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It's been a few days, and what a few days it has been! Walking, cycling, Zwifting and more.

After Tuesday things have stayed quite positive, with the occasional hiccup here and there. Biggest issues have been my back pain and crappy sleep, but more on that in a bit. Being back on the bike has been a massive help to me I think. Being able to free my mind of the dark and worrying thoughts for a while is always a positive start to a day. With a good hard real world ride yesterday, a lethargic Zwift session the day before, and plenty of walking in between, my head is a much fresher place to be.

Yesterday saw a call with my manager regarding my recent visit to the GP, and the outcome of that. The plan being to take these findings to HR, and arrange an appointment with the companies Occupational Health service, in order to better understand the impact of my situation, and to address any adaptations to the role or "workplace" to accommodate the recommendations. This is a road I have been down before with work, and one I am comfortable with. Even if the intentions of the first referral years ago were somewhat questionable, but lets not go there again!

The conversation with the manager was a very pleasant and understanding chat, which was quite welcome I have to say. While I am pretty much an open book when it comes to talking about my mental health, having a conversation with a new person about it can feel quite awkward at times. Thankfully I have known this manager a long time now, and it was just a matter of finding a common language to get the conversation started. By the end of the chat it felt like I had been understood, and we were on at least the same chapter of the book about what was needed.  A referral to OH has been made, so now I await an appointment and go from there. 

In the meantime I am due a follow up with my GP next week, but of course I need to chase this up as their appointment system at the moment doesn't show an appointment for me. No stress, just taking things one step at a time. Next week I also have a consultation with the local authority Mental Health team IAPT for an assessment for counselling and any other treatment recommendations moving forward. I remember the first time I spoke to them, and how hopeless it made me feel by the end of the conversation. So I am putting that to the back of my mind, and hoping for a better experience this time around.  What do we think they will recommend for social anxiety? A group session maybe? lol

All in all, as far as mentally anyway, things are on track. I mentioned to my manager during the chat the possibility of an assessment for ASD too, so that is all noted. Yet to see what the GP and IAPT think about this, and what the timescales would be. The next week or two is all about appointments, chats and assessments, then we take the next step, whatever that may be.

From a work perspective, it is recognised that changes may be needed depending on what OH think of it all. The biggest thing that came up again and again with my manager was the way working in the office with the "team" makes me feel, and how time away has made me realise that the office environment is probably THE biggest contributor to my struggles with anxiety on a day to day basis. Jeez just interacting on TEAMS is harder work than it should be at times! Fingers crossed the chat with OH which I believe is virtual at the moment (Covid rattles on) is good enough to put across what the actual issues are here, and not sound like a whiner.

My biggest fear at every step of the way, being seen as a work shy little whiny princess who wants it all his own way. I am sure anyone who doesn't understand anxiety (not just feeling a little anxious) will see it as a ploy to just stay working from home. To some, as it has throughout Covid, working from home is just for lazy people who don't want to work. Whereas in reality, with WFH I actually spend more time working, am more flexible with my time, and able to adapt better to changes in requirements. Only this week I was able to log on to work at 7am and get the day started much earlier than usual, which allowed me to help the team long before I was officially starting work that day. But hey, WFH is for lazy people, and isn't productive. 
Let's see eh.

Physically however the back pain has continued, which has led to poor sleep and feeling tired a lot of the day. I was not sure over the past week if that was mental or physical exhaustion, but as my mood lifted things changed a bit. However some residual lethargy remained, the product of crap sleep and dare I say poor diet too. Dealing with the back was first up, and today I visited Andrew Fung the awesome Osteopath, visiting him at clinic in Greenwich. Had a lovely little walk there with Ann from Greenwich Park, so arrived in a good frame of mind. An hour later, lots of popping and cracking from my back etc, and I am already moving a lot more freely, however will be following up with another appointment next week. It was good to get a professional take on how things were, and be assured that things are on the mend, so I look forward to my next appointment with Andrew next week. I won't pretend I am not left with discomfort at the moment, but am sure I will sleep a little better tonight, and hopefully get on the road to normal again soon.

The other side of things, the nutrition side has been bugging me for a few weeks. Just before France I stopped using the Huel I had been using for meal replacement. On the week or two running up to that time I asked the question openly if people thought the Huel could be contributing towards how I was feeling. Better sleep, more energy, resting HR dropping to an all time low for me (around 37bpm). Not convinced it was that, when I got to the end of the trial bag I had ordered, I didn't get anymore. But shortly after stopping, things took a dive. Coincidence? 
Well, we will find out soon I guess, as today two more bags of Huel arrived (with another free t-shirt). So from Monday I think I will be back on the shakes in the morning, and cleaner eating the rest of the day, and we shall see how things go from there. If things start to improve again I will be shocked and delighted, and of course a Huel customer for life!

