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Signed off with Stress, unrelated second job, lack of support ...

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by Moody_Blues, Mar 16, 2016.

  1. Moody_Blues

    Moody_Blues New commenter

    Hi

    I'm trying to keep the following details as vague as possible, as colleagues of mine (who may well be present here) would no doubt jump at the chance to gossip at yet another staff member off with 'stress'. I'm also aware that a symptom of my current stress and anxiety is likely to be paranoia ...

    I work for an LEA, for 3 days a week, in a peripatetic capacity. I have worked in this exact job for 15 years, during which time I have achieved many things that have given me great pride in the job. Unfortunately, none of these achievements have been noted beyond the pupils/parents/schoosl involved - no mention nor gratitude by the LEA, despite them being, in some instances, internationally-recognised achievements which would have been reflected very well on the LEA, as well as my particular department. Needless to say, I find this hugely demoralising, and the pupils involved do too.

    Some years ago, an issue developed in one of my schools which was ultimately a personality clash between myself and the head of department. Despite protestations from parents and pupils, I was removed from the school ('for my own benefit') and promised the issue would be dealt with, and a formal grievance procedure put in place to prevent such a dismissal from accusing without following a certain path in future. Nothing happened. I was offered counselling (i.e. I was given a business card with the name of the outsourced counselling service when I became teary in a meeting), and promised that a meeting would take place to officially clear my name. Nothing happened.

    I also have experienced a number of instances of what is probably termed as bullying over the 15 years. On one occasion, a colleague completely ignored me for a period of several months whilst I worked alongside him in charge of a group of pupils (I mean total ignorance - no eye contact, no conversation, no response to any of my questions, and all of this in front of pupils). I pleaded with my line manager to resolve this (I was a young 20-something at the time, and still pretty green behind the ears to these things), but was told it was 'probably nothing to worry about'. Nothing was done, but the offending 'colleague' eventually opted to take another group so I could forget about this problem.

    Lately, another issue has arisen with another colleague (a relation to the previous one, funnily enough) which (apparently, according to other colleagues) stems from jealousy and power issues (the other staff member is less qualified and generally less experienced, although older). My line manager has refused to deal with it, despite requests for meetings to resolve the issue, and now other staff have even made complaints at the way this particular 'colleague' is speaking about the matter in staff meetings. Essentially, the line manager is incapable of dealing with it, and prefers instead to say whatever it takes to each of us to keep everyone 'happy'.

    I realise that this probably sounds ever so trivial, but the net result of a number of years of being devalued, demeaned, not having achievements recognised, conflict, etc ... is that I finally 'broke' last week and was take to the GP by my OH. I've been given valium, signed off for two weeks (to start with, with the reason 'work-related stress'), and told to return for a follow-up visit next week. Since that point, it feels like the emotional dam I have constructed to stem the accumulated years of stress has collapsed, and I can now not even contemplate the idea of returning to work.

    To further complicate matters - I have a second job, which is in the same field as my teaching job, but is also unrelated. The second job is freelance, and it has taken twenty years to build up the contacts and reputation to get to the stage I am at. Whilst I haven't undertaken any work under this second job since being signed off, I have some booked within the next few weeks. This second job gives my great happiness, fills me with confidence, and frankly gives me something to get up in the morning for. I see the two as completely unrelated, and being signed off from the 'day' job through stress does not prevent me from undertaking the 'evening' job. I've spoken with my union briefly about this, and my rep also can't see why the sick note should render me incapable of undertaking my second job. However, I have delightful colleagues who would actively research any further work I undertake whilst being signed off 'sick'.

    I'm not sure what I hope to gain from posting here. I think partly I just need to vent. My partner is trying his best, but I feel it's unfair to heap all of this on him, when he's essentially helpless to resolve it. Before signing off, I was at the stage where I sometimes couldn't leave the car to go into a school, I was intimidated by some kids (I'm talking primary kids here! The type who say 'who the f*** are you? You're not a real teacher! What are you doing here?' whilst walking past my class - I teach in some delightful schools), and I couldn't get through a day without being overcome with tears. I'm at the end of my tether here. To cap it all, the likelihood is that my department will be cut/vastly reduced in the near future, which probably is why very little effort (none?) has been made to give me any assistance or support. Or even recognise a problem.

    Apologies for the general vagueness of this lengthy post. I realise I'll probably have to provide further details for anyone to make any sense of it. I just needed to start somewhere.
     
  2. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter

    .

    Oh dear, this is all very sad, but I am pleased to hear that you have been to see your Dr.

    I am, like you, slightly concerned about you undertaking other work, even un-related, while signed off.

    I have memories of a HT or DHT, signed off from work, and also working in a pub, which they continued to do. I could be mis-remembering, of course, but even so . . .

    Do get confirmation in writing from your Union that this will be possible.

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery of your health.

    .
     
  3. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Is it worth asking your GP (as well as your Union) about this?
     
