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Work Related Anxiety & Stress

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by MLR36, Dec 8, 2016.

  1. MLR36

    MLR36 New commenter

    Hi All,

    After spending the last 6 weeks licking my wounds and battling insomnia whilst reading your posts I am feeling less alone and finally feel strong enough to share my story for those of you kind enough to read it.

    After a year of battling with severe work related anxiety and clever, targeted, subtle undermining and bullying from my head - I did something I thought I would never do (and am still struggling to come to terms with the fact that I did) I signed myself off with work related anxiety.

    I am not going to go into detail as to what has occurred, but it's not great. I have been ground down and made to feel useless, pathetic, not good enough & a complete failure. My self esteem and belief in myself is at an all time low.

    The strangest thing about it all is that my observations have been good-excellent and I cannot be touched in regards to capability. I am just quite simply disliked. My face does not fit.

    I am in SLT, teaching 2 days a week in the juniors (I am foundation trained!!) and also I am Inclusion Lead with a million and one other things thrust upon me as I am 'out of class three days a week' The amount of plates I have spinning at anyone time is unreal and the accountability I have for the pittance of a TLR is laughable, but I accepted it as I was good at it and it seemed the next logical step.

    It has however pretty much killed me. I have spent the last year applying for any job going (deputy headship to class teacher) in a desperate bid to escape.

    I have been practising mindfulness, seeing a counsellor, trying to reduce my panic attacks, not swear & cry so much in work and being constantly asked if I'm ok as I am not my usual self by TAs - senior staff didn't seem to care.

    I was basically doing whatever I could to survive in the hostile, cold, backstabbing environment that work had become.

    Within a year I have gone from loving my job to absolutely loathing it. Analysing every move my python like head makes and getting irritated by the incompetence of staff and the manipulation of situations and conversations. I could see through it and it is agonising!

    I spent most days crying and feeling permanently frustrated and exhausted under the weight of accountability put upon me, the powerless feeling I had to do anything and the lack of back up and support.

    Now I am a strong, determined and hard working person - I am a known perfectionist. I went to my head and told him 'I have anxiety' 'my workload is too high' 'I am overwhelmed with the sheer amount of accountability' and was met with 'you have time management issues' and that I needed to 'delegate'.

    Because delegating to over worked, stressed out staff who do not care and refer to their job description when being asked to do anything and clock watch doing the bare minimum is really going to solve the problem?!

    So I took on board his ridiculous suggestions and persevered through the unrealistic targets, new schemes and initiatives, constant changes in leadership (I have lost count of the number of deputy heads we've had drafted in to support), and have got up and come to work each day from 7-6 and battled through each day to do what I thought was the right thing.

    It all came to a head halfway through half term. I snapped whilst checking my work emails. I simply could not face it. I had reached the point my union described as 'not caring anymore'. I had had enough. For once in my life and over fifteen years of teaching I put myself and my health first.

    I went to the doctor and all I can remember was physically shaking and crying and repeating 'I can't do it'.

    The first Monday was petrifying and my anxiety took over and I began to catastrophise. 'Have I ruined my career?' 'Am I imagining this?' 'What am I doing?' 'Who is going to do my job?' 'What if xxx kicks off?' 'Am I really ill?' I then cried. I cried a lot.

    I spent a few days staring at my meds and trying to convince myself I didn't need them whilst scouring forums and reading articles about teacher workloads being unmanageable and the new breed of heartless, controlling, unrealistic 'super heads' coming into education and finding myself falling deeper and deeper into self pity, fear and loathing. 'Am I cut out for this?' 'Can I do this?'

    I the started looking at job adverts for seasonal shelf stackers and other jobs that had minimal responsibility and stress and thinking to myself - I don't meet the person specification.

    I then googled 'alternative careers for teachers' hoping there would be an answer gleaming at me, but no there wasn't.

    I took the pills. Anxiety had swallowed me and made me into a woeful version of my usual cheerful self (think Tigger morphing into Eeyore).

    After several weeks of worrying about my job and who was doing it something strange happened, I realised something.

    Nobody in that school cares about me. Nobody cares that I am off sick. Life moves on. Everyone is out protecting themselves. Someone else steps into your shoes and takes over. The school is heartless and I feel nothing for it.

    I spent a year putting that school before myself, my relationships and my family and what do I have to show for it? Severe anxiety and medication. The job I once adored has made me mentally unstable and ill.

    A few days after that realisation, I decided that I couldn't care less what anyone in that place thinks of me. Or anyone else for that matter. That quite simply has changed my world. The weight that has lifted off me has been incredible.