For now, it's almost the weekend, the weather is looking great, my bikes are calling, and I can't wait to get some more miles in the sunshine in. Maybe even a ride with a friend, if I can find one! Haha

 

Have a fun and safe weekend all. 

 

 

 

I thought I would be balanced about this and write entries about both good and bad days, rather than seeming like a negative Nancy all the time.

I would like to say I got a good nights sleep last night, but that would be fibbing. Restless and un-refreshing as Garmin called it. I agree! I went to bed at a reasonable time, and wanted to see if I could get myself up early, and start the day on the right foot. A little pre-sleep apprehension about today, thinking through how I would conduct myself today, then off to sleep for the first 30 min stint. 

The sleep continued like that til about 6am when I decided to start getting myself together for the day. Knowing the day was a bit of a shit storm at work today, I decided not to be totally obsessed by the recent news about ending WFH, and get myself logged on early to give the rest of the team a bit of a helping hand at the front end of the day. Before shooting off for a couple of hours for a ride, then starting work early again. All of which I should point out would be impossible if working from the office. So, if that IS the final decision, all that will go out of the window. 

Logged on by 7am, with a coffee and my work head screwed on, I got stuck in for an hour, made the best start I could, then started to get ready for a ride. Its a bit stuffy today, but not too hot, so it was lovely to get out and feel the wind rushing by. Back still quite sore at the moment, so I decided to take things easy, and not flog myself too hard. Out to Woolwich and back again, ferry not running today, surprise!! Then into town via Tower Bridge. The joys of riding in the rush-hour in the summer holidays. Roads are much quieter and flow nicely most of the time. 

Keeping the average speed up, seemingly only thwarted by roadworks (summer hols = roadworks season) including chunks of cycleways, which is most inconvenient. It was a good ride, and put me in a good space mentally for the rest of the day which lay ahead. Stressful day at work, yes. Manageable by being able to get into the right frame of mind, definitely. 

Today, I have felt positive, strong, determined and able. A stark contrast to recent days for sure. 
With a meeting with my manager later in the week, an appointment with Andrew the Osteopath on Friday, and my IAPT appointment in the coming weeks, right now things feel good. Now, if only I can secure my footing and stand in this spot, I will be a happier guy. 

 

After a crap night's sleep, another week begins, and we are off to a crappy one. Back was really hurting last night, so my sleep was really poor. As a result I have woken tired and grumpy, and with absolutely no motivation to do anything. 

Monday morning should be go for a run morning. It's a cool morning, fresh air, still and overcast. Perfect running weather, but I have a two pronged excuse. My back aches and I didn't get much rest so am not very fresh. Not to mention I really can't be bothered. 

Usually, I would push myself to at least have a little run, but right now my brain is loving the excuses. There is still hope, as I write this I an trying to convince myself to just have a tiny gentle 5k at least. We shall see. 

But this is a state of mind I hate the most. Rather than just having an "aah f**k it" day, in my head I am spiralling downwards into depression. Under normal circumstances I have times when being active just doesn't appeal, so I don't bother. Nothing unusual there. But having something to blame that mindset on, and turn it into something it's not is more fun for the over active mind. 

Reality is my back has been hurting for too long now, and I need to get it sorted by rest and maybe seeing someone. Taking a break from running and cycling is probably a good idea for a week, like I did with my calf too. But for some reason my obsession with both continues, and if I don't do either, I feel I am getting fat and letting myself down. Add to that the amount of comfort eating I have done in the past week, and the mental images of how I will look in a weeks time if I DON'T run or ride are horrendous. 

I think it's for the best physically that I take a day or two out, do some stretching and yoga maybe, and recharge a bit. This is me being in control, not circumstances dictating what I can and can't do, nor my brain forcing me to do things which cause me pain. 

So there brain, take that... I decided, me... Not you! 

Have a good week all. 

It was recently mentioned to me that it might be helpful to look into the realms of ASD with regards to my behaviours, and general mindset, not to mention the symptoms I have commonly discussed on this blog and with others. Fair to say this is not the first time it has been mentioned, and has been the topic of quite a few conversations with certain friends of late. Obviously we know I struggle with anxiety in general. But is that the condition itself, or simply a symptom of a bigger issue? That is the question for today.

Before I dive into that, I wanted to make note here that today in general has been a pretty shitty day. No particular reason, just generally started out on a low, and for a while went deeper and deeper into it.  Snappy, struggling to focus and keep my cool, and VERY irritable. Nothing particularly on my mind, but just had no tolerance for anything at all. Noises especially today have really wound me up.  I had a nice walk in the sun with Ann before work, try and get some of those endorphins flowing, then came home to relax before work. Nope, not happening, just getting wound up tighter. 