  4. libby77

    libby77 Occasional commenter

    I was in a similar boat. My GP signed me off my full time post and wrote a letter stating that as my second job was not a cause of stress that it would support my recovery to continue working my second job. Same reasons as you! Hope this helps. May be worth discussing with GP?
     
    thekillers, chelsea2 and Moody_Blues like this.
  5. Moody_Blues

    Moody_Blues New commenter

    I should've sought a help a while ago. In the week or so since being off, I've been having online counselling (via the service outsourced by the council) which has made me think that I might have had a breakdown last year, and just worked through it. I used to be able to spend the entire evening weeping, wake up weeping, yet manage to put a brave face on throughout the day so no-one (OH excepted) was the wiser. I actually thought this was 'normal' behaviour pretty much up until the GP explained to me last week that this was not just an apparently obvious case of stress and anxiety, but quite possibly clinical depression. I couldn't take the time off, as that would mean losing out on my freelance work.

    I am quite possibly the very last person any of my colleagues would expect to be signed off with stress, as the image I am careful to project is of being incredibly confident and resilient. I have also had low tolerance for other colleagues who have been off with 'stress' in the past (the colleagues in question have been senior managers of a small service on c.£45k p.a.) I can't do this any more though for some reason. I went away to a spa hotel for my partner's birthday this weekend, and had to wear sunglasses most of the time as I couldn't stop weeping, for seemingly no reason. It's ridiculous.

    I may have to be rather less cloak-and-dagger about the actual situation here, to provide a little more information. The second job is that that I'm a professional musician. I've trained for this career for quite literally my whole life, and whilst of course I could probably (hopefully?) get a job elsewhere in a call centre/shop, being a musician is what I am. My day job is probably obvious now, after having provided that information, but there is a very large difference between the increasingly marginalised job of tutoring children (who mostly have no interest in learning, I just have to fulfil quotas in order to maintain my hours - it's quantity over quality ALWAYS), and delivering a performance to an appreciative audience.

    My rep was very sympathetic earlier, and seemed to think that, as it was the teaching that has caused the anxiety, then there should be no reason for the freelance work to be affected. I suggested to him that I would be better off resigning than giving up my performing work, but he strongly suggested I not do this, given the lack of support I've had in work for several years (despite issues being flagged). My regional office are calling me this week apparently as they're interested in the case too. My GP also saw the two jobs as very different and saw no reason why I should have to stop performing, particularly if it helps me relax.

    The tax-payer in me is resentful of teachers who are off for long periods with sick-pay, whilst the below-average income earner in me who has given the 'best' years of my life to a job which has seemingly been devalued to the extent that it's near extinction thinks that a few weeks of sick pay isn't really a huge ask if it stops me having a complete meltdown in front of pupils. However, I chose this job. I chose it because, without music tuition provided in schools (free, back in the 1980s), my life could've taken a considerably worse path, and I just wanted to give others who couldn't afford private tuition the same opportunities I've had. It's not even about getting kids to be great musicians, it's about confidence-building, providing an artistic outlet, a 'vent' for those kids who can't find a voice anywhere else in the school. Ironic that trying to deliver that for my service could lead to my losing my outlet, vent and voice.

    I'm also 'unqualified' in that I'm on a tutor's salary, and my income (even when full-time) was below the threshold to repay my student loan. I'm still paying off the MA and PG diplomas I took to enable me (supposedly) to do the job to the best of my abilities, and there is NO chance of any pay increase, nor promotion. However, it was my choice. Just a pretty poor one I guess, in retrospect.

    On the plus side, I have taken the first step to recovery I guess. Apparently, most people don't go to sleep hoping they don't wake up in the morning, so if I agree to antidepressants this time on next week's GP visit, things might start looking up.
     
  6. loodle1

    loodle1 Occasional commenter

    According to the legal sites I've looked at its not necessarily a problem to be sick from one job but medically fit to do another, although there are conditions that need to be met. I'm sorry I wasn't able to post the link, but if you do a Google search you'll see a case quoted where a community midwife with a knee problem wasn't able to do a job which involved climbing stairs to people's houses etc, but continued to do another part time job which was office based. She was dismissed when her employers found out but subsequently won a case for unfair dismissal.

    It would definitely be a good idea to take legal advice on this one and asking your GP as @libby77 suggested.

    All the best anyway
     
  7. loodle1

    loodle1 Occasional commenter

    I've just read your other post and performing is totally different to teaching! As a musician being able to perform could be a big part in your recovery. Hope things get better soon :)
     
  8. WelshMags

    WelshMags New commenter

     
  9. Moody_Blues

    Moody_Blues New commenter

    @alilever - I'm confused. It looks like you've just quoted my post. Did you mean to write something instead?