    Now the next thing is tackling the actual issue. I don't want to go back, but I have to.

    The biggest problem I have is finance. As much as I want to leaving isn't viable - I am the higher earner & the only one with a permanent job. Add to that mix the jack if permanent jobs that come up within a 45 min commute of where I live - Cue the feeling of being trapped.

    I'm proud of how far I've come, but still daunted by the journey ahead. I am still very much in a darkened tunnel, but I now know there is a light at the end. I'm pleased I'm feeling positive though.

    My union are heavily involved now and after a meeting halfway through next week, I should be clearer on what the new year will bring.

    Will my relationship with my boss get better? Will I secure another job? Will I go back in January?

    I have to go back. I have to face this head on. I am not letting one head and one school ruin my career.

    I have so many questions swimming in my head, I'm just grateful that through all of this hell and turmoil I have realised one thing. I COME FIRST.

  2. zencat999

    zencat999 New commenter

    I am off work with the same conditions as you. i do not want to go back either. I have got to the stage that it is no longer a job I wish to fight for.

    I woke up at 4 am flooded with adrenaline and cortisol. Then I realise I don't have to go in today - no 30 pointless emails, no tannoy interrupting every lesson, every five minutes - no screwed-up, egocentric line manager hawking at me.

    There has got to be more than this. We are worth more than this. : (
  3. drek

    drek Star commenter

    I'm sorry to hear of your inner turmoil. Now that you've only just realised that health is wealth, and why it's important to put your work and home life in balance things will start turning around. But change won't come overnight, old habits die hard.
    Sacrificing your family and your own health at the alter of perfectionism is one thing but I do hope this downward spiral brings out a more understanding side in the way you look at colleagues who maybe lower down the payscale but doing 5 days of teaching and all the paperwork associated with that?

    If that happens too you should see a change in the relationships between yourselves and others, hopefully.

    The teachers who teach full time also have a home life that need time and energy and they perhaps have always known this so when they refuse to do something it may be asking them to go over the unaccounted for 'reasonable hours' implied in teaching working conditions policies, which you yourself have ignored or have had no choice to ignore, because of the burden of this mysterious accountibility, which no one including Ofsted wish to be directly accountable for! - with dire results.

    You are definitely not alone in this position. We all in this education minefield whatever our position have the sharp sword of 'accountability' thrust down our throats as an excuse for everything.

    I hope it gets better and that you stay in your role or get a better one, but this time you make sure that you prioritise jobs both for yourself and others and not try to surf every little wave that comes along, just the ones that will make your job and everyone who works under and with you more enjoyable and meaningful to the staff and the children we teach.
  4. install

    install Star commenter

    I am soooooo sorry for what you are going through. YOUR HEALTH AND BEING HAPPY COME FIRST.

    1 You must take CONTROL. That may mean making sure if the Doctor's note permits that you go back on a phased return. This may mean just doing one day for a while...

    It will mean that YOU need to say NO a bit more - all in the nicest way but for YOU and your health

    2 You also need to see work as just a JOB - no more and nothing more. Do the minimum and put YOU first

    3 Never ever allow your work - life balance to be affected again. LIFE is here to enjoy ....so enjoy your PRESENT
  5. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    There are several ways of looking at it.
    There is a sense of disappointment when you let "the system" beat you, especially when you have taken pride in being organised amd efficient. I've been there.
    You need to decide where your life priorities are. The expensive nature of our society means that not all choices are easy.
    You have a family that you want to be part of and support by bringing in enough money to live comfortably on.
    You want to use your skiils, still by the sound of it educating children, also by managing people.

    It does not sound as if your work place is a people centred organisation. I doubt that your boss will have an epiphany and say "whoops, I made MLR ill, I'd better rethink the way I run this organisation".

    I suggest polishing your CV and having a look round at other opportunities. Now may not be the best time for applying. I would get better first, and talk to your union and OH about ways of getting back and making a strategic withdrawal.
    If you were to look on life as a war (I mostly don't) then the odd retreat may lead the way to later victory. Dunkirk was not the end of WW2.

    Get better, and move on.
    Best wishes
  6. eddiev

    eddiev New commenter

    MLR36, sorry to hear your work has made you ill. Your situation sounds similar in many ways to mine; I finally got signed off with work related stress in October after repeatedly asking for support with my ridiculous workload. I handed in my notice last week so will not be going back!