After another conversation with another couple of friends, I thought I would re-run an ASD screening test I have done before. Recalling the score, I thought it would be interesting to see where I scored now. As I went through the questions, it is incredible how many things you realise "trigger" you. Reading scenarios, then taking a moment to honestly answer the question. Not the "yeah yeah I am fine", but really being honest with myself. As I said before it is nice to pretend that you can do anything, but "coping" with something is not the same as being able to simply do something. 

Similar to being asked by the GP yesterday if I could go to the shops OK, and first saying "well yes", then realising I shop at off peak times, generally prefer smaller stores, always use self checkout to avoid interaction and so on... So, nope, I CAN go to the shops, but it is NOT easy. So today answering the questions on the assessment I thought I would allow the same thought process to take place. I learned something for sure! I am NOT OK !

By the end of the test, I scored quite highly, well into the "severe" score range, and displayed multiple strong signs of ASD. Then to the "what next" section. Well of course this was done on a private companies website, so there were places to enquire, but also some helpful pointers on who to speak to and where to find help. Like I say, this is not the first time considering ASD, so I have some ideas of what is out there. The wait for the NHS last time I checked was somewhere in the region of two years for assessment. While private clinics such as this one have much shorter waiting lists, but come with a price tag of around £2,000.

So now I am left wondering what to do next. The idea of ASD is not a simple and convenient one for me. But as I have said to others in the past, the more I have learned about it, and the more I look back over my life, the more it would make sense. Will it change anything, not really. I am not looking to "cure" my anxiety as such, not turn my life around. I like who I am, and how I live, label or not. But it would answer some questions I have asked myself, especially about my upbringing and earlier years. It would help me convey to others what I struggle to do, why, and what they can do to help me. And of course it would make me cool.... OK I am lying about that one, but there is nothing wrong with knowing what is going on inside the grey matter.

Like I say, it doesn't change anything fundamentally for me, life goes on. But it helps with the frustrations of life when you struggle being on a busy train, around strangers, or some days just want to be left alone for a bit.  Like today. Not to an extreme, but it has taken me a few hours of being at my desk working to start to feel balanced in any way. The first couple of hours, trying to do quite simple tasks of comparing data fields on documents, focusing on an issue to resolve it, or just typing in a phone number required exhausting amounts of concentration. To a point of "arrrgh I can't do this" and wanting to just call it a day. Moment like that are usually the catalyst to a much bigger and longer episode. But thankfully in the peace and quiet of an office, on my own, I was able to work my way through it, and feel much better in my mind this evening. There is hope! 

Using today as an example, this is what I was trying to touch on yesterday. An anxiety disorder, triggered by stressful situations, being in an uncomfortable environment is one thing. However today was not triggered in any way. I slept OK, and simply woke up feeling like I needed space, fresh air, and some time out. So there probably is more to it than straight forward socially triggered anxiety. And with that in mind, that is why I was so torn about starting the medication straight away, or waiting for some more questions to be answered, and more things to become apparent. If I had started the meds yesterday, one of the side effects is heightened anxiety for a while, and today would simply have been put down to that, and nothing else. 

Instead, I have had the head-space to consider opinions of others. And that is actually quite important. To have the honest and frank opinions of others, as it is so hard to see sometimes how your behaviours actually appear. From time to time I will catch myself acting differently due to how I am feeling, but most of the time it is more likely others can tell you more about your behaviours than you can yourself. So I am very grateful to have such people around me, and encourage anyone who thinks they have something of benefit to say to let me know. No offence will be taken I promise. Unless you are being a bit of a twat, in which case, expect as good as you gave. 

So now with the test results, the comments and opinions of others around me, some of whom are in a very educated position to form such opinions, when I see the doctor next I can raise the question of ASD screening, without feeling like I am clutching at straws, searching for a label, or just trying to find more and more excuses as to why I should continue to work from home.  Where it goes from there, who knows. I am sure there is a long long waiting list, and one which will not be in my favour with work related matters. However at least having had the conversation and been referred for screening, or indeed considering paying to go the private route may help in all walks of life. Time will tell. 

Thanks as always for reading a long ramble, and a special thanks to those who have taken the time to reach out, share their thoughts and opinions, and give me a little bit of hope and direction.

 

Til next time...

Not my first rodeo with anti anxiety, anti depressant meds, so that is not an issue as such for me. When the time is right, needs must, and I have no issue with taking such medications to help. But is that time now?

