this is the state of our schools today.
  10. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Follow the advice from OH regarding the phased return, including a start date.
    Definitely take someone from your union with you to any meeting. A head who can speak to you that way and refuse to put it in writing is not to be trusted. He may well involve HR, that is not a bad thing.
    Be careful what you say to colleagues, even ones you think you can probably trust. What you say may come back to bite you.
    Look for a new post, your absence is not a hindrance, don't fuss about it. Don't resign before you have a new post or plan in place and set up.

    Probably your outstanding from ofsted freaked them out and made them feel inadequate compared to you. Therefore they need to exert their superiority in the only way they can...by being nasty. Get out of there, you are too decent to be able to win against such nastiness.
    Mrsmumbles likes this.
  11. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    Sorry, have to agree with the others that if your GP has signed you if and there is still another fortnight to go, for goodness sake DO NOT return early. Firstly you are not yet up to teaching again, despite you wanting to or thinking that you can, and secondly, it weakens your union case. Going back will not make you better because the bullies have marked your card and it isn't about you or you returning to your job any more...I wish I could give you better news but you asked for advice from those who went through it. My return to work meeting was sneaked on me after I returned far too early and, I might add, was doing VERY WELL, with parents sending me cards and kids suitably impressed...I felt like death still, but what do we teacher matter, right? Surely if I kept going, my job would be secure, right? WRONG. They had my card marked and there was no way I could have avoided capability. All I was doing was destroying my most precious thing...my health. It has taken over nine months to get close to recovery. Much of the damage to my health was done when I had a first return to work meeting, unannounced, and, like you, with no rep present, and ending in negative comments and formal capability. So far you've just had the one nasty meeting, but I suspect that they might send you a letter or do another meeting early next term. For me, In that first meeting, the shock and the realisation that I had been tricked, treated like dirt, and hung out to dry triggered reactive depression, which, miraculously, I recovered from fast, basically as sort as my GP signed me off and I got distance between me and the bullies...and they ARE bullies, and it is NOT possible to heal and deliver good and focussed teaching with them on your back, so don't worry, it is not you. After that, I did phased return with my last day at the 'school' being the day my phased return ended. Had I stayed another day, proceedings would have begun. Oh and I had served this place for sixteen years straight,knew lots of parents, had several responsibilities. If I were you, I'd call the union asap, stay at home until the GP's sick note elapses, go back to the GP, get a full letter done which outlines up your illness, then email this to your rep. Think seriously about handing in notice before Jan term begins because this pre empts them, gets them to sheathe their knives for a bit, and enables your busy rep to broker you the best exit deal. Use the GP letter to help your rep ask for at least four months of pay, arguing that your stress has not been fully addresses and that as a result you have no option but to leave...buzzwords like 'disability discrimination' and 'neglected duty of care' should do the trick. I'm fully aware that a disability discrimination case is very hard to win, but the phrases seem to work very well in brokering settlements! Another one is to ask for an information access request, which forces them to disclose to you every email and communication they have made where you have been the subject. Oils up the gears on a settlement no end!
    Schoolbird and grumpydogwoman like this.
  12. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Sounds like @Mrsmumbles has been there and knows her stuff.

    The writing is on the wall for you. Don't imagine that by doing things differently or 'better' you will placate or impress the powers-that-be. They just don't want you and have made up their minds.

    Go for a fresh start somewhere else. That need not be in teaching. Time for a massive THINK.
    Mrsmumbles likes this.
  13. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter


    Do ask for help and support. Even from me!

    If you would like some help in making an application for another school, come down to Jobseekers and post on there. Or some ideas for other possible jobs too . . .

    Keep strong! With the help of your family and friends and the professionals whose role it is to support you.

  14. joannagb

    joannagb Occasional commenter

    I really sympathise with you. Please make sure that the advice that you're following is the GP's and not your HT's, your GP is interested in your wellbeing, the HT is interested in the school's wellbeing, and clearly the two things are not compatible at the moment. Look after yourself, I hope that things start to improve.
  15. Purpleraine_dancer

    Purpleraine_dancer New commenter

    Having experienced a 'mental health crash' six years ago, I can truly appreciate and empathise with your anxiety. Please take note of all that has been said and most importantly, do not have meetings without your union rep. If a meeting is sprung on you then you must (politely) get out, saying that you will ask your rep to reschedule. Remember, you are not strong enough or well-enough to make considered contributions. I often equate the experience as someone demanding I run a marathon when I've got a broken leg! It may not be the best analogy but it works for me! As others have said, if you have been given an additional fortnight then you must not go back beforehand.