    Unfortunately, after two meetings with HR I realised that even after all this, NOTHING would change if I went back, meaning I would just end up ill again. I am angry at the system as it has been allowed to fail me, but relieved to have made a decision.

    In your post you say that you are the main bread winner so can't afford to leave- is there any way you can look at shaving off some of your outgoings to make a less well paid job an option? It seems all too common for schools to treat staff who are made ill by work as nothing more than collateral damage, and they don't seem to care about supporting them back to work.

    It may be possible to negotiate a reduction in responsibilities or a return to classroom teaching to reduce the workload. I have a friend who did this (gave up head of key stage) and she managed fine when she returned to work, so it can be done :)

    As I have actually resigned and made the decision to do supply after Christmas, I know I'm in a slightly different place to you. I hope your union can help you to return or help you to at least be able to get an.outcome that is right for you and your family. Remember it is your life and your family and in the end the school won't care about your health or happiness as they are just an employer. Look after yourself and don't make any decisions while you're still poorly xx
  7. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    It is a job. It is something you do. You then return home and cook and chat and watch TV and read a book and plan a holiday and argue about Brexit.

    As people do. Or ought to do. Or knit or go to the pub or theatre or play the flute or play a pantomime dame. None of these things should be incompatible with a teaching job. Your colleagues with their clock-watching and 'doing the minimum' have figured this out. It isn't called work-life balance for nothing.

    So you are the one who has to change. Specifically your attitude. Your HT is not a python. S/he is another colleague who has got it wrong. As have you. The colleagues who don't work as hard as you have their reasons. To which you are not privy.

    You know what we tell the kids? You own your own behaviour. But there is a corollary. When you work with other adults you do not own their behaviour.

    How long did it take you to even mention you had a partner?

    You have to learn to manage your life. You are desperately unhappy and you have to do something about it. When you face the inevitable return to work be kinder to yourself and kinder to others. It is the only way you will cope and extend your career. Accept that you will do some things poorly or not at all. Prioritise and learn to say no outright and/or sweep things under the carpet. Find out what teaching unions have to say on workload and why they say it. Even if you do not agree. It will give you some perspective as regards the views of your co-workers.

    Moderation in all things. I do not want a perfectionist line-manager. I want someone fair and sensible and reasonable with a sense of humour. Someone who trusts me to do a good job but isn't a slave-driver or thinks I am lazy just because I disagree about working until I fall over.

    You are not doing yourself any favours and you need a radical rethink. Sorry to be quite so emphatic but I say this for your own good.
    drek, JeannieMc and (deleted member) like this.
  8. MLR36

    MLR36 New commenter

    There is. I know there is.
  9. MLR36

    MLR36 New commenter

  10. MLR36

    MLR36 New commenter

    Thank you - never have I dint this before, but I know I can never go back to how I was.
    install likes this.
  11. MLR36

    MLR36 New commenter

    So very true. Thank you for your thoughts x
  12. MLR36

    MLR36 New commenter

    I am yet to have any meetings - this will be when I discover how I really feel.

    I too am thinking about this, but fear relinquishing my TLR may make it harder to leave!
  13. MLR36

    MLR36 New commenter

    I am aware of this. But the education system needs to as well. It is beyond ridiculous.

    I have anxiety - this is how my head works and how he makes me feel.

    I am not privy to a lot of things in life. The whole school is fed up and the majority of staff are wanting to leave. It's a pretty hostile, negative place to be when nobody wants to be there. For the record - I have never said anyone does not work as hard as me and I certainly don't think that. It's far from a competition!!

    Have I said that I do?

    Wow. What has this got to do with it? This is a forum to discuss work place dilemmas - my relationship with my partner is neither in the workplace or in dilemma. It's pretty great for the record.

    Yes I am - within work. I am trying and have been for a while, but it isn't something that can happen overnight.

    I am kind to others, but am very hard on myself. This is something I want to change - I have to.

    This I agree with. This is something that is the hardest for me to accept. If I do something it has to be done properly. I know this has to change.

    I am a perfectionist with my own paperwork. I do not inflict this on others. am fair and I used to have a sense of humour, before my anxiety took over.

    I don't want to work until I fall over. I would never expect anyone else to!

    I am trying! Have you ever suffered from anxiety?!

    You were indeed very emphatic. Written word can be interpreted very different to how it was meant - I hope this was the case with some of your choices.
  14. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    I take fluoxetine for depression and have done so for many years. I took time off with WRS at a couple of points in my career. I left that school almost immediately afterwards. Naturally I took a hit financially to free myself of the pressure.