I am getting ahead of myself here, the last thing I said was I was going to speak to the doctors. Well, that appointment has come and gone. Much to my delight the conversation was relaxed and open, and I felt I was able to express myself clearly. More importantly I felt I was listened to throughout, and the doctor understood where I was coming from. Ironically 2 hours before the appointment I received a call from the surgery informing me that the appointment would now be on the phone as the doctor was working from home! Alright for some eh. 

I discussed how I have been anxiety "free" for a long while now, and how Covid times have shown me there is a way to do my job, and be in a good place mentally too. And that even starting to process returning to an office environment has thrown me into a tailspin, and it is affecting me. I said I have always been bad in public spaces, or crowded environments, and do much better alone or in controllable spaces. From there we moved onto the more general aspect of the issue, and the social anxiety.

Her feelings on the matter were two fold. Firstly recognising that this new episode is triggered by the fear of being back in a space I can't control, and that this has until now been avoidable with no impact to my ability to do my job, or work for a living in general. And that secondly she would like to try and improve my general wellbeing in all walks of life, by getting me help for my "anxiety disorder". Her suggestions being using medication to control the anxiety, and counselling to address the social aspect of it, and help me find ways of improving my state of mind in such settings.

We also discussed moving forward with matters at work, and how I can go about addressing my anxiousness about being in an office again. Going back over how things were before Covid, and how I have over the years learned ways to "cope" with the anxiety it caused me, rather than overcome it and feel normal at the end of a working day. Touching on how mentally exhausted I get when in uncomfortable situations. Using all my mental energy to appear and function as "normal", and when the curtain falls, just crashing and being left exhausted, and totally drained. Not to mention feeling edgy and in a foul mood. Repeat that on a daily basis, and the cycle is, wake up OK, interact with partner and friends, go to work, be drained of all your will to live, come home and be an utter arsehole until you go to sleep....Repeat...

Some would say I am not that bad, or too cranky etc, but even that alone takes all my reserves to maintain. Being aware that you are behaving like a bit of an arse is really upsetting. So you are then left with two options. Hide away, or draw on your final reserve of mental strength to at least be likable. It is a really hard one to explain, everything feels so fake. Oh look, its people, slap that smile on, crack a joke or two and reply to "how are you" with a very plastic "yeah yeah good thanks". Rather than, "well to be honest dying inside right now, this is exhausting the shit out of me".

Having spent so many years with multiple personas (not split personality), switching at will to suit the audience, I have become very self aware, and know the second I am starting to be "fake" . And let me tell you, being fake has an energy burn 10x higher than just ticking along being me. To put it in physical terms, as some people only understand those, think of the difference you feel between walking at a nice sedate pace, and running flat out as fast as you can. Heart rate rises, body temp sky rockets, muscles tense, and energy rapidly drains from your body. Now imagine feeling like that, while still just walking along. It would be alarming right? Welcome to my anxiety mind!

So, here we are, post appointment. Diagnosis "Anxiety disorder", treatment, counselling and medication, prognosis hopeful but too soon to tell. I have sent off my referral to the Mental Health service providers locally, and await to hear back with any sort of waiting time, and suggestion of treatment. I have informed my work of the outcome, and await hearing if there is any intervention at this stage, and I have collected my medication from the pharmacy.

The last two are the important factors here. Work, I am sure there is no need for any intervention at this point for a number of reasons. Firstly there is no official 30 day notice period given to return to the office yet. Just the pre-notice notice, if that makes sense. In the meantime we all await to hear if there is a chance of overturning the decision to end WFH. And secondly, at this point the anxiety has not affected my work. While working from home I am still able to function OK, but can honestly say that my focus and concentration has taken a huge hit, as I have touched on before.  If and when work are to do anything, it will be a referral to the Occupational Health service, to assess my ability to carry out my job, and see if they agree with the GP. The GP has said they are more than happy to work with the OH to make sure the best and most suitable arrangements are made, to allow me to work, while managing my well-being. 

The second factor being the medication, and the point of this blog entry. So the deciding factors here are a bit of a mess, hence blogging to try and make sense of it. Bear with me here. 

My need to go down this whole road, to me at least, has been the anxiety triggered by the knowledge of the request to return to the office coming. Until that point I have felt better than I have ever been before. Sure there have been moments of avoidance and struggling with socialising away from work. That is something I have always lived with, and chosen my battles carefully. Risk vs reward so to speak. Is the end goal worth the use of all my mental energy, feeling exhausted and edgy for the next day or two? As you can imagine there are not too many scenarios which warrant that result. The GP wants to tackle this aspect too, so the medication and counselling is to help with all walks of anxious life. OK, great.