    More than that, being unable to play would not just hinder my recovery but possibly make me sink to inconceivable lows. Music is a very tough business to be in as it is, and the years its taken to get to where I am would be meaningless if I had to pull out now. Still awaiting the call from the regional union office, and I can't make my GP appointment until Monday. In the interim, I have quite a high-profile performance this weekend (which, technically, takes place after my sick note expires I suppose). Given the chest pains, panic attacks and general anxiety that has flowed since being off, I'm rather apprehensive about playing. I've never been affected by stage fright before, but I've never admitted publicly to anxiety before anyway. I suspect/hope that the weekend will be confidence-restoring, motivating and socially beneficial (I've barely left the house since being signed off), and that on Monday, after returning to planet day-job, the chest-crushing and weepiness will return. That'll coincide with my GP appointment though.
     
  10. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    Well, that sounds like you might well have the evidence the GP needs to write a sick note that says you are not fit to do your teaching job but you are fit for the performing job. If the GP says so explicitly, then I can't see that anyone can really object.
     
  11. GLsghost

    GLsghost Star commenter

    I don't necessarily share the concern expressed by others at the prospect of you working at your second job while on sick leave from the first. It is quite feasible for the toxic environment of the first job to be causing the illness, while the stressors are absent when you work privately.

    However, you need to be aware of the potential risk of your first employer throwing a charge of misconduct at you, alleging that your claim of sickness is fraudulent. You MUST take very careful advice from your union about your situation. You will need very careful medical evidence (GP) which explicitly states why you are unable to work in the first job but able, or even encouraged, to work at the second.
     
  12. Moody_Blues

    Moody_Blues New commenter

    It's definitely the toxic day job that's finishing me off. I remember 15 years ago, at the first staff meeting I attended, looking around at the 40+ year-old teachers who had no zest for the the job, no interest in looking for new methods of delivery, no inspiration within them and thinking "I'll NEVER be like that, they shouldn't be in the job if they don't care!". Now I realise that they all (mostly) probably started off thinking they could change the system and make a difference, and gradually they've all been beaten down like I have. I cannot give any more. I've since found out that in the meetings that have happened since I've been signed off, ideas that I've had have been chuckled at and dismissed now that I'm not there to discuss and defend them.

    My sick note runs out on Monday, but I have performance work this weekend. I'm more than a little terrified that the chest tightness, panic attacks, general feelings of terror and worry will arise mid-gig and I'll have a waking nightmare of a concert. Which would of course also indicate that this medical condition is not merely confined to the day job. However, given that every time I've played at home I've found it hugely relaxing and meditative, I suspect that won't be the case.

    I've had several emails/texts from various schools/office managers/colleagues this week asking when I'd be in, and even reading them makes me feel panicky, so I'll be able to go to the GP on Monday with a very clear description of what's going on, hopefully. The last time I went I kept a lot back. The main reason he gave me the medication was because he pointed out I was trembling obviously, my eyes were filling up and I was displaying other classic signs of anxiety and potentially depression. I took my OH with me too who was able to tell the truth and stop me from just saying 'it's probably nothing, I'm probably wasting your time' which is what I tend to do ...

    If I'm signed off again, I'll be asking him to detail on the note (if possible) what steps I'm taking to improve my condition, and that performance is one of the things that helps.
     
  13. Moody_Blues

    Moody_Blues New commenter

    So, an update.

    At the weekend, I did a series of high-profile, technically high-pressure performances which also included long hours of travelling around the UK and little sleep. And it felt AMAZING. The best analogy I can make is that the world was in colour again and I felt alive.

    I confided in a few friends who were also on these performances (I'm trying to talk about it more to make it a less taboo issue for me to deal with!), and, even whilst only talking about the day job, my throat seized up, the chest pains and pressure came back, and apparently I spoke noticeably quicker and also 'looked older' whilst talking about it. Remarkable. On my return home, even after a ridiculously small amount of sleep and crazy work hours over the weekend, my partner said I was like a different person, and a pleasure to be around again (thank, darling ...). So, I think it's pretty obvious that the performing helps.

    Sick note ran out on Monday, so I went back to the GP for blood test results (all fine), and another 'chat' about things. I'm now on mild antidepressants and signed off for a further month whilst they take effect. The union have informed me that they believe performance could be an important element in recovery, and possibly getting me back to work, and that all I need is a GP/counsellor letter stating that this is the case (my latest sick note says 'teaching related stress' - not sure if that's specific enough ...).

    The only communication I've had from work, however, is 'sorry you're ill, hope you're better soon'. Shouldn't there be some sort of action from HR or someone regarding this? What usually happens when signed off with work-related stress? It's like being in limbo at the moment - whilst it feels so much better to not be teaching, I feel like they're probably having meetings in work to try and catch me out and build a case against me to discredit me. Or, maybe that's the anxiety/depression/paranoia talking ...
     
  14. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    They're not supposed to harrass you while you are off ill, particularly if it's anything stress-related - you've said that even talking about the day job made things worse, and so the best thing the school can do is leave you alone to allow you to recover. "Sorry you're ill, hope you're better soon" is exactly the right thing. Try and switch off completely and enjoy your music instead.
     

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