    Decide how to look after yourself, including how you want to communicate with your SLT to remain strong. I refused to speak on the phone and only accepted and responded to any queries by letter. I also refused to communicate via email as I went into a panic attack at just the thought of opening my email account! My return to work interview was initially set without representation but I knew I couldn't face the meeting alone and refused to attend. It's hard when it isn't usually in your nature to actively contradict SLT but plain determination and self-preservation helped me to regain my confidence. By listening and following the guidance of your G.P and O.H., and by focusing on what you CAN do taking each step at a time, you are protecting your overall mental health and your future enjoyment of life. Keep talking with your friends, family and rep for moral support.

    Best wishes to you and I hope you are able to rebuild your confidence and resilience.
  16. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    I agree with pretty much all of Mrsmumbles post and could have written most of it with my name and school as well. Sadly it is all too common.

    But be clear that you need to get your union to negotiate a settlement for you to leave, rather than hand your notice in in the usual way. Do not simply resign, or they will merely let you go with no obligation to provide a decent reference or any sort of pay cushion for you while you recover. Let your union lead you in negotiating an exit if that is what suits you.

    Once you have effectively left, you can then look forward without worries about money or people seeing you out and about. It gives you a chance to concentrate on yourself and what you want.
    Schoolbird and Mrsmumbles like this.
  17. kellellewelle23

    kellellewelle23 New commenter

    Thank you all so much for your replies and they have given me strength. I have not returned to my GP as they signed me off until the 18th Dec. I saw my OH on the 18th and she said I would return to work pending my health, within 4 weeks. I have not contacted the union regarding support but am expected to go in tomorrow and then my HT will see me in the afternoon.

    Due to the hostility of the HT I feel no choice but to return with phased return and brace the meeting. My head is so confused but the last thing I want to do is lose my job. I will look elsewhere as advised and thank everyone for their time in replying. I don't want to mess anyone around and it will only agitate my HT if I did not return. I am very scared but feel I have to just get on with it. If I go to my GP they are sure to sign me off further. Hope you all had a lovely last day of the holidays.
    Mrsmumbles likes this.
  18. gooddays

    gooddays Senior commenter

    [QUOTE="miaowmelli, post: 11544933, member: 686442" am expected to go in tomorrow and then my HT will see me in the afternoon.

    Due to the hostility of the HT I feel no choice but to return with phased return and brace the meeting. My head is so confused but the last thing I want to do is lose my job....I don't want to mess anyone around and it will only agitate my HT if I did not return. I am very scared but feel I have to just get on with it. If I go to my GP they are sure to sign me off further. [/QUOTE]

    I hope you sleep well. Pay attention to how you are feeling in the morning. If you are feeling 'confused', 'very scared', maybe home is the best place for you. I encourage you to read Yoda's post again. Best of luck, @ miaowmelli.
    Mrsmumbles likes this.
  19. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    This is excellent advice. The GP and, hopefully, your union rep are now your new best friends. It is awful to say it, but the harsh truth is that these idiots are not properly trained in people management, and they will inevitably drag you down. You just can no longer trust them. Even if you have known some of them for years. Gove and Co have probably sent them on That inset course...the one that half trains already weak SLT in weeding out expensive staff, and for whatever reason, you are now seen as such.Listen to your GP.
    Schoolbird likes this.
  20. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    Totally agree. Top advice here. Do NOT buckle, do not try to get out asap without a negotiated exit. No matter how awful they make it for you. They have to pay for the disruption and stress their behaviour has caused you. You are already paying emotionally and with the upheaval. Get them to fork out. This is what you pay your unio fees for. The union reps are well trained in all this, it is a big part of their jobs now, to liaise with the HR goons. Let them earn their crust and Go Get Em!
    Schoolbird likes this.

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