Or is it? In general, I don't like being around a lot of people, fake people, talking shit, all in the name of looking good. No thanks, I will stick with the genuine people I actually like, people who know ME and not one of my personas, and that I can actually communicate with, without becoming exhausted. There is no denying that there is social anxiety for me in both settings, but one is far more manageable than the other. Do I feel the anxiety in the calmer setting needs addressing? Maybe! It would be nice to spend more time with people I like in a wider range of settings and environments, but do I want to medicate to do that? THAT is the question here.

The other half of the question, am I happy to medicate, and have to attend counselling to learn coping mechanisms to return to an office, to do a job I have done without fault for the past two and a half years from home? Well............... errm, no, not really! I appreciate I did it from an office before, but that was before WFH was even accepted as possible for my team, and before it necessitated us being at home to do our jobs, to enable the company to keep functioning through Covid. A change I was willing to make for my employer, at very short notice. A change which proved itself to be beneficial to the company on a number of fronts, and one which showed me that my mental health was SO much better away from an office environment. All very accidental. But when you discover a better method by accident, or through circumstances, do you change back because the old normal is the only right way?

If you commute to work by car and the main road you use is closed, and a diversion is set up. If the diversion it turns out it's a quicker route. When the main road opens again, do you go back to your old route? See where I am going with this? There is a new, proven route / work method, why deviate from it for the same of going back to the "good old ways"?

So now, while I wait to hear about the official line on WFH, if any appeal has been successful, or if indeed we will get our 30 days notice to return. Do I start the medication now, to primarily treat the anxiety caused by the news. Tolerate the side effects as the levels build up in my body, and possibly trigger worse anxiety in the short term, and maybe the need to take time off work anyway. Or do I wait for the outcome, and if it us unfavourable, and the notice is given, THEN start the process of taking the medication, at which point I feel it would be more than needed, as my anxiety will blow up? Feel free to share your thoughts.

I know the idea of the meds is to help with my social anxiety too, but right now, I don't want to take meds, and feel like I have been forced into this by matters at work. Which are the primary reason I am in this situation, and had this conversation with my GP in the first place.

Phew, that was a lot to get out of my little head. Thanks for reading. 

 

That paradoxical moment when you realise how anxious you are getting about seeing your GP about your anxiety! Seeking help about a debilitating condition, but feeling almost incapable of having that conversation with the person who can actually help you. In fear of the reaction and response you will get from that person.  You really couldn't make this up. But thankfully it is not the first time feeling this way.

I know good trumps bad here, and that ultimately the doctor is there to help and guide me through this time. They have done it before and can do it again. Having run through this exact scenario at the RCGP many times in aid of helping students learn, you would think I would be well practised. Well in that regard I am, but it doesn't make doing for real any easier. 

There have been a couple of times over the last decade where I have felt that the GP and I didn't connect in the way necessary to build trust. I didn't feel comfortable enough explaining to the GP what I was honestly feeling, started to feel stupid, so popped the cork back in the bottle of emotions. That can really set me back. But fingers crossed this wont be the case today. 

The second part is when the GP asks you what YOU want them to do and help with. When doing this in scenarios, it almost felt stupid to be asked what you wanted. Especially if this was your first time feeling this way, you would not have a clue what you were going through, and what was wrong, let alone what was available to help you. But I get it... Once you understand that they don't all want to force meds or treatments on you, and are asking how you would like to tackle the issue, it makes more sense. If only there were an easier way of going about it. Maybe running options by you, expressing their preference and then asking if you would rather go a different way?

But here I go, already 3 steps ahead of the whole process, and I am not going for another 2 hours! I just want to relax a bit, and stop running doom scenarios, and stressing myself out more. But, if it were that easy, I would not need to see the doctor in the first place eh. 

What I want from today is to create a safety net, if things slip further, to have options and a plan in place. For when my mind can't quite do these things as well anymore. If I really start to spiral, to have considered that meds are the right way to go. If I need to take a time out, and take time off, so be it, and whatever happens after that be prearranged by me in a state of sound mind, so none of the decisions are knee jerk or irrational.

In my head I have thought through and discussed with myself the worst case scenarios re work. I know if it all goes wrong and gets too much, leaving IS an option, and not an irrational one. There is a plan there of what I would do next, how I would get by etc. More importantly though, there is a bigger more hopeful plan in place to not reach that stage. To find a way to move forwards, and not have any dramatic changes. Compromise can be found if both parties are willing. And seeing the GP today is the beginning, and works fine in either scenario.

So I guess what I am saying is, this is a necessary evil that I have to go through, and a conversation I am dreading, but must happen. The only unknown now, for the next 2 hours at least, is which doctor I will see, and what their attitude to mental health is.

