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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. 




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.