    Why is your relationship important? Why do you think it isn't? Surely a job is easier to come by than a good relationship. You said yourself that you'd put the job before your family for a year! The fact that it took you so long to mention it is, in my view, an indication that you have your priorities wrong. Your job and its effect on you and your nearest and dearest is of enormous importance. I worry that (what I perceive) as your bitterness towards your colleagues is taking more of your emotional energy than your desire to pursue a good life out of school.

    Hostile, cold, backstabbing environment. Nobody cares about me. Self-pity, fear and loathing.

    The good thing is that you are doing something about it. No wonder you're in a state. Insomnia is a terrible thing and nobody is (literally) in their right mind when they are short of sleep.

    Please move on. This workplace is not a good fit for you. Do your sums and peruse the ads. Be prepared for some lean times but back yourself to find something.
    Mrsmumbles and bigbev like this.
  15. bigbev

    bigbev New commenter

    Oh MLR I feel your pain.....I know exactly how you feel.
    Well done for seeing your GP - it took me a while to do the same - especially taking meds.

    I so understand the feeling of being isolated in the work place. I managed to survive when I had to talk 'work' but if any one was 'kind' to me I would end up in tears.

    You will get through this and come out the other side. I hope your union do as they should as mine let me down badly.

    Good luck and take one day at a time
  16. MLR36

    MLR36 New commenter

    Depression is very different to anxiety. I am not depressed. I am stressed and anxious. Please do not confuse the two or assume that your illness and triggers are the and as mine, or even that where you found strength I will. We are all unique and different. I am sorry that you are depressed, but happy that you have left the school. I am hoping I will too soon.

    It is good that you can do that. Unfortunately I cannot do this as easily.

    I didn't say it wasn't important, I just didn't snap out of career mode and threw myself into work.

    Yes - in a bid to be financially stable to support my family. You are unaware if my financial situation.

    Your opinion, which you are entitled to have. Wholly inaccurate. As I stated earlier I am not here to discuss my relationship.

    It is indeed. I know things have to change, but I have to think logically as well as with my heart.

    It was eating away at me - this is one of many areas where my anxiety stems from.

    Yes. The only place I feel that is in work. Can you see why I was diagnosed with anxiety?

    Yes I am.

    No it is pretty awful. I hate it. It is slowly improving.

    I know this. But with few teaching jobs around I am stuck. I will not quit teaching.

    I have done my sums. I can't walk away.
  17. MLR36

    MLR36 New commenter

    Yes what is with that??
  18. MLR36

    MLR36 New commenter

    I'm starting to believe there is another side. My union didn't start off great, but I noticed a stark improvement when I complained.

    I hope it worked out ok for you in the end xxx
  19. bigbev

    bigbev New commenter

    I think its called depression and anxiety!....it does get better!
    sabrinakat likes this.
  20. frangipani123

    frangipani123 Lead commenter

    This is a horrible situation to be in and I too feel your pain. I left my toxic, backstabbing workplace 18 months ago and am only now feeling more like my old, cheerful self. In the past week I've met up with two people from there and it sounds just the same; one of them is developing a tutoring sideline in order to be able to jump ship.

    With all the ins and outs I feel that your workplace is not going to change. Uncaring and inept managers are not suddenly going to come good and are most likely suffering themselves. I think you need to take the time to recover your health and if this means being signed off for a period of time, then that's what you need to do. You do need to put yourself first and move away from feeling you will be letting people down. Whilst you are recuperating - and lack of sleep does make everything feel much worse - you need to make a plan of action as to how to afford to leave. Look at your finances in detail and where you can cut back, take a mortgage holiday, take in a lodger etc etc. How can your partner increase their income? Can you plan to do supply, tutor, temp etc?

    All of this is a process - perhaps comparable to grieving, in that you are having to let go of the future you thought you might have. You can see from this forum that sadly you are not in an unusual situation, but you can also see that you can come out the other side. In my case, I came to the point where I felt that we only have one life and that no job is worth this misery, so it's better to leave even if it involves living on bread and water. I'm not quite in that situation but things are tight but much, much more preferable.

    And on the issue of anti-depressants, my doctor put me on Citalopram which I have just stopped taking. Being at work had made me feel depressed and anxious. I can see now that is was really stress and anxiety which triggered low mood etc - they are all very intertwined. Whatever we want to call it the tablets did help me. I was also sent on a group therapy course which I personally found less useful.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2016
    joanneclarebernadette and bigbev like this.

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