If you are reading this after 14.30 on 27/07/22 then I have seen the GP now.

I am sure there will be another entry a bit later on, maybe today, maybe in a few days, depending what state of mind I leave the doctors in. 

Thanks for reading.

Amazing the difference a ride can make!

Woke this morning after a good long sleep, in a bit of a wobbly state of mind. Having managed to shake the over thinking as I fell asleep, it caught up with me in my sleep. So a little more tired than I would have liked to have been, I headed out on the bike for a few hours. 

Now you might imagine that the only way to relax on a bike is flowing country lanes, or a bloody big mountain to climb. However, surprisingly, riding in Central London can be equally as positive for the brain. So much going on, so many distractions, and believe it or not some amazing sights too. All the while not being too far from home. Which for me at the moment is a life saver. 

When my head gets into a bit of a wobble, I have pre ride worried, what if something goes wrong, what if I get a mechanical, what if I run out of energy etc. Riding from home, into Central London via some of the routes I use is ideal. Passing lots of overground stations I can use if the worst happens. I have comfort and confidence in doing this from previously when I had a little calf tear while out running. Just hobble to the tube station, and I am sorted. 

After 2-3 hours of pedalling around, pounding out a bit of frustration here and there, but for the main part, just keeping thoughts at bay, and getting some fresh air (pollution) I come back home in a different state of mind. Even when bus drivers have been arseholes, my state of mind at the end of a ride is always much better. 

Being able to ride all morning, until I am about to start work has been great for me, arriving home at 11.55, sweaty and exhausted, but in a fit state to do my work. Win win. Positive mind ready for work, and not having to worry that I might be dripping with sweat and a little unappealing to be around lol. 

I have said it before, and will say it again, cycling has 100% saved me from some terrible times, and I hope it will continue to for as long as I can pedal. 

It has been a few days, and as the mood continues to dip, so do the energy levels. Earlier in the week I put the lethargy down to the high temperatures, but as the weather has returned to normal, and my sleep periods extended, the tiredness has really taken a hold. Lack of interest in getting up in the mornings, seemingly slipping towards the "just another half hour" of the days of depression. And even once up, unless I am fully engaged doing something, I quickly feel ready to sleep.

Another thing I have noticed is a long background headache. The past couple of days now, its just there nagging away, threatening to get worse. It's not dehydration, caffeine deficiency or anything like that. As usual my fluid levels are sky high, and my caffeine intake has not differed. It is more like a stress/ tension headache, which just doesn't want to give up. 

Speaking of tension, the lower back muscle tightness and pain still doesn't seem to want to ease up in any way, and it spreading into my shoulder and neck. Just feels like I am turning into a big ball of stress right now. Which in some respects is hardly surprising. The discomfort, combined with the tiredness I have been feeling are starting to leave me less and less able to focus on tasks. Instead becoming distracted by either symptoms, or starting to put things together in my head, and worry myself into a deeper state of stress and anxiety. 

I have the doctors in a couple of days time, and already that is starting to worry me too. Going over the consultation in my head over and over. What do I say, how do I explain why I think I am feeling this way. Will I sound bone idle and like I am trying to pull a fast one. What is deemed a "disability"? Dare I even utter those words? It just seems such a crass thing to say, when others around me suffer much more in different ways all the time. 

In reality, I am hoping I will see a decent doctor, who I will feel comfortable explaining my symptoms and situation to. Hopefully I will be able to discuss the past 15 or so years, and how I have slowly learned what I can and can't do. Periods on medication, total periods of depression and anxiety on record. And somehow get across how different the past two years have really been for me, until now anyway. 

In the meantime I am trying to keep up with my exercise, and stay active, to at least get a mental boost that way. But I can't deny being distracted while I exercise now. Morning runs and rides are thwarted with thoughts of "I might not be able to do this soon", which really kills the mood I have to say. Not to mention the back pain too, which kinda makes riding and running that bit more difficult. A 40 odd mile ride yesterday wasn't too bad, and thankfully I managed to lose myself for a bit. But by the end I was truly exhausted. A run this morning, first in a while was uncomfortable to say the least, pressure around the hips and pelvis from the muscle tension made it a bit miserable. 

One thing the ride yesterday helped me with though was reminding myself of the difference between mental and physical exhaustion. Are highlighting that what I am feeling at the moment, during a working day is mental exhaustion. My brain absolutely running at full speed, some on day to day work stuff, and the rest seems to be preoccupied and bunged up with worry and overthinking about what is going on, and what lays ahead. 

