I love my job. I’ve been doing it for a long time and I’m very good at it. So why have I been told by my doctor that I have work-related depression and that I need to have at least two weeks off? This post is my attempt to explore how this happened to me.
Things boiled over on Wednesday morning last week when I simply couldn’t face going into work. So I stayed in bed and slept for most of the day. I did the same on Thursday and Friday. Although I felt a little better over the weekend and went to a neighbour’s wedding reception on Saturday night, my overwhelming feeling was that I just couldn’t be bothered to do anything very much and that I felt very tired all the time.
On Monday, I went in to see the doctor after a series of questions about how I felt, I was almost relieved when she gave me a certificate for two weeks off work and an appointment to go back in two weeks time.
Looking back over the last few months, I can now see that this wasn’t something that happened suddenly.
I can’t put my finger on when things got really bad, but I’ll start by going back almost a year to a massive scare about funding for the whole organisation. Management started a big consultation about redundancies and they based the consultation on a worst-case scenario of more than 20 redundancies. I was asked to be a staff representative at the start of this process and although I tried to bring some fun into the initial election process, nothing can change the fact that we were all very worried about our jobs. This consultation and its inevitable aftermath seemed to go on for months and was probably the start of my slide into depression.
In fact, the whole thing got to quite a lot of staff and even though almost all of the redundancies were withdrawn as new funding came in, quite a lot of people were so unsettled by this that they have now left the organisation.
Along the way, I was asked to take a small part in a massive project that was being led by my boss and a colleague. As an all-round good bloke and team player, I agreed. At that time I would never, in my wildest dreams, have thought that this colleague would be one of the exodus to a new and better job and that my boss would also leave under what I can only describe as some very dubious circumstances. This, of course, left me with 100% of this project with a very immovable deadline looming.
At the same time, and although my own job was secured at the eleventh hour, the other remaining staff in my team were all closing down their own projects; some to leave the organisation and others to stay, but to move into new jobs. To say that I felt unsupported would be the understatement of the year. At least, whatever support I did get was from Sue, my wife, and from staff in the external organisation who were working in partnership with my own organisation to deliver the big project. At the time, I didn’t spot this one, but looking back, the disappearance of my team manager left a big gap in my own support that should have been filled by more senior managers.
During this time, recruitment was under way for new workers to take up the newly created jobs in our team that had arrived with the new funding. I was also involved in some of this recruitment. At the time I was happy to do this, but in hindsight, it only added to my already overflowing workload. This recruitment brought a lot of new people into the place (as well a couple of existing staff with new roles). It was probably down to me being too helpful, but I then pitched into helping these new staff members to get to grips with the team, the job and the organisation.
Along the way, we had that dreadful month of Sue’s cancer scare. I have already written about the effect that this had on me. I can now see that it was part of the cumulative effect that led to my present state.
Around this time, I also applied for an internal vacancy. This was a job that I could do and was a natural progression from what I do now. I was very upset that the only response I had to this application was a message left for me while we were on holiday in Somerset saying that I hadn’t been shortlisted for the job.
With the major project out of the way, things should have settled down and I should have been getting back into the swing of my normal job. It was also around now that senior management decided to get involved. I was hauled into supervision and told that I was no longer to do part of my job because there was a new staff member who would do it. I have already said that I am good at my job and this part of it was something that I also enjoyed a lot. It was also something for which I have built up a good reputation locally, regionally and nationally for myself as well as for the organisation.
When I also saw that this work was simply not being done, I protested to the manager concerned and was devastated to be told that she “didn’t care” about this.
So here I am, I now have a mental illness.
I’ll try to write about what I’m doing during this strange, enforced holiday, but although the weather is glorious, I haven’t even pushed the bike out of the garage or been to a railway. Part of me wants to do both of these, but a far stronger part of me simply can’t be bothered.
OK, I’ll get over it. Maybe writing this will help, but I’m too close to it to know at the moment.