Boy oh boy, I am getting tired just thinking about it all to write this, so I am gonna go and write myself a list to take to the doctors with me on Wed. Part of me is hoping they don't suggest meds right now, but the other part realises that at times like this, I am not great at judging my own state of well-being, and have turned to a doctor for a reason. I think I would like to stay off meds at least until any discussion between my line manager, HR, and the seniors has taken place, but who am I to judge. 

Right now I am 99.9% positive it is the news of the return to the office that is the cause of this. Over 15-20 years of mental health issues, there have only been a handful of times I feel I can put my finger on the trigger. It always amused me before when I was asked by doctors, and I had no answer. On this occasion, I am pretty darn sure of it. Now I just have to wait and see what everyones opinions of my thoughts are, and how it is treated.


*sigh* Right, back to the real world. Thanks for reading. 

As I start to feel the slipping feeling of my mental state, I thought it would be interesting for me to document, for myself, the things I start to notice as time goes by. It starts out simple and slowly becomes more and more unsettling, until doing the most basic of things starts to become impossible. 

Loss of focus. This one hits hard especially for working. Dealing with numbers and sequences of characters all day, the ability to read and recall is quite important to me. For example, looking at a phone number on a screen, while dialing it on the phone. Sometimes it's two quick sequences of numbers, but as focus slips, it becomes a collection of two digit numbers, so rather than 12345-67890 it becomes 12-34-56-78-90.. When trying to work quickly, that soon becomes very frustrating, and you get behind on things quickly. 

Which brings me onto frustration and franticness (is that even a word). Generally as you start to do something you make little errors along the way, we correct loads of them all the time, without so much as batting an eyelid. But as you start to make more little mistakes, and are more and more aware of them, it soon turns into a frantic spiral of doom. "I can't do this" becomes the mantra, and you begin to give up and doubt yourself.

 Being manic comes next, with self doubt, fear of messing up big time, and the desire to just get the hell outta there. It would be simple to just remove yourself from the situation all together, rather than mess up and make yourself look like an idiot, not to mention let everyone down. Some of these situations are so hard to explain to someone who has never felt that way. And I should point out that just because the person is feeling like they are failing, they could in fact be acing it, but are just unable to see that for themselves. 

Focus is one I notice almost straight away. Did I mention that.. Oh yes, I did. But here is a different example. Let's call it attentiveness. Trying to be in the moment, spend time with people, listen and be attentive, engage in conversation. It's not that you are distracted by something else. Not even caught in your own thoughts for once, you just simply become vacant. It is not for the lack of want to engage, just simply being unable to. It works both ways too. Being mid sentence and simply losing your place. Which reminds me of something else. 

Confusion. Simply trying to make yourself understood, trying to find the right word for a situation, or being able to express yourself properly. Over the past few days I have given up mid sentence while trying to think of the word I wanted. Confusion plus frustration leads to just wanting to run away. 

There is so much more to add to this, and I will try a second part tomorrow, but it's late now and I NEED sleep. Hopefully my back will be less painful tomorrow morning and I can get out on the bike for a few hours to clear my head a bit. Phew, feels good to have gotten that off my chest. 

 

Night! 

And just like that, WFH was over!

OK, slightly exaggerating there maybe. However, the outcome of the meeting I blogged about the other day did indeed say that our workgroup is "not in the scope for WFH", and therefore must return to the office full time after a 30 day notice period.

To say my reaction to this news was bad would be a serious understatement to say the least. Sleep has gone out the window, constantly dwelling and over-thinking the decision. Mind filled with worry and genuine fear of the idea of returning to working from an office, and anxiety off the chart. To such an extent in fact, I have made a doctors appointment for next week to discuss it.

So much on my mind right now, I don't even know where to start, but will try at the beginning, to try and get some of this out of my head.

When you suffer with severe anxiety, it is not so much about curing, but learning to cope. Over the years I have removed myself from situations which cause me anxiety, becoming quite anti-social which is fine by me, avoiding unnecessary contact with people. Obviously avoiding work, unless having a serious bout of anxiety was never an option. So each time I recovered, I would make an effort, and learn ways to cope with the office environment. However, Covid changed everything.

With Covid, and the introduction of working from home, my life changed, for the better. Now I have to say, a lot of people saw the benefits such as being home for deliveries or work on the house. Childcare became easier for some, and many others saw a huge improvement in their work/home balance. No commute meaning time and money saved, and so on. But for me there was one other thing, a huge reduction in anxiety, and a massive improvement on my mental health. Seriously, you could measure it on so many metrics!

Better sleep, more relaxed mood, more engaging with others, healthier state of mind, almost no anxiety about issues at all. I have become fitter both mentally and physically. I have a better relationship because of it. I am able to deal with lifes little worries in my stride now, rather than falling apart about how I am going to pay a bill for example. I am a better me! And its all thanks to working from home. Plain and simple.

So to suddenly be told that it is coming to an end has thrown me into a tail spin. Was it ever said it was permanent, well no. But as time passed and there was talk about the new way of working, caring about peoples life balances, learning from having WFH, etc, it started to feel like it for sure. Of course, that is just an assumption, and a big one at that, so shame on me for hoping. But as groups started to find out their fates moving forward, people in groups which function similarly to ours were told they were at least working hybrid, so the assumption continued. Then BANG!

Knowing what lays ahead at least removes the uncertainty. But it also in turn replaces it with dread, fear and so much more. My mind is manic right now, concentration on simple tasks is impossible, to the point for example, cutting chicken for lunch earlier, I had to put the knife down, step away and take some breathes, to stop myself from frantically rushing, and possibly hurting myself. It sucks, and I hate feeling myself drop into this mindset. One which is all too familiar, and I know where it goes from here. The only way is down. 

Desperate to get a grip on things before it gets out of control and messy, I contacted my GP surgery today, to try and get an appointment. Of course they were all gone, but after a minute of speaking to reception, it was obviously clear to her that I was in a bad way, and she managed to get me in to see a doctor next week. This is really a situation I hoped I was over with now. Quite a while without seeing a GP about anxiety. In recent years my coping mechanisms were enabling me to work without too much drama. But WFH showed me just how much of a compromise I was making to do that. A level of compromise I cannot even imagine returning to. So much so, I am almost positive it will lead to an episode for me. 

The idea of speaking to the GP now, with the possibility of going back onto medication I have managed to stay off for a number of years now, just to be able to function normally enough to go back to working in my office. All while I have continued to be able to do my job for the last two and a half years, without issue, and in fact with increased productivity, just seems barbaric! If someone said to you "sure, just take this medication, and the job is yours".... Would you?

I know I am asking a lot, I know in a lot of cases people are asking to remain working from home for much more "trivial" reasons. I use that phrase with caution, as I appreciate we are all different, and our reasons are personal to us. Mine just happens to be a well documented mental health issue. Working from home has highlighted to me how much the "toxic" environment of an office was affecting me, even when I thought I was doing well. Only to discover how much better off I was mentally away from that environment. 

I have spent a few days now thinking things over, and trying to work out where my good place is mentally, and have come to the following conclusions.

  • I feel happier and safer working in an isolated environment. Be that a small office, or working in my home office. Preferably the latter. 
  • I am not adverse to being in larger groups to attend meetings, or training.
  • It is not about any person or individual, I simply don't do well around other people. 

This is not about being work shy, trying to have my cake and eat it, or any other head shaking, finger wagging reasons some might like to think up. This is about me being able to do a job I have done for over two decades now, one I enjoy very much. But without having to take medication to do it, and have a "normal" life. 

Without having ever known what it felt like to work from home, the idea of asking to be allowed to, and expecting mountains to be moved to facilitate me would have seemed like a bit of a stretch. But then along came Covid, forced the hand, and made changes no one could have anticipated. For some departments like the one I am in, on the surface it seems to have been a success. Sickness way down, productivity up, engagement up, communication up, and so on. So to upset the apple cart as a whole seems a bit counter intuitive. But on an individual basis, for me, is a cataclysmic blow to my life balance. 

By this point, some are starting to think I am being a bit over dramatic I am sure, and others noticing the repetition in the paragraphs, but it is with reason. Those thinking its dramatic simply do not understand the implications on day to day life living with severe anxiety has. And the repetition, well that is just to get my message across. I cannot even start to comprehend working back in the office with a group of people, without having a complete meltdown, and taking a huge dose of medication to numb my mind a bit.

What a great balance, taking medication, dulling my thought process, but being able to work, before coming home completely mentally drained from work, then starting all over again after a crap nights sleep.  

I have to say of course, that this is a fluid situation, and at this point I have NOT been given 30 days notice to return to the office. If this is to happen, it is estimated we will return for some time in September. In the meantime I have my GP appointment, have begun some online counselling with AXA provided by work, and have spoken to my manager and HR about my concerns. Which are in turn being addressed. 

With the disability act in mind, I have asked for some consideration to be given to my situation, and have been advised I will need to see Occupational Health for an assessment. I will also raise this with my GP. All I can do now is hope that my appeal is considered fairly, and that I can continue in my role, and without medication for the foreseeable future. 

Right, am back to find a cold damp rock to hide under until I hear more. In the meantime, thanks for reading